WASHINGTON, April 17 (UPI) -- Billionaire donors to groups that backed rivals to likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney are returning to the GOP establishment, observers say.
The shift in contributions indicates outside donors who supported anti-establishment GOP candidates during the primaries are prepared to keep their wallets open through the general election and contribute to defeating President Obama and Democrats, Politico reported Monday.
"With the Republican presidential primary winding down, donors are starting to look at the national battlefield and what it's going to take to win the White House, keep the House and win the Senate," said Dan Conston, a spokesman for the Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC linked to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
The Congressional Leadership fund revealed Sunday nearly all of the $5.1 million the Boehner-tied organization raised in the first quarter of 2012 came from the Sheldon Adelson, a casino mogul who, with his wife, Miriam, poured $15 million into a super-PAC that supports former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Foster Friess, a Wyoming investor who donated $1.7 million to super PACs backing now-departed Rick Santorum, told Politico he would support third-party groups backing Romney. Supporters of one-time GOP presidential hopeful Texas Gov. Rick Perry said they're donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to super PACs backing Romney and establishment Republican candidates.
Politico also reported that major donors have demonstrated more resistance to contributing to groups that challenge incumbents in contested GOP primaries. Conservative operatives said some donors now are hesitant to contribute to Campaign for Primary Accountability, a controversial super PAC that targets incumbents in both parties and drew criticism in the GOP when it aired ads against popular incumbent Rep. Donald Manzullo, who lost a primary to Rep. Adam Kinzinger in the recent Illinois Republican primaries.
A person knowledgeable about the Campaign for Primary Accountability told Politico members "are going to start pressuring donors not to give" to the incumbency-challenging group and donate to more establishment campaigns.