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Social conservative leaders raised nearly $1.8 million at a meeting in Houston, bringing together many of those who met in January to coalesce around Rick Santorum in the Republican primaries.

More than 200 social conservative leaders met last weekend for a fundraising reception for Santorum and held a strategy meeting with the candidate, Politicoreported. The event was co-hosted by Bob Fischer, a South Dakota businessman, and conservative activists Rebecca Hagelin, Richard Viguerie, and Tim Lefever. Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and Family Research Council president Tony Perkins also attended the gathering.

Many of the large contributions will go to the Red, White & Blue Fund, a super PAC that supports Santorum's candidacy. Legally known as independent expenditure-only committees, super PACs provide a vehicle for outside groups to funnel money into a campaign. Unlike traditional campaign finance, super PACs cannot give directly to candidates. Instead, they provide independent money for their own ads and mobilization efforts. In essence, wealthy donors can give as much money as they want to support or oppose a candidate.

In the Republican primaries, each of the major candidates has an affiliated super PAC. Mitt Romney is supported by Restore Our Future ($36.8 million raised). Newt Gingrich receives support from Winning Our Future ($13.1 million). Super PACs supporting Ron Paul (Endorse Liberty) and Rick Santorum (Red, White & Blue) are smaller, with less than $7 million each.

Red, White & Blue is a prime example of how conservatives are influencing the campaign through the donations of a few wealthy conservative activists. Its major contributor is Foster Friess, a fund manager who credits his multi-billion dollar ...

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