TIME Campaign Finance

Few New Mega-Donors Join 2016 Fundraising

Jeb Bush
John Raoux—AP In this July 27, 2015 file photo, Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks in Longwood, Fla.

The 2016 presidential race may be a whole new ball game in terms of fundraising, but most of the players’ names are awfully familiar — even if their faces are a bit more lined.

Very few of the top donors to the super PACs backing one of the many GOP White House hopefuls or handful of Democratic candidates are new to giving substantial political gifts, according to a review of Federal Election Commission data by the Center for Responsive Politics, and many have been active for decades.

The relative absence of new faces in the very small pool of really big donors magnifies the impact of ultra-wealthy individuals who have been participating in the process for years — the Robert McNairs, Jeffrey Katzenbergs and Richard Uihleins of the fundraising world.

But they are anteing up more than ever before as their favored candidates’ campaigns become ever more intertwined with the super PACs, announcing combined fundraising totals and splitting up activities, like voter outreach, that once were firmly functions of the campaign committees — not the supposedly independent outside groups.

While there are no complete ingenues among the rosters of top donors to the super PACs, which filed their disclosure reports for the first half of the year this week, there are a few who previously haven’t given sums anything like those they are notching this year. They include the Texas-based Wilks family, four members of which gave $15 million to groups backing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas); brothers Farris and Dan are religious conservatives who got rich in the fracking business. Another: Laura Perlmutter, who gave $2 million to a super PAC supporting Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

The pure numbers are staggering: In the 2012 election cycle, all the presidential super PACs together had raised about $26 million by June 30 of the year before the vote. This time, the total comes to more than $258 million at the same point in time.

That’s about double the more than $130 million the presidential campaigns raised in the first six months of this year, setting up a new paradigm for campaign finance at the federal level. Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, with combined totals of $114 million and $71 million respectively, have settled themselves atop the all time list of presidential campaign-related fundraising in the first six months of the year before the election.

Several of the Republican efforts have been utterly dominated by outside groups raising unlimited amounts from individuals, corporations and other organizations. Seven Republican candidates reported larger fundraising totals for their supposedly unconnected super PACs than they disclosed for their campaigns, with the pro-Bush Right to Rise group pulling in nearly 10 times as much as the campaign itself.

A caveat, though: Absent this super PAC fundraising, the candidates themselves are lagging far behind the pace set in 2007, the last campaign with no incumbent seeking re-election. Six of the seven largest fundraising totals at this point in all prior cycles came in 2007 when Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and John Edwards all raised more than $23 million by June 30. Only four of this year’s competitors (Bush, Clinton, Cruz and Rubio) have reached that level for their campaigns and super PACs combined.

One important impact of super PAC activity in the 2012 presidential race could be looming again itself again in the earliest stages of the 2016 contest. These groups, which allow candidates to benefit from the seemingly limitless financial support of a small number of ardent and affluent supporters, can keep campaigns going long after they ordinarily would have died a natural death.

In 2012 the campaigns of former Rep. Newt Gingrich (Ga.), former Sen. Rick Santorum (Penn.) and other Republicans were prolonged by funding in the tens of millions from a handful of supporters. Friday’s filings show that contributions from five or fewer donors make up the majority of the super PAC funding for nine of the GOP candidates: Rubio, Rand Paul, Cruz, Rick Perry, Carly Fiorina, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee and Santorum. In many cases, the money given by five or fewer individuals or institutions is more than the total given by all individuals directly to the presidential campaign committees of these contenders.

Some donors have hedged their bets, giving large amounts to groups backing multiple candidates. Hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, for instance, was among the top three donors to super PACs backing both Jindal and Cruz, though he gave far more to the pro-Cruz effort. Houston Texans owner Robert McNair was more equitable, giving $500,000 each to super PACs backing no less than four Republican candidates: Security is Strength (Graham), Unintimidated (Walker), Keep the Promise (Cruz) and Right to Rise USA (Bush).

Only a few of the 17 declared Republican candidates, five Democrats, or the Green Party entry lacks at least one supporting super PAC, including Sen. Bernie Sanders(D-Vt.), former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. On the other hand, Paul has at least two major super PACs in his corner, andCruz has four, each of which seems to have been “purchased” by one or two mega-donors and has a name that is some version of “Keep the Promise.”

What’s a wealthy donor to do? The two primary outside groups supporting Hillary Clinton’s campaign have addressed the potential for confusion by organizing a joint fundraising committee to distribute funds among themselves — one-stop shopping that keeps prospective contributors from having to choose and the groups from having to compete for checks. Priorities USA Action will get the bulk of the funds, with a smaller share going to Correct the Record, the group that fights attacks on the former secretary of state.

