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Big Republican donors wait on Perry-Romney duel

Sep 14, 2011, 1:23 p.m.
Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney exchange comments during the CNN/Tea Party Republican presidential candidates debate in Tampa, Florida, September 12, 2011. REUTERS/Scott Audette

Dirk Van Dongen, president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors who was finance chair for Giuliani's 2008 White House run, is hosting Perry.

"Several have come on board already and I expect the list to grow rapidly between now and Governor Perry's first Washington event on September 27th," Van Dongen said.

Romney's Washington backers include American Bankers Association President Frank Keating, a former governor of Oklahoma, but he has been having fundraisers for months.

Several major Republican donors have not revealed their preferences yet.

Ken Griffin, chief executive of hedge fund giant Citadel is on the sidelines and early Home Depot Inc investor Ken Langone is also uncommitted.

RELYING ON ROVE

Donors now have more options after the Supreme Court's ruling involving the conservative activist group Citizens United and other legal decisions. The Citizens United decision lets corporations and individuals make unlimited donations to presidential candidates as long as they go through committees not technically associated with the official campaign.

American Crossroads, the big-spending group conceived by Republican strategist Karl Rove, is seen as the perfect depository for the Republican investor who has not made up his mind about a candidate.

"There is no better political investment than putting money in Karl's hands," said a former big fundraiser to President George W. Bush.

Fred Malek, a veteran Republican fundraiser who founded the spending group American Action Network, said donors to some extent have the luxury to wait for a sure thing.

"In the McCain campaign, for example, during the primary we had very difficult time raising money and all of a sudden we became the leader and money flooded in," Malek said.

(Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Eric Johnson; Editing by Bill Trott)

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