GOP mega-donors backing Mitt Romney for Senate amid possible move up the leadership ranks

Mitt Romney is preparing to enter the race for Utah’s Senate seat with a bang as he gains support from donors across the country, setting his sights on a potential congressional leadership position if he were to pull off a victory, FOX Business has learned.

In an exclusive interview with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, FOX Business was told that Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, will likely receive the backing of mega-donors, not just within Utah, but across the country as he gets ready to announce his candidacy.

“He’s given me every indication that he’s running. He’ll have a lot of support from the wealthy people that he knows from when he ran for president. The people on the same list of donors that he had before for 2012, including those from Utah, is a very good place for him to raise money,” Herbert, a close friend and ally of Romney’s said. “I wouldn’t doubt he would have the support of people outside of Utah who supported him running for president because they may be thinking how much influence he will have, not just in Utah, but across the country."

Romney was known to rub shoulders with the political donor class when he ran for president in 2012 against then-candidate Barack Obama. His campaign received support from executives at some of the top banks on Wall Street, including individual contributions from Goldman Sachs totaling over $1 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group that tracks the effects of money and lobbying on elections.

The former contributors to a super PAC dedicated to getting Romney elected to the White House, Restore our Future, are also a source of plausible campaign financiers for his Senate run. Las Vegas Sands Corporation CEO Sheldon Adelson was a top donor to the PAC in 2012, dishing out $15 million that year. John Paulson, founder of the investment firm Paulson & Co. was also a donor to the PAC that year, contributing $1 million of his own money to the cause.

Romney also has a connection to Wall Street through his day job of running Solamere Capital, an investment firm based out of Boston that specializes in direct and fund of fund investments. Herbert, as FOX Business recently reported, said, Romney’s longtime aide and managing partner at the firm, Spencer Zwick, will be “involved with the fundraising aspect” of the campaign.

In 1999, Romney began his foray into the national spotlight as the president and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics, successfully capturing for Utah the coveted games for the first time ever. One year later, Romney became the governor of Massachusetts, following it five years later with his first unsuccessful president campaign. He lost the Republican nomination to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

While the two-time presidential candidate doesn’t have a perfect record running for public office, he may be more determined than ever to win the race for Utah’s Senate seat because, according to Herbert, it could prove to become a fast track to a position within Senate leadership.

“I don’t think he wants to be a pretty face on the sidelines,” Herbert said after he was asked if Romney was already looking to move his way up the leadership ranks. “I think he will look at opportunities as they present themselves and I think he will want to work for the current leadership to see what role he can play.”

One of Romney’s connections to congressional leadership is House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) who was his running mate during the 2012 presidential election.

“There are a lot of people in the other party who might disagree with Paul Ryan,” Romney said when announcing Ryan as his vice-presidential candidate. “I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t respect his character and judgment.”

Romney also praised Ryan when the Wisconsin lawmaker announced he would not be running for president in 2015, noting in a Facebook post how much he “admired Paul Ryan’s leadership and vision."

A spokesman for Romney did not return for requests for comment but the former Massachusetts governor was asked about his potential Senate candidacy on Tuesday during a question and answer session at the Utah Economic Outlook and Policy Summit, his first public remarks since longtime Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, announced his retirement.

When asked by the moderator if he will run for Hatch’s seat, he said: "I have nothing for you on that topic,” and later declined to comment on what his focus would be in Washington if he became a senator.