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Update 5 obama kicks off battle vs romney with big money lead


* Romney had $10 mln cash on hand, pro-Romney PAC $6.5 mln* Obama had $104 mln in the bank at end of March* Big money war underway between political parties* Conservative Crossroads groups raised almost $100 mlnBy Alina Selyukh and Alexander CohenWASHINGTON, April 20 Mitt Romney had his best fundraising month yet in March, but the presumed Republican nominee remained far behind Democratic President Barack Obama in the money game, filings with the Federal Election Commission showed on Friday. Romney reported raising nearly $12.7 million last month, with some $10.1 million left in the bank as he sought to wrap up the nomination and focus on raising money for the costly fight to unseat Obama in the Nov. 6 election. The deep-pocketed "Super" political action committee, or PAC, that supports Romney, Restore Our Future, brought in $8.7 million in March, with three-quarters of it remaining on hand. Democratic PACs have struggled to match the prowess of Restore Our Future, but Obama's campaign - spared the strenuous nominating process - raised $34.8 million in March and had $104 million left in the bank at the end of the month. Republicans and Democrats are waging a war to raise as much money as possible to fund crucial television and radio airtime and get-out-the-vote efforts, projected to total $1 billion on each side of the aisle. Romney's March haul came at a time when the former Massachusetts governor was still facing stiff competition from his last big conservative challenger, Rick Santorum, who has now dropped out of the race. The pro-Obama group Priorities USA - a Super PAC that can raise and spend unlimited funds but cannot coordinate with the campaign - reported raising $2.5 million in March. It spent only a fraction of it, $318,254, and had $5 million left on hand. While Romney just started fundraising jointly with the Republican National Committee this month, Obama has been taking full advantage of that option with his party organization, the Democratic National Committee since last year. The joint fund greatly increases how much a donor can give to help a candidate, thanks to larger contributions allowed for party organizations in addition to the campaign.

Obama's two joint funds shared with the DNC had about $6.5 million in cash on hand and sent $7.5 million to the Obama campaign and $10.5 million to the DNC. Both the RNC and the DNC plan to spend nearly everything they raise to help their candidates. The RNC in March also had its best month, raising $13.7 million and reporting $32.7 million in cash on hand, according to the FEC filings. The DNC reported receiving a total of $17.9 million in March, with $24.4 million in the bank. ROMNEY'S SUPER PAC ALLIES But donations to outside Democratic groups have lagged those given to Republicans, a source of concern for Democrats. Campaigns can take only $2,500 from each donor, once for the primary process and again for the general election. Super PACs can take unlimited donations as long as they do not coordinate with the campaigns, and these have largely taken over the dirty task of negative advertising.

The pro-Obama Super PAC, Priorities USA Action, has struggled to catch up to the pro-Romney PAC Restore Our Future. Restore Our Future on Friday reported raising $8.7 million in March, spent $12.7 million on knocking Santorum out of the race but still emerged with $6.5 million on hand. The group's biggest donors last month included Texas billionaire banker Harold Simmons, who gave another $600,000 for a total of $800,000; hedge fund manager Kenneth Griffin of Citadel LLC, who gave $850,000 for a total of $1.1 million; and Huron Carbon LLC, which gave $1 million and shares an address in Florida with Oxbow Carbon, run by Bill Koch and itself a big donor to the Super PAC. Other big donors included Charles Schwab Corp founder Charles Schwab and his wife, Helen, Cisco Systems Inc Chairman and Chief Executive John Chambers, New Balance Athletics Chairman James Davis, Marriott International Inc CEO J. W. Marriott Jr. and his brother Richard Marriott, chairman of Host Hotels and Resorts Inc. Priorities received $1 million from Amy Goldman, heir to the fortune of New York real estate mogul Sol Goldman, and a second installment of $500,000 from Kareem Ahmed, CEO of California medical billing and collecting firm Landmark Medical Management. The PAC also received $250,000 from Anne Earhart, granddaughter of oil baron J. Paul Getty. Earhart is also the top donor to another Democratic Super PAC, opposition research-focused American Bridge. Other big donors included U.S. standup comedian and talk show host Chelsea Handler and longtime Democratic donor New York investor Bernard Schwartz, both of whom gave $100,000.

