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DU alum, law student forms super PAC for Newt Gingrich

Colorado’s Rocky Mountains are far from Iowa’s rolling plains, but a University of Denver law student is finding he can still reach across the heartland to make a difference in one of the most contentious presidential primary races in years.

Charlie Smith, a third-year law student at DU’s Sturm College of Law, is garnering national attention for forming a so-called “super PAC,” a political action committee that is allowed to raise unlimited funds from corporations and individuals for political purposes. Super PACs are not affiliated with nor are they allowed to coordinate directly with any candidate or campaign.

Smith says his new PAC, Solutions 2012, will use funds to support Newt Gingrich’s run for the Republican nomination.

“I think a lot of people had written him off,” Smith says of Gingrich. “But just like you saw Sen. McCain pick his campaign up, put it on his shoulders and carry it across the goal line, you’re seeing Speaker Gingrich do the same. He’s running a positive, solutions-oriented campaign. He recognizes that the American people are ready for real change in government. They are tired of all the waste, tired of all the debt. They don’t want to leave that for their children.”

Smith, an Iowa native, is no stranger to politics. He became state chairman of the College Republicans while an undergrad at DU. And after graduating in 2007 with a bachelor’s in finance and real estate, he was elected to chair the College Republican National Committee. It was a full-time job based in Washington, D.C., overseeing a staff that at times numbered more than 65. Over two years, Smith oversaw fundraising efforts that brought in more than $4.5 million.

“It was a great experience; I got to meet all kinds of people and made a lot of lifelong relationships,” Smith says. “I was thrown in right after college. Suddenly I’m a boss and a manager, and I have to decide how to spend millions of dollars.”

Smith decided a law degree would help him moving forward, and he enrolled at the Sturm College of Law. He will graduate in May.

While working for the Denver-based Zakhem Law Firm, Smith says he got the idea to create a super PAC to support the candidate he felt most strongly about. His initiative quickly garnered national attention, with mentions by ABC News, TheWall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and others.

While Smith is opting not to discuss financial details, he says money raised by the PAC will help drive get-out-the-vote efforts in primary contests, with the first, Iowa, coming in just a few weeks. Moving ahead, the PAC may also purchase advertising, he says.

The race for the GOP nomination is tight, polls show, and Smith says he expects a prolonged battle through the winter and spring, meaning he’ll be busy leading fundraising efforts into the foreseeable future.

That doesn’t mean his legal career will be put on hold. Already involved primarily in small business representation and governmental affairs, Smith says he looks forward to passing the bar exam in the summer and practicing law.

“The nice thing is I get to scratch both itches,” Smith says. “I get to help people solve problems in the legal world and the political world.”

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