WASHINGTON -- Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney depends on a wide network of venture capitalists, hedge-fund managers and other Wall Street bankers to raise the hundreds of millions he has amassed in his bid to oust President Obama, a USA TODAY analysis of his fundraising operation shows.
More than 300 people - or nearly a quarter of the roughly 1,200 individuals USA TODAY has identified as Romney fundraisers - come from the world of finance, more than any other sector. More than a dozen come from the ranks of a single company, investment powerhouse Goldman Sachs, which spent nearly $4.4 million to influence Washington policymakers last year.
By comparison, 77 of Obama's 532 fundraisers work in the securities and investment industry, according to a tally by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. Obama has slammed Romney's record in private equity, while Romney has pledged to dismantle financial-industry regulations enacted during the Obama administration.
Those fundraisers who commit to raising as much as $250,000 to host Romney at dinners and receptions include diet guru Jenny Craig, who hosted Romney at her California beachfront home, billionaire hedge-fund guru Julian Robertson and Arizona Cardinals tight end Todd Heap.
Romney's supporters have unleashed torrents of campaign cash since he effectively clinched the GOP nomination. Last month, he and the Republican National Committee raised $106 million - $35 million more than Obama and the Democratic National Committee. The June haul marks the second month in a row Romney and the GOP have outraised Obama, as Wall Street and other interests turn away from a president who has slammed Romney's record as a venture capitalist - and flock to Romney, who has pledged to dismantle new financial-industry regulations erected during Obama's time in office.
Unlike Obama, Romney has refused to name his top fundraisers. USA TODAY reviewed Federal Election Commission data, invitations to 85 Romney fundraising events obtained by the non-partisan Sunlight Foundation, campaign news releases and news accounts to offer a snapshot of Romney's fundraising network.
Political fundraisers, often known as "bundlers" for their ability to bundle together contributions from family, friends and business associates, are crucial to politicians collecting money in small increments from thousands of donors. Bundlers are so valuable that presidents often reward them with ambassadorships.
Romney's most prolific supporters also have performed double duty - writing large checks to Restore Our Future, a pro-Romney super PAC that can raise unlimited amounts to aid his White House bid as long as it operates independently of his campaign.
More than 90 of the fundraisers identified by USA TODAY also have contributed $25,000 or more to the super PAC. They have donated nearly $18.4 million to the group, which has spent more than $53 million to promote Romney and attack his rivals.
"You see Romney look-alikes - people from the same world he comes from," said Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation. "While it's not surprising, it's sobering when you think about who has his left and right ear."
The Romney campaign did not respond to interview requests.
Edward Schwartz, president of a Bloomfield Hills, Mich., investment firm said he joined the fundraising team because of his family's close ties to Romney's brother, Scott, a Michigan lawyer. Romney's background in government and business have given him skills "that surpass any candidate I've seen," Schwartz said.
He declined to say how much he has raised.
"We've made our very best efforts," Schwartz said.
Romney has also tapped business, religious and family ties to build his fundraising network.
His fundraisers include dozens of current and former executives of the consulting and private-equity firms he ran. Dozens more are fellow Mormons, such as JetBlue founder David Neeleman. Republican stalwarts, including former U.S. ambassador to Belgium Sam Fox, also have joined the fundraising circuit. Scott Romney is a national finance chairman.
A St. Louis businessman, Fox said President Obama "means well" but doesn't have the experience to right the troubled U.S. economy.
Fox, who said he had his assistants research Romney's career in business and government after Romney sought his support in 2005, said "he's been successful at every problem he's taken on."
He donated $190,000 to a pro-Romney super PAC but won't say how much he has raised - only that the "floodgates opened" once the former Massachusetts governor clinched the nomination in May.
Neeleman called Romney "one of the smartest guys I know" and said Romney's long volunteer church service - first overseeing a local congregation as a Mormon bishop and later as a stake president presiding over several congregations in suburban Boston - demonstrates his kindness. The church does not have paid clergy, and bishops and stake leaders have broad responsibilities to manage budgets, deliver sermons and provide spiritual counseling.
"As a Mormon, I know what that entails," Neeleman said. "You have to be very compassionate and loving. When I people say he's out of touch because he's rich ... I'd like to see them give that kind of service."
Neeleman said he hosted a fundraiser for Romney at his Connecticut home in May, but said he's unsure how much was raised.
Indeed, without voluntary reporting from the campaigns themselves, it's impossible to determine exactly how much either presidential contender has raised through bundlers. Every few months, Obama releases a list of bundlers who have collected at least $50,000, but describes their fundraising totals only in broad ranges. The campaign's most recent release shows 532 people directed at least $106.4 million to Obama's re-election efforts through April 20.
Among Romney's backers: a Georgia executive who was on the invitation as a host of a February fundraising event for Romney a month after the Securities and Exchange Commission accused him of insider trading. On Jan. 9, the SEC filed a civil complaint against Parker "Pete" Petit, alleging Petit tipped off a friend to the impending sale of Matria Healthcare, a health-wellness company where Petit was CEO. On Feb. 8, Petit was on the host committee for a Romney fundraiser at the W Hotel in Atlanta, according to an invitation obtained by the Sunlight Foundation. He gave $2,500 to Romney's campaign Feb. 6.
Petit has denied any wrongdoing. His lawyer, Aaron Danzig, sent USA TODAY a January news release, saying the SEC "has targeted an innocent business executive."