The New York Times reported yesterday that some “movement conservatives are buzzing this week” about my November magazine story that showed that Mitt Romney had “made some strategic donations to a number of well-connected conservative groups in the pivotal early primary state of South Carolina.” Romney, as I noted, has doled out money to at least half a dozen right-wing organizations, including the Palmetto Family Council, South Carolinians for Responsible Government, South Carolina Citizens for Life, and to an organization that sponsored a drive to ban same-sex marriage.
“The donations illustrate how Mr. Romney has invested his financial resources to build his credibility on the right,” the Times reported. “Mr. Romney has been a major donor to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but has scant history of contributions to conservative groups before he began planning a presidential run.”
Kevin Madden, a spokesman for the Romney campaign, told the Times that Romney, in the newspaper’s words, “supported the South Carolina groups as a matter of principle.” Romney, Madden said, “put time, effort and resources into building political networks in many of these states with the goal of electing more Republicans to public office.”
But it’s pretty clear that Romney’s donations were intended to buy support for his presidential bid, not merely build political networks. After all, he also funneled money to Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, and Arizona. With the exception of the latter, those states, like South Carolina, hold key primaries. Is that just a coincidence? Furthermore, if Romney’s only goal were to build GOP political networks he might have spent his money in places other than South Carolina, which is already about as red as it gets.