Money in politics: Romney pays the Christian right

Barack Obama isn't the only one trying to elbow his way into South Carolina churches in time for next year's presidential primaries.

In the latest of a series of excellent dispatches on South Carolina politics, Ken Silverstein of Harpers' magazine points to some buzz he's getting for his revelations that GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has been angling for the Palmetto State "values vote" the old-fashioned way -- he's paying them:

The New York Times reported yesterday that some "movement conservatives are buzzing this week" about my November magazine story that showed that Mitt Romney had "made some strategic donations to a number of well-connected conservative groups in the pivotal early primary state of South Carolina." Romney, as I noted, has doled out money to at least half a dozen right-wing organizations, including the Palmetto Family Council, South Carolinians for Responsible Government, South Carolina Citizens for Life, and to an organization that sponsored a drive to ban same-sex marriage.

"The donations illustrate how Mr. Romney has invested his financial resources to build his credibility on the right," the Times reported. "Mr. Romney has been a major donor to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but has scant history of contributions to conservative groups before he began planning a presidential run."

Romney insists he's shoveling money to South Carolina religious conservatives not for himself, but to help Republicans in general -- an interesting choice, given that the state is already, as Silverstein notes, "about as red as it gets."