TIME Campaign Finance

Super PACs’ Haul So Far Tops $266 Million

Republican presidential candidate and former Florida governor Jeb Bush speaks to workers at Thumbtack on July 16, 2015 in San Francisco, California.
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Republican presidential candidate and former Florida governor Jeb Bush speaks to workers at Thumbtack on July 16, 2015 in San Francisco, California.

That's 17 times as much as they did in 2012

Presidential super PACs operating expansive shadow campaigns — buying ads, hosting town hall meetings and hiring canvassers — have raised more than twice as much money as the candidates themselves, newly filed campaign finance documents show.

About three dozen such super PACs collectively raised more than $266 million from January through June while the campaigns of 2016 presidential hopefuls collectively raised just half that much — about $130 million — according to a Center for Public Integrity review.

The total raised by super PACs is about 17 times more than comparable groups raised during the same period four years ago, when the term “super PAC” had yet to make it into the dictionary.

Super PACs, made possible thanks to the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, can accept unlimited donations from corporations, unions and individuals. They may use the funds to support or oppose candidates, but are prohibited from coordinating their spending with campaigns.

Leading in the money chase: Right to Rise USA, a group that supports former Florida Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, which raised more than $103 million.

Bush helped raise millions for the group, despite the anti-coordination rules. Bush attended numerous fundraising events for the super PAC, but got around the prohibition by making appearances prior to announcing his 2016 candidacy.

Two dozen donors each gave Right to Rise USA at least $1 million during the year’s first half, with about 90 percent of it coming before Bush officially launched his campaign in June. One of those million-dollar donors was NextEra Energy, a Florida-based Fortune 200 energy company.

A pair of famous Texas retirees also made handsome donations to Right to Rise USA: former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, who gave $125,000 and $95,000, respectively.

Millionaires club

While the pro-Bush super PAC dominated all others, a cluster of five super PACs supporting the presidential candidacy of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, raised about $38 million.

Two groups backing Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin raised more than $26 million.

And a super PAC backing Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., raised about $16 million.

In each case, the super PACs raised more than the candidates themselves — sometimes many times over. Bush’s official campaign, for instance, has collected just $11 million to date.

Never before have super PACs played such a prominent role in a presidential contest — especially so early in the process. Now, nearly every major candidate has a super PAC doppelganger.

Among the Republican contenders, only celebrity business tycoon Donald Trump, who so far has self-funded the bulk of his campaign, doesn’t yet have an allied super PAC capable of raising significant cash.

This represents a dramatic shift from four years ago.

At this stage of the 2012 presidential election, only President Barack Obama and eventual Republican nominee Mitt Romney enjoyed the support of aligned super PACs. Super PACs supporting many 2012 GOP hopefuls did not form until the fall or winter of 2011.

“The first thing I’m going to do as a presidential candidate is see if there’s a super PAC out there to support me, or someone willing to form a super PAC to help me,” said John Grimaldi, a political operative who worked for a pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC in 2012 but is not working for a campaign or super PAC this election cycle.

“A super PAC eliminates a major portion of your campaign expenditures as a candidate,” Grimaldi continued. “It makes it easier to run.”

Why? The answer, in part, is that deep-pocketed donors who are prohibited from donating large sums of money directly to the candidates themselves may give unlimited amounts to super PACs — as may corporations and labor unions.

No limits, no problem

Candidates may only accept donations of $2,700 per person, per election, and $5,000 per election from corporate or labor political action committees.

“We are not subject to contribution limits like the campaigns are, so that certainly helps build resources to get our message out,” said Jordan Russell, spokesman for the Opportunity and Freedom PAC, which is backing former Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s White House run.

The Opportunity and Freedom PAC has already spent more than $2.3 million on advertisements touting Perry — more than twice as much as the Republican’s presidential campaign raised through the end of June.

This dynamic frustrates many of the presidential contenders, and some, including Cruz, are openly calling for contribution limits to candidates to be eliminated entirely.

“Our current campaign finance system is ridiculous,” Cruz told the Center for Public Integrity in a recent interview. “The way to do it is to let campaigns speak for themselves directly.”

Even grassroots favorites, such as Republican Ben Carson, a former neurosurgeon, have allied super PACs.

One super PAC working on Carson’s behalf raised $13.5 million last year and another $2.9 million during the first half of 2015, while Carson’s campaign, which was launched in May, has raised $10.6 million.

“I personally have not gone around chasing after billionaires and special interest groups,” Carson told the Center for Public Integrity. “We’re getting an enormous response from the grassroots. That’s the people that I want to be beholden to.”

Wealthy donors have certainly helped fuel the super PAC spree — and many of them are hedging their bets and supporting multiple White House contenders in a field that’s grown to 17 Republicans and five Democrats.

