The 2012 Presidential election has not officially kicked off, however many potential GOP hopefuls have been busy over the past year laying the groundwork for 2012, raising money and in some cases, visiting the crucial early states of presidential politics.
Year-end fundraising numbers have been filed with the Federal Election Commission and Mitt Romney's Political Action Committee, Free and Strong America, leads the pack of potential 2012 GOP contenders.
The total 2010 fundraising for Romney's federal and state PACs was a little more than $6.3 million. Romney's Free and Strong America PAC begins 2011 with $1.45 million on hand, $800,000 for its federal PAC and an additional $650,000 for its state PACs.
Next on the list is the former Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin. SarahPAC, Palin's Political Action Committee, raised $3.55 million for the year and still has about $1.3 million in cash on hand, money the Republican Mega-Star can use as she mulls a run at the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty's PAC took in $2 million during 2010, including $48,000 from Nov 23 through Dec 31, ending up with about $155,000 in cash on hand. "In 2010, Governor Pawlenty's Freedom First PAC helped elect a new conservative majority in Congress and a next generation of conservative leaders in states across the country," said Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant. "After a great Election Day, we gave our donors a break."
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour's PAC raised just over $1 million during 2010, about $100,000 of which came during the final period and has just under $400,000 in cash on hand.
Many of the potential GOP 2012 contenders have employed state-based political funds, which allow their most generous supporters to give more than they can to federal PACs. Romney, Pawlenty and Barbour all have federal PACs as well as a handful of state PACs. The state-based PACs can be used to fund political operations as well as support local GOP politicians. Once the candidate forms an official campaign, that same donor can pitch in all over again.
Sarah Palin is a FOX News contributor
Jake Gibson is a producer working at the Fox News Washington bureau who covers politics, law enforcement and intelligence issues.