RNC Hopeful Cino Gave Most to Candidates

Every candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee in an increasingly crowded field is arguing he or she can raise large amounts of money. But it’s Maria Cino who has given her own money to a number of Congressional candidates over the past two election cycles, more than any of her rivals for the RNC spot.

Federal Election Commission records for the six known candidates bidding to win the Jan. 14 RNC election show Cino donated the most and most often.

The primary job of the RNC chairman is raising money to help state parties, campaign committees and candidates finance their efforts. One of the central criticisms of Chairman Michael Steele is that he hadn’t raised enough and mismanaged the money he did raise, causing major donors not to trust the committee and ultimately to take their dollars to other committees or outside groups. Gentry Collins wrote a letter detailing the fundraising complaints when he stepped down as the RNC’s political director in November.

“During the 2010 cycle, the RNC allowed its major donor base to wither,” wrote Collins, who is running for chairman. “In the last two non-presidential cycles of 2002 and 2006, the RNC raised $284 million and $243 million respectively. So far this cycle, the RNC has reported raising just $170 million. Less than $18 million (10.53%) of that total came from contributions of $1,000 or more, collected from a mere 5,379 donors.”

Cino, a New York native, differs from the other candidates for the job in that she has been both a fundraiser and a donor. Cino has held a number of political and corporate leadership positions over the past couple of decades, including at the RNC and the National Republican Congressional Committee. She served as CEO of the Republican National Convention in Minnesota during the 2008 election cycle, and more recently she has been a registered lobbyist for the pharmaceutical company Pfizer.

In the 2008 and 2010 election cycles, Cino gave a total of $14.500 to 16 Congressional candidates, two political action committees and the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain (Ariz.). Though she spread out much of her giving in amounts of $250 and $500, she did give to Senate challengers in the 2010 cycle, including $1,250 to Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, and $1,000 each to Reps. John Boozman in Arkansas and Mike Castle in Delaware and Jane Norton in Colorado. She also gave $500 each to Roy Blunt in Missouri and Todd Tiahrt in Kansas. Castle, Norton and Tiahrt lost their primaries, but Ayotte, Boozman and Blunt will be sworn in to the Senate in January. During the 2008 cycle, she gave $1,000 to Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) and $1,500 to McCain. Her biggest donation was $2,500 given to Pfizer Inc. PAC in 2009.

“Maria has always committed her personal and professional time to help Republicans win elections, so it’s no surprise that she gives her money also,” said consultant Chad Kolton, who’s helping with Cino’s RNC bid. “Being a leader in the party doesn’t just mean spending other people’s money; it means putting your own skin in the game, too.”

Over years working in politics, Cino has developed personal relationships with a lot of candidates and campaign staffers, and those relationships may be what inspired her to give to these candidates. Princella Smith, a former Capitol Hill staffer who ran in an Arkansas House primary this year, said she met Cino while she was working in Washington, D.C. Cino gave $500 toward Smith’s bid at a March fundraiser held by Republican Mary Matalin, a Cino ally.

“She’s a good friend of mine, and I kind of consider her one of the women in D.C. that young women look up to,” Smith told Roll Call.

Cino often gave to female candidates. Of the 21 donations she made during the 2008 and 2010 cycles, nine were to female candidates and two were to the Value in Electing Women PAC.

Other candidates didn’t give as much as Cino or as often over the past two cycles. Steele made four donations totaling $3,500, giving $1,000 each to the West Virginia Republican Party, then-Sen. Norm Coleman (Minn.) and McCain, and $500 to then-City Councilman Charles Djou (Hawaii) toward the special election he won in May.

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, gave $1,000 or more to his party on at least two occasions, as well as to Congressional candidate John Gard and the presidential campaign of former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson.

Former Missouri GOP chairwoman Ann Wagner managed the successful Senate campaign of Rep. Roy Blunt (Mo.) and gave him $2,400 — the maximum — in his primary and general election campaigns. Wagner also gave to former state Rep. Vicky Hartzler, who defeated Rep. Ike Skelton (D) in western Missouri.

Collins gave $2,100 to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2008. He worked for Romney during that campaign.

An FEC search showed former Michigan GOP chairman Saul Anuzis made one $250 donation to Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.) in 2008.

Former RNC Chairman Mike Duncan, who was considering another bid for the position, announced Friday afternoon he will not seek the job.