Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) has ponied up to Republican members of Congress in a big way, dishing out nearly $130,000 in his first contributions of the 2012 cycle.
The contributions, made through his Free and Strong America PAC, come as Romney's strong fundraising performance has all but solidified his position as the presumptive frontrunner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, if and when he pulls the trigger on a run. They also indicate that there are now 51 Republican members of Congress, including several in New Hampshire and Iowa, who owe Romney.
Romney made contributions to 14 senators and 37 members of the House. The smallest amount he chipped in was $2,000 to a handful of House members. The biggest contribution was $10,000 to Romney's home state senator, Scott Brown (R).
"We need to show our Republican friends that we appreciate their efforts to curb wasteful spending, lower taxes and bring down our staggering $14 trillion debt," Romney said in a statement.
The money is a declaration of force by Romney. The $129,500 in contributions on Thursday is more than virtually any of the ever growing field of potential Republican White House contenders dished out to other Republicans in the entire 2010 cycle.
Romney also gave to several Republicans who don't face re-election in 2012. They include New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley (R).
The deluge of cash comes after Romney -- with his network of state and federal PACs -- demonstrated his financial strength in his year end reports. Although he was narrowly outraised in the final period of the year by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), Romney nearly doubled Palin's 2010 fundraising performance -- $6.3 million to $3.6 million. Romney also started 2011 with more in the bank, having $1.44 million in his coffers.