Mitt Romney's charitable foundation gave $253,833 to groups helping the needy and to organizations influential in Republican circles last year, while he was laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign, according to tax records.
In several cases, the groups or figures close to them have now given their support to Romney in his run for the Republican nomination.
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think thank, received $10,000, according to a report filed with the Internal Revenue Service. Its founder, Paul M. Weyrich, recently gave a key endorsement to Romney.
The Massachusetts Family Institute, which has led the fight against same-sex marriage in the state, received $10,000. Its president, Kris Mineau, now appears in a video on Romney's campaign website, praising Romney as a "man of faith and principle" who "has certainly left a mark" in the fight against gay marriage.
The Massachusetts Citizens for Life received $15,000. In March, the antiabortion group gave Romney, a relatively recent convert to the cause, its "2007 Mullins Award for Outstanding Political Leadership."
Donald C. Alexander, who was commissioner of the IRS from 1973 to 1977, said yesterday that Romney's giving "looks borderline to me," because federal law prohibits disbursements by a charity if they benefit its founders or principal donors.
"I can't say the rule was broken," Alexander said. "I can say this is risky and subject to serious consideration."
The IRS reminded charities that they are prohibited from becoming directly or indirectly involved in candidates' campaigns.
Kevin Madden, a Romney spokesman, said yesterday that the donations were not intended to boost the former governor's candidacy. "The governor's charitable foundation is set up to work in a way that helps organizations working in the community and helping to advance their causes in a positive way," Madden said.
The IRS records also show Romney gave $25,000 to the Hoover Institution, a think thank on the Stanford campus whose scholars include the former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and John F. Cogan, a former Reagan budget official who is now a Romney adviser.
The Federalist Society, the conservative legal organization, received $10,000. (Several members serve on Romney's advisory committee on the Constitution and the courts.) The National Review Online got $5,000 for its 10th anniversary celebration.
Besides conservative groups, the foundation gave to the Jimmy Fund ($5,000); United Way of Massachusetts Bay ($70,000); New England Shelter for the Homeless ($5,000); Romney's high school, Cranbrook School in Michigan ($5,000); Belmont Council on Aging ($10,000); New England Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society ($10,000), which combats a disease with which his wife, Ann,was diagnosed in 1998; and Equestrian Team Foundation ($8,333), which promotes a sport she enjoys.