The road to the White House is paved with money, and if Mitt Romney is successful in garnering the Republican Party nomination for president, he's counting on a lot of Idaho cash to help him do it.
According to the Federal Election Commission, Romney has collected more in Idaho than 30 other states. Romney contributions in the Gem State outpace donations to his campaign in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, the sites of the first caucuses and primaries, scheduled for January 2012.
In fact, of all Idaho donations to every 2012 presidential contender ($465,492 as of Sept. 30), Romney far outpaced his competitors, reporting $336,605. President Barack Obama's re-election campaign came in a distant second, with $49,516, followed by Republicans Rep. Ron Paul ($40,306), Jon Huntsman ($12,250), Herman Cain ($8,037), Rep. Michele Bachmann ($6,578), Newt Gingrich ($2,000), Gov. Rick Perry ($1,250), Gary Johnson ($750) and Rick Santorum ($250).
But if Idaho is Romney's bank, eastern Idaho is his ATM, totaling $128,545 in donations to his campaign, topping contributions to his campaign in 19 states. And in eastern Idaho, the engineer of Romney's fund-raising locomotive is Frank VanderSloot, president and CEO of Melaleuca, the Idaho Falls manufacturer of cosmetic, nutritional and skin-care products. No fewer than eight individuals with professional or personal relationships with VanderSloot have contributed to the Romney campaign, to the tune of $12,500. VanderSloot has hosted campaign fundraisers for Romney, both for a failed 2008 presidential campaign and the former Massachusetts governor's current run. VanderSloot is one of 20 national finance co-chairs for the Romney campaign.
In the Treasure Valley, some familiar names are listed as contributors to Romney's 2012 campaign, including Lt. Gov. Brad Little ($2,500), Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna ($500) and Idaho Rep. Reed DeMourdaunt ($1,000). Other notable Romney donors were attorney Jeremy Litster ($2,500), Tree Top Ranches owner Larry Williams ($2,500), Spring Creek Assisted Living owner Douglas Clegg ($2,500), Impact Directories owner Reed Hansen ($2,500), and Idaho Housing and Finance Association president Gerald Hunter ($1,000).
Romney's big donors in Idaho shadow his national support. Of his $32 million collected nationwide in 2012, 67 percent of individual donations were $2,000 and higher. Campaign laws limit individual donations for a federal campaign to $2,500 per election. Primaries and general elections are separate.