MORE SUPER PAC HELP Helping Romney bridge the gap between his money power and Obama's is American Crossroads, perhaps the most formidable Republican Super PAC, which was co-founded by Karl Rove, former top aide and election strategist for President George W. Bush. American Crossroads and its non-profit sister group Crossroads GPS have made plans to spend up to $300 million on this election cycle and by the end of March were two-thirds of the way to raising that sum, having hauled in $99.8 million over 2011 and the first quarter of 2012. American Crossroads reported $24.4 million left in cash on hand, but raised only $1.2 million in March. Citadel investor Griffin was its top donor with his $700,000 contribution. The non-profit Crossroads GPS is not legally required to report its fundraising or donors to the FEC. The groups have been running ads slamming Obama, his policies and his party's congressional candidates. The $300 million plan covers the efforts launched last year into the rest of the cycle, with two-thirds focusing on the presidential race and the rest on Senate and House of Representatives races. One of Romney's two rivals left in the Republican race is Texas Representative Ron Paul. His campaign's FEC filing on Friday showed he raised $2.6 million and had $1.8 million left in cash on hand at the end of March. The second rival, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, was heavily in debt, running up a $4.3 million tab. He raised $1.7 million and spent about $2 million in March. The Super PAC backing Gingrich, Winning Our Future, has been heavily reliant on Las Vegas casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his family. In March, despite Gingrich's campaign fading far into Romney's shadow, Adelson's wife, Miriam, gave another $5 million, bringing the total Adelson clan contribution to the Super PAC to $21.5 million. Santorum, who ended his campaign on April 10, also had nearly $2 million in debt and has continued to try to raise money to pay for it. He raised almost $5 million in March and spent $5.8 million. The Super PAC backing his candidacy ended the month with less than $270,000 on hand, having spent almost all of the $8.3 million it had raised over the campaign cycle. Foster Friess, Wyoming millionaire investor and Santorum's friend, gave another $500,000 to the PAC in March for a total of $2.1 million.

Your money couples fight for control in battle of the thermostat


When Harvey Montijo first moved in with his wife Natalie, he remembers exactly how long it took to get into a tiff about household temperature."Right from the get-go," remembers the 31-year-old orthopedic resident in Charlotte, North Carolina. The problem: Florida native Montijo likes the house a relatively balmy 75 Fahrenheit (24 Celsius). Natalie, a grant writer who is also 31, prefers a cooler and comfortable 70F. So the parents of two came up with an elegant solution, one which might seem familiar to husbands everywhere."The house is set at 70," Montijo deadpans. "She won."On its face, thermostat control might seem like a trivial issue. But as any spouse will tell you, small issues can often turn out to have outsized effects - both on the marital relationship, and the family budget. Indeed, according to one recent survey by manufacturer Honeywell, 30 percent of respondents who live with at least one person admit they can never agree with housemates about temperature. And 27 percent take matters into their own hands, by changing settings without others' knowledge. That easily beats out other household flashpoints like control of the TV remote, cited by 16 percent of people as a frequent battleground. Younger Americans, in particular, seem persnickety about home temperature, with 39 percent of those age 18 to 34 fiddling with the thermostat dial on the sly. According to experts, though, thermostat wars might not solely be about physical comfort. They might be about other things entirely - like control over household decision-making, for instance, or about money matters."Make sure you're arguing about the right thing," says Mary Claire Allvine, an Atlanta financial planner and author of "The Family CFO: The Couple's Business Plan for Love and Money."

"You might be arguing about temperature, when it really comes down to stress about bills and cash flow," Allvine says. "So don't talk about 68 degrees versus 72, when the real issue is that you are spending more money than you have coming in."Indeed, there is no denying that the savings from lower energy usage can be formidable. In the summer, each degree you raise your thermostat above 72 can save between 1 percent and 3 percent on your energy bills, according to the California Energy Commission's Consumer Energy Center. ENERGY SQUABBLES David Sylvestre-Margolis knows about energy squabbles all too well. The 40-year-old publicist and his partner Georges enjoy a spacious Manhattan pad that can cost a whopping $1,000 a month, or more, to heat during the winter.

David likes to set the thermostat around 70F, but Georges prefers to kick around the house in a T-shirt with temperatures in the mid-70sF. "He wants to have a warm apartment, and then he complains about the electric bill," Sylvestre-Margolis laughs. "And he doesn't want to wear a sweater, which I find ludicrous."Thankfully, there are some practical fixes that couples can implement. Programmable thermostats such as Nest, which is a unit of Google Inc, can help solve the problem, by automatically adjusting temperature depending on which partner gets home at what time. They also tend to save users about $180 a year in energy costs, according to Energy Star, an energy-efficiency program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Just make sure you are using them correctly. "Technology is only as good as the user," says Amy Matthews, a licensed contractor and host of multiple shows on the DIY Network."One can purchase a $30 thermostat and have it programmed correctly, and save more money than the $200 thermostat that is wifi-enabled and not used correctly."If you suspect the issue goes much deeper than haggling over a degree or two, couples can also adopt more drastic measures. Allvine suggests swapping bill-paying duties for a few months, which can help drive the point home on energy costs.

"If the real issue is that one partner is a saver and the other is a spender, then it's usually the saver who is always getting stressed out," she says. "So switch the roles of bill payment for a while, and have the spender be the one to write those checks. Then they have to take on that responsibility about how tight money can get."As for Harvey Montijo, he is at peace with the outcome of his household's Battle of the Thermostat. Since he works the long and erratic hours of a medical resident, and his wife is home much more, "she is the one who gets to make that decision," he says."But it does mean our bills are a little higher. And it means I have to wear a sweater."