The $15,000 contribution Romney made to Massachusetts Citizens for Life is particularly instructive. The group formerly had been very critical of Romney, who had been considered pro-abortion rights when he ran for governor and the first part of his term. But when Romney appeared at a recent conservative conference, that same group was on hand distributing favorable information about Romney's record according to Kirkpatrick's story.
In the months before announcing his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts contributed tens of thousands of dollars of his personal fortune to several conservative groups in a position to influence his
image on the right.
Last December, a foundation controlled by Mr. Romney made contributions of $10,000 to $15,000 to each of three Massachusetts organizations associated with major national conservative groups: the antiabortion Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Massachusetts Citizens for Lower Taxation and the Christian conservative Massachusetts Family Institute.
Mr. Romney and a group of his supporters also contributed a total of about $10,000 to a nonprofit group affiliated with National Review. Over the past two years, he contributed $35,000 to the Federalist Society, an influential network of conservative lawyers. And in December 2005, he contributed $25,000 to the Heritage Foundation, a leading conservative research organization.
The recipients of Mr. Romney’s donations said the money had no influence on them. But some of the groups, notably Citizens for Life and the Family Institute, have turned supportive of Mr. Romney after criticizing him in the past.
Coming on the eve of his presidential campaign, Mr. Romney’s contributions could create the appearance of a conflict of interest for groups often asked to evaluate him. All the groups said he had never contributed before, and his foundation’s public tax filings show no previous gifts to similar groups. Its 2006 contributions will become public with its tax filings later this year.
The support of such leading conservative organizations in Mr. Romney’s home state has become an important element of Mr. Romney’s primary campaign because he faces doubts from some conservatives over his past support for abortion rights, embryonic stem cell research, gun control and gay rights.
Mr. Romney has said he had a change of heart on all four issues by the time he left the governor’s mansion.
His contributions are also an early sign of the outsize role that Mr. Romney’s vast wealth, mainly accumulated as founder of the buyout firm Bain Capital, could play in the 2008 election. The race is shaping up to be the first since Watergate waged without public campaign financing or any spending limits. Mr. Romney has never disclosed his net worth, but analysts who track buyout firm compensation said it was likely to exceed $500 million.
It would be interesting to see if Romney has lavished money on any groups which pay money to Indiana's go-to attorney for the religious right, Jim Bopp. Many social conservatives were surprised when Bopp endorsed Romney and began urging other social conservatives to back his presidential candidacy because of his past support for abortion rights and gay rights. Bopp specifically references Massachusetts Citizens for Life in a column he wrote for the National Review urging social conservatives to support Romney. Bopp serves as counsel for National Right to Life and has represented a number of state right to life organizations in free speech cases around the country.