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Major Romney Donors Help Enrich Romney Family Through Joint Financial Relationships

By Lee Fang on November 8, 2011 at 4:45 pm

"Major Romney Donors Help Enrich Romney Family Through Joint Financial Relationships"

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As Mitt Romney vies for the presidency, like almost all major candidates, he has courted a network of very wealthy donors. But what sets Romney apart is the direct financial relationship he has forged with some of his major campaign contributors. Solamere Capital, an investment company set up by Mitt’s son Tagg Romney and Romney campaign finance chair Spencer Zwick, directs investments for Mitt’s most active political donors. The firm, founded in 2008, received a $10 million seed investment from Mitt Romney himself.

The composition of investors to Solamere Capital allows top donors to Romney’s presidential bid to directly contribute to a Romney family business enterprise. Tagg and his two partners, according to documents filed with the SEC, stand to make $16.8 million in management fees while running the fund.

As Zwick has explained, investors in Solamere Capital fund an elite set of private equity firms, with the option to co-invest in some acquisition deals. Reporters for the Boston Globe obtained a copy of a document listing the names of private equity firms partnered with Solamere. Several of the partnered firms have given up to $100,000 to Romney-related political action committees this year. (One of the firms named by the Globe story as part of the Solamere Capital prospectus is TPG Capital, a firm whose managing director Karl Peterson recently hosted a Wall Street-area fundraiser for Romney).

The SEC filing indicates that one of the first funds created by the firm is called Solamere Founders Fund I.

Adding to the Globe story, ThinkProgress has identified several of the investors with money managed by Solamere Capital, the Romney family company. Most of the investors in Tagg’s fund are also involved in a serious capacity in the Romney for President campaign:

L. Scott Frantz

L. Scott Frantz, wealthy investor and Connecticut State Senator. Frantz is the owner of Haebler Capital, “a private investment company located in Greenwich, Connecticut with interests in private and public equity markets, venture capital, the specialty coffee trading business, the restaurant business and industrial privatization in emerging markets.” A longtime supporter of Romney, Frantz hosted a fundraiser that raised over $550,000 for the former Massachusetts governor back in 2007. During this election cycle, Frantz has hosted Romney at his house for fundraisers “several times since June” and serves as a Romney finance team member for his state. A Republican member of the Connecticut Senate, Frantz is rumored to be exploring a U.S. Senate bid in 2012 for the seat now occupied by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT). According to Frantz’s personal finance disclosure form, filed with the Connecticut Office of State Ethics, Frantz is an investor in the Solamere Founders Fund I.

Meg Whitman

Meg Whitman

Meg Whitman, the former eBay executive and current Hewlett-Packard CEO. Whitman, a former chief executive at eBay, recently joined HP as the company’s new CEO. Her ties to the Romneys are extensive. Recently, Whitman delivered a crucial favor to Romney by promising to fundraise for Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) in exchange for a pledge that Christie will not enter the presidential race. Whitman currently helps Romney raise campaign funds in California, perhaps because Romney stumped for Whitman when she made her unsuccessful run for the governorship last year. Gawker reported that Whitman’s son Griff Harsh worked for Solamere Capital, Tagg’s firm. And Spencer Zwick, a managing partner of Solamere Capital and Mitt Romney’s current star fundraiser, helped contact donors for the Whitman for governor campaign. The Whitman campaign last year also revealed another important tie: she had, and potentially still has, around $1,000,000 invested in the Solamere Founders Fund.

Mark Chapin Johnson

Mark Chapin Johnson, CEO of a medical supply company. The president of Chapin Medical Company, Chapin donated generously to Romney’s first bid for the presidency back in 2007. About a decade ago, Johnson helped lead a California-based Republican group called the New Majority, an effort to increase his party’s numbers in the state legislature and for federal office. According to disclosures obtained by ThinkProgress, Chapin’s family foundation — with at least $7 million in assets — was one of the first investors in the Solamere Founders Fund I.

The University of Utah endowment also invests in Solamere Founders Fund I.

Mitt Romney and his brother actively maintain a relationship with Tagg’s firm. Mitt Romney’s campaign disclosures show that $1 million of his money is still invested in the Solamere Founders Fund. Scott Romney, Mitt’s older sibling, acts an advisor to Solamere, a company named after the Romney family ski lodge in Utah.

Harry Cendrowski, a Chicago corporate consultant who spoke to the Boston Globe, said the extent of the fund’s success, given Zwick and Tagg Romney’s limited experience and the equity market conditions, was “highly unusual.’’

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