Super PAC backing Santorum gets help from CA

The donations were not as big or as plentiful as those flowing from California to the super PAC boosting Mitt Romney, which has raised and spent far more cash. But every bit counts for the pro-Santorum Red White and Blue Fund, which dumped more than $600,000 this week into a Michigan ad campaign ahead of the much-anticipated primary there.

One of the Californian donors, Timothy Busch, owns luxury hotels and co-founded a group to advance Catholicism in "today's emerging secular society." Another was Terrence Caster, whose A-1 Self Storage company faced a boycott over his large contributions to the anti-gay marriage ballot measure, Proposition 8.

The super PAC listed the donor as Richard F. Barry, identifying him as an attorney in San Rafael. But when California Watch contacted the now-retired divorce lawyer about the donation, he responded in an e-mail saying, "Slander!!!"

"An exaggeration meant in jest," Barry continued, "but I have made no such contribution and do not support the candidacy of the former Senator from Pennsylvania and would not vote for him either in a primary or the general election."

The real donor, it turns out, is a retired hedge fund manager named Richard J. Barry.

Richard F. Barry, the lawyer, said he's been confused with Richard J. Barry in the past. The two worked little more than a block apart from each other in downtown San Rafael.

And although they apparently don't share similar tastes in politics, they both enjoy wine from the same winery in Dundee, Ore. It was only when the attorney was sent some wine that the hedge fund manager had ordered that the attorney learned of the existence of San Rafael's other Richard Barry, he said.

Richard J. Barry did not return phone calls. He previously made contributions to Santorum, former President George W. Bush and, interestingly enough, President Barack Obama's 2008 primary campaign.

After being contacted by California Watch, the super PAC filed an amended report changing the donor's occupation from attorney to investor, but leaving the middle initial as F. instead of J.

As to why the divorce attorney was originally misidentified as the contributor, fund spokesman Stuart Roy called it "a simple clerical error."

Caster, one of the other super PAC donors, is chairman of a family company in San Diego that owns A-1 Self Storage facilities throughout California.

Caster drew fire in 2008 after his family donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the ballot proposition to ban same-sex marriage. Caster gave $172,500 individually, and his Caster Family Trust gave $622,000 to the Prop. 8 campaign, according to campaign filings. At the time, Caster told The San Diego Union-Tribune, "Without solid marriage, you are going to have a sick society."

Prop. 8 opponents launched a boycott of Caster's company, as well as other major donors to the ballot measure.

The Red White and Blue Fund also received $50,000 from Busch, CEO and founder of the Irvine-based Pacific Hospitality Group. Busch's company owns six hotels, including The Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa, the Crowne Plaza Anaheim Resort and the Estancia La Jolla Hotel and Spa. Busch also has a winery in Napa.

Busch is active in Catholic organizations and co-founded the Magis Center of Reason and Faith, which promotes the idea that there is scientific evidence for the existence of God. He also co-founded the Napa Institute, which aims "to equip Catholic leaders to defend and advance the Catholic Faith in 'the Next America' – today's emerging secular society."

In a 2007 interview with the Napa Valley Register, Busch was asked what job he'd like to try.

"President of the United States," he responded. "I'd start off by returning God to the marketplace. As the head of the country, you need to lead the people to why we are here on earth. So much of our politics tries to avoid faith and religion, but it's the most important thing we have."

Busch, Caster and Barry all gave the maximum $2,500 to Santorum's current presidential primary campaign. Contributions directly to federal candidates are restricted, whereas super PACs, which are supposed to be independent, can accept unlimited donations.

A study by the Washington-based Campaign Legal Center found that super PAC donors often max out contributions to their favored candidates. That's evidence, according to center attorney Paul S. Ryan, that super PACs "are being used as an end run around the candidate contribution limits."

Story courtesy of our media partners at California Watch (A Project of the Center for Investigative Reporting)

Copyright © 2024 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.