Center For Public Integrity: Haley Barbour’s money juggernaut for 2012

March 11, 2011- In a few weeks one of Washington’s political grande dames, Julie Finley, will host a fundraiser for Haley Barbour, who boasts a Midas-like rolodex of his own.

On March 2, the two-term Mississippi governor and prospective presidential candidate expects to raise big bucks for Haley’s PAC with lots of help from former K Street colleagues who have signed up to haul in $10,000 each.

“Haley has a terrific capacity to raise a lot of money, probably the broadest base of any Republican in the running,” Finley, a former ambassador, told the Center. The fundraiser will be held at Finley’s home in northwest Washington.

The event is yet another sign that Barbour is inching towards a run to secure the GOP nomination, a move that many of his old lobbyist buddies are eager to see him make. Barbour has said he won’t decide until spring.

Much of the fundraising for the bash is being spearheaded by lobbyist Kirk Blalock, who was a top aide to Barbour years ago when he ran the RNC’s successful 1994 election campaign—a campaign that put the GOP back in control of Congress.

Blalock is one of several prominent GOP lobbyists and operatives with long-standing ties to Barbour who have already begun to assist the Mississippian.

Over the last few months, a small group of Washington insiders and lobbyists have been laboring quietly to lay the groundwork for a potential Barbour campaign. They include: lobbyist Scott Reed, who ran Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign and was executive director of the RNC under Barbour; former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie; Don Fierce and Kirk Blalock of the GOP lobbying shop Fierce Isakowitz and Blalock; Ed Rogers, his former lobbying partner at Barbour Griffith & Rogers (now known as BGR Group); and pollster Ed Goeas.

These GOP insiders have been helping Barbour review and assess the process and deadlines for making his decision, and they have been grooming GOP contacts around the country as well.

“Haley is reaching out to finance teams, political operatives and policy experts across the country, emphasizing early states and right-of-center leaders,” Scott Reed told the Center. (Barbour is hardly alone in this exercise: he is one of a dozen or so Republicans who are weighing a White House bid in 2012.)

Barbour’s legendary fundraising prowess was demonstrated again in the last election cycle when he chaired the Republican Governors Association and helped corral a record-setting $115 million. The RGA, a 527 committee that can take unlimited donations, received seven-figure checks from such giants as Koch Industries, News Corp., the Las Vegas Sands and others, according to the independent Center for Responsive Politics.

The RGA’s record haul was instrumental in winning a net gain of six GOP governors and mounting a huge get-out-the-vote effort that helped federal candidates too, earning Barbour lots of political chits that he could call in if he runs.

“Barbour has a tremendous base of people who can raise $25,000, $50,000 and $75,000,” adds one top GOP fundraiser who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is helping another potential candidate. “He recruited them into the RGA. That’s an important category of fundraising.”


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