GOP Veepstakes: The Money Behind The Contenders

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S., July 5, 2016
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S., July 5, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

by Ashley Balcerzak

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence joins Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a rally yesterday. Pence is reported to be a strong contender to be Trump's VP pick. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The anticipation is killing us: What name will appear along with Donald Trump's on the Republican ticket? The presumptive nominee could announce his VP pick any day now, just in time for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next week. The Donald is reported to be appearing at a public event with his chosen running mate on Friday, according to NBC News.

OpenSecrets Blog is here to dig into the money and influence behind our potential next second-in-command. Most of the possible picks on Trump's reported shortlist have a political past, including two former presidential candidates and two current governors. That gives us a wealth of information to sort through, including financial disclosure forms, tax returns and FEC data that shows who their biggest backers have been in past elections.

Read on for our analysis of the few who may be a heartbeat away from the presidency:

Newt Gingrich

Campaign cash
Former Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) served in the House for 20 years, climbing the ranks to become House Minority Whip in 1989 and Speaker of the House in 1995; he resigned in 1999 amid pressure from his colleagues after a reprimand for an ethics violation and a poor showing by the GOP in the 1998 elections. During his last run for Georgia's 6th District congressional seat, Gingrich raised about $9 million through his campaign committee and leadership PAC, a figure exponentially higher than the overall average raised that cycle of $336,000, as one might expect of a House Speaker.

After leaving public service, Gingrich stayed plenty busy, working as a news analyst and writing several books. He also founded a think tank called the Center for Health Transformation, whose parent company, the Gingrich Group, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in April 2012, almost a year after Gingrich stepped down as chairman to run for president in 2011. In addition, he started a 527 political committee, American Solutions for Winning the Future, which raised $28.2 million in 2009 and 2010. The funds went toward travel costs and building his political profile.

Gingrich's campaign committee alone hustled up $23.6 million in his bid for the White House, with his top donors including retirees, health professionals and businessmen. He raked in large contributions from employees of packaging company Rock-Tenn Co., including former CFO Steven Voorhees and former CEO James Rubright; casino company Las Vegas Sands' CEO Sheldon Adelson and current president Robert Goldstein; and biofuel maker Poet LLC founder Jeff Broin.

But the big money played on the sidelines: Outside groups spent almost $13.6 million supporting Gingrich, 95 percent of which came from the super PAC Winning Our Future backed largely by casino mogul Adelson and his wife Miriam. Gingrich's opposition spent $18.8 million against him, almost all from the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future. Its top donors include the Adelsons (who each donated $15 million after Gingrich dropped out of the race), the late Bob Perry, owner of Perry Homes, and Larry Ellison, executive chairman of Oracle.

Although Gingrich ended his run for president in May 2012, his campaign committee still has more than $4.6 million in outstanding debt. The largest payments still due from the 2012 cycle include $977,000 to Moby Dick Airways for private jet travels, $407,000 to Patriot Group for security services and $287,000 to McKenna Long & Aldridge for legal fees, according to FEC filings.

Personal finances
In 2011, Gingrich listed assets worth a minimum of $7.3 million, according to that year's public financial disclosure report. He reported about $2.9 million in dividends from Gingrich Productions and a $291,250 salary from the production company. The document also showed Gingrich closed a 2010 credit line worth $500,000 to $1 million with Tiffany and Co. Gingrich has not commented as to why the couple owed such a hefty sum to the luxury jewelry seller.

His 2010 tax return showed Gingrich and his wife, Callista, earned nearly $3.2 million that year from their companies, speaking fees, pension and service on boards of directors. The couple paid $994,708 in taxes, at a federal tax rate of 31.7 percent.

Chris Christie

Campaign funds
Although New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie looked pained when he endorsed Trump for president just two weeks after suspending his own campaign last February, the decision seems to have paid off: He's made it to the short list to become Trump's No. 2, and at the very least is said to be likely to serve in Trump's administration.

The Republican has served as New Jersey's chief executive since 2010 after six years as the U.S. Attorney for the Garden State. He's also proved to be a competent fundraiser: As chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Christie brought in more than $102 million.

During his presidential run, Christie raised $8.2 million and benefited from $17.9 million in outside spending support, almost all of which came from the group America Leads. The super PAC's largest donors include billionaires Steve and Alexandra Cohen ($3 million each), Daniel Gilbert, the founder and chairman of Quicken Loans ($1.2 million) and Walter Buckley Jr. of Buckley Muething Capital Management ($1 million). Christie received the most support by far from those working in securities & investment, followed far behind by real estate and commercial banking.

Personal finances
Christie's wife, Mary Pat, is the breadwinner of the family, raking in $720,699 at Angelo, Gordon & Co., a more than $244,000 increase from 2013, according to 2014 tax returns. She resigned her post as managing director of the specialty investment firm in April 2015. In comparison, the maximum salary for a New Jersey governor is $175,000.

Christie reported assets valued at between $1.1 million and $1.8 million in his May 2016 disclosure. The most valuable include the house he and his wife bought in 1998, worth at least $500,000, while the only liability listed is a home equity line worth $250,000 to $500,000. Christie keeps $250,000 to $500,000 in a blind trust, so little else is reported about his investments.

Mike Pence

Campaign funds
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has multiple irons in the fire. While under consideration for vice president, he's also running for re-election against Democrat John Gregg, whom he beat by just three percent of the vote in 2012. Pence's campaign account had a $7.6 million balance as of his April quarterly filing.

Prior to being governor, Pence served six terms in the House of Representatives, raising $2.6 million in his last election in 2010. He took in the most money from retirees and those in the securities & investment and commercial banking industries.

Personal finances
Pence was worth an estimated $211,511 in 2012 when he represented Indiana in the House; that put him at the lower end of the spectrum in Congress, where the average lawmaker is worth more than $1 million. His assets included a handful of mutual funds and savings bonds; two mortgages were listed as liabilities. Pence's disclosure form while governor in 2015 is relatively bare. It does not include any dollar amounts of assets or liabilities, but lists his two daughters' college scholarships as gifts and mentions the nonprofits and businesses owned by his wife. The governor's office has not returned a request for more detailed information.

Other options

Insiders have also mentioned Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) as a possible pick. Sessions was the 25th richest senator in 2014 with an estimated net worth of $7.5 million, which consists of millions in acres of real estate in Choctaw County, Alabama. Sessions raised $1.7 million for his 2014 re-election race; the largest share of the money came from leadership PACs and the defense & aerospace and oil & gas industries.

Trump hasn't limited his vetting to politicians: He's also reportedly considered retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, a registered Democrat. The Center for Responsive Politics does not show any record of Flynn donating to any past campaign or outside group, and the three-star general has not had to publicly file personal financial statements like the other contenders.