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The Newt watch: Now he's fundraising

September 26, 2007 |  4:29 pm

Some days Newt Gingrich talks as if he's this close to jumping into the Republican presidential race because the rest of the field is a bunch of pygmies. On other days the former House speaker sounds more hesitant and stresses the need to complete his series of American Solutions seminars this week and then seriously survey the field and judge the financial commitments he might count on.

Take a look at this exchange between Gingrich and Chris Wallace last weekend on Fox News Sunday:

"Next Monday, Randy Evans, who's been my friend and adviser for many, many years, will hold a press briefing. Randy will spend the next three weeks checking with people around the country. If he reports back that, in fact, we think the resources are there for a real race — remember, Governor Romney has been very successful legitimately as a businessman. He can write a $100 million check. I mean, there's no point in getting into a fight with a guy who can drown you unless you at least have enough resources for a vote.

"And so if we have enough resources, then close to that we'll face a very big decision in late October. If there aren't enough resources, I'm not for doing unrealistic things.

WALLACE: But why even go through it unless, if you get the money, you'd run?

GINGRICH: I think the odds are very high, if we ended up with that level of pledges, we'd — I don't see as a citizen how you could turn that down.

WALLACE: So you'd run.

GINGRICH: I think you'd be compelled to.

WALLACE: And?

GINGRICH: I think any citizen — how could you turn to all of your fellow citizens — if they walk ...

in and say, "You know, we think you're the person who ought to debate Senator Clinton, and we think you're the person who can actually explain where we ought to go," how could you turn to them and say, "Well, I'm too busy?" Couldn't do it."

But as he toys with the idea of leaping in late into the most expensive presidential campaign in history, Gingrich has quietly gone about the real serious work of preparing a campaign -- raising money, taking polls, crossing the country on charter jets to speak to large audiences and popping up on television regularly enough to keep his name and face in the news mix.

In a little less than a year, according to The Times' Dan Morain, who's checked the financial records in the Internal Revenue Service, Gingrich has raised $3.5 million for his 527 political organization, American Solutions for Winning the Future.

That’s a minor pittance compared with the tens of millions that top-tier candidates have already raised to fund on-the-ground operations in numerous states. But it’s not an insignificant sum.

At least part of the money will be spent on a three-day conference Gingrich is hosting starting tomorrow at Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta. Unable to attend? The festivities will be available, his website notes, on Dish Satellite and DirecTV, or via the Internet at http://americansolutions.com/

To pay for his undertaking, Gingrich tapped GOP stalwart Sheldon Adelson, chairman of Las Vegas Sands Corp., and North Carolina real estate investor Fred Godley for $1 million each. Neither Adelson nor Godley has yet given to the current crop of Republican presidential candidates.

However, Cincinnati insurance billionaire Carl Lindner gave $250,000 to Gingrich’s group earlier this year and is a major bundler for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He also has donated to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Other significant donors include New York Jets owner Robert W. Johnson IV at $50,000; Stockton donor Michael Berolzheimer at $35,000; and real estate investor Fred R. Sacher of Grass Valley, Calif., and Irvine investor David Hanna each at $25,000.

Through the end of August, Gingrich had spent $2.4 million, much of it on expenses common for political candidates: at least $435,000 for charter flights; $165,000 for direct mail; $115,000 on telemarketing; $90,000 for polling; $35,000 to rent lists of e-mail addresses; $35,000 in donations to the Iowa Republican Party; and $1,171 on T-shirts.

The T-shirts. That's the giveaway that Newt's gonna run.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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