Amidst the millions of dollars worth of blue chip stocks, precious metals and high yield Goldman Sachs holdings listed on GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney's financial disclosure forms is a $1 million-plus investment in a hedge fund called Elliott Associates, LP.
While the investment is unlikely to provoke much reaction on Wall Street, the name is instantly recognizable in Republican political circles as that of the multi-billion-dollar hedge fund run by one of the most sought after, undecided GOP donors in the United States -- Paul Singer.
"He's an immensely powerful person given his stature in the financial world and politics, given that he has been willing time and again to put his money behind candidates," said Sheila Krumholz, who tracks campaign money for the Center for Responsive Politics.
The decision to invest a hefty chunk of Romney's vast fortune with a top GOP mega-donor may have had nothing to do with Romney's courtship of Singer as a potential donor to his presidential campaign. Romney aides note that the candidate's investments are held in a blind trust and the candidate has no say over where the money landed.
"Governor and Mrs. Romney's assets are managed on a blind basis," said Gail Gitcho, a Romney spokeswoman. "They do not control the investment of these assets. The assets are under the control and overall management of a trustee."
Still, the timing of the investment has raised eyebrows among GOP insiders who believe it nicely illustrates one rarely-considered advantage to being the wealthiest candidate in the presidential field.
"He's got assets, literally, that others can't use," Krumholz told ABC News. "The ability to do business at high levels with folks who might be useful to his campaign is an enormous advantage."
Romney's investment in Elliott Associates occurred sometime in the past four years. When Romney last had to make his finances public through a financial disclosure form for his 2008 presidential candidacy, he did not have a stake in Elliott Associates. Back then, Singer was serving in the inner circle of Romney rival Rudy Giuliani, providing the former New York Mayor with use of his private jet and a pledge to raise more than $500,000 for the candidate.
Since that election concluded, Singer has been the subject of an intense courtship -- the sort that occurs every four years as presidential hopefuls start trying to assemble a muscular team of wealthy and well-connected fundraisers. The behind-the-scenes jockeying to lure major donors can be as fierce and involved as the public campaign for the hearts of future voters.
"Every candidate wanted him," a top advisor to the just-concluded campaign of Tim Pawlenty told ABC News.
Just last week, Politico identified Singer at the top of its list of the nation's "most wanted GOP donors."
The reason? Singer's fundraising clout is game-changing. He raised $1.4 million for President Bush at a single luncheon in his Upper West Side apartment, chairing 70 guests at $20,000-a-piece, according to a Washington Post article. The New York Times reported that Singer raised $1 million for GOP senators at his Central Park West digs on the same day the House gave final approval to the sweeping overhaul of financial regulations. Groups that track fundraising have identified him as one of the most prolific donors of the 2010 cycle, sending more than $4 million to Republican causes.
Romney aides would not say if they have pursued Singer's support, but rivals said they would be shocked if he has not. In September 2009, Romney was photographed seated at a table with Singer at a forum of the Foreign Policy Initiative at the W Hotel in Washington.
A spokesman for Elliott Associates said neither the company nor Singer would comment on the Romney investment.
This is not the first time a wealthy candidate has seen their financial disclosure filings elicit questions about the potential for a personal fortune to pay political dividends.
Just last year, the New York Times reported that Republican candidate for California governor, Meg Whitman, invested $1 million of her vast fortune in a fledgling movie production firm started by a very prominent and much-sought-after Republican strategist. Her critics noted that the investment came just as the strategist, Mike Murphy, was in talks to join the campaign of a Whitman rival -- talks that fell through right after she made her investment.