Hedging their bets

Rich donors flirting with multiple Republican candidates spread, in some cases, millions of dollars among super PACs backing different candidates. This continues a trend that first emerged after presidential candidates themselves released campaign disclosures earlier this month.

Take hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, who laid down $11 million to a pro-Cruz super PAC called Keep the Promise I, making him practically the sole funder.

That’s a pretty big investment.

But surprisingly, Keep the Promise I steered $500,000 to a super PAC backing Cruz rival Carly Fiorina — presumably at Mercer’s direction, and possibly a sign that were Cruz to falter or withdraw, Mercer could direct the super PAC elsewhere.

On top of that, Mercer wrote a $250,000 check to Believe Again, a super PAC supporting Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Republican presidential bid.

Then there’s former Univision CEO Jerry Perenchio, who was the biggest donor to the super PAC backing Fiorina, who gave nearly $1.6 million. He also gave $100,000 to the pro-Bush Right to Rise USA super PAC.

Meanwhile, Robert McNair, the billionaire owner of the NFL’s Houston Texans, donated $500,000 apiece to super PACs backing Republicans Bush, Cruz, Walker and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

An investment firm tied to Manoj Bhargava, the politically active founder of beverage company 5-hour Energy, similarly placed multiple six-figure bets on super PACs supporting three GOP presidential candidates, all governors.

The company, called ETC Capital LLC, gave $150,000 to America Leads, a super PAC backing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, $150,000 to the Unintimidated PAC, which supports Walker, and $100,000 to the pro-Jindal Believe Again super PAC.

Bhargava’s investment firm was among the top five donors last year to the Republican Governors Association, so it’s perhaps not surprising that the firm would back three current Republican governors seeking the White House, two of whom — Christie and Jindal — are past RGA chairs.

Even Marlene Ricketts, the matriarch of the family that owns the Chicago Cubs baseball team and the mother of Walker’s campaign finance chairman, Todd Ricketts, spread her money around.

She donated $10,000 each to groups backing Bush, Christie, Cruz, Graham, Perry and Rubio.

But her largest donation — $4.9 million — went to Walker’s Unintimidated PAC, representing a quarter of the super PAC’s take.

Working closer with candidates

Bradley Crate, chief financial officer for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, said that four years ago, super PAC leaders proceeded with a measure of caution, afraid of violating laws that restricted how they interfaced with political candidates.

Today, such fears have largely dissipated, with the ideologically gridlocked Federal Election Commission often unable to agree on how to interpret and regulate the most basic of election law matters.

This gives super PACs the opportunity to work more intimately with candidates. Some are even absorbing many of the responsibilities traditionally reserved for a candidate’s own campaign, said Crate, now president of Red Curve Solutions, a Massachusetts-based campaign finance consulting firm.

“That’s what I would do,” he said.

Alex Cohen and Chris Zubak-Skees contributed to this report.

This story is from The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C. To read more of their reporters’ work, go here or follow them on Twitter.

TIME Campaign Finance

Why Some Donors Gave to Multiple Republican Candidates

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks with reporters as he emerges from the Senate chamber following a series or rare Sunday votes on July 26, 2015.
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks with reporters as he emerges from the Senate chamber following a series or rare Sunday votes on July 26, 2015.

Houston entrepreneur Michael Rydin has contributed to five Republican presidential candidates so far: Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry and Carly Fiorina. But he’s not done. The software developer is now considering giving money to Donald Trump as well.

“I want to get a discussion going. Controversy gets people talking,” he said. “I know Trump is unlikely to become the president, but he gets other candidates talking on issues that they would otherwise avoid.”

Rydin is part of a select group of Republican donors who have given to more than one candidate in the crowded 2016 presidential primary. A TIME analysis of first-quarter campaign financial reports showed at least 971 people have given to two or more Republican candidates.

With an unprecedented 16 candidates running for office, donors who might support more than one candidate have more options than ever. And some are taking advantage of the opportunity to endorse more than one campaign.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has received the most donations from people who also gave to a rival candidate. The most popular combination of donations was Cruz and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, with at least 206 people giving to both, followed by Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, with at least 183 contributing to both.

Kenneth Abramowitz, a financial analyst in Connecticut, argues that “the more Republican voices, the better.” Abramowitz gave a total of $10,400 to the four Republican candidates who held breakfast and lunch events in his area: Jeb Bush, Carson, Rubio and Cruz.

Shelley Payer, a retired Florida banker who has given to three campaigns, says she gave to the candidates who interested her: Rubio, Paul and Carson.

“Everybody has something to say,” she said.

TIME 2016 Election

Here’s Why These Donors Gave to Both Hillary Clinton and a Republican

Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, pauses while speaking during the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame Celebration dinner in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, U.S., on Friday, July 17, 2015.
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, pauses while speaking during the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame Celebration dinner in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, U.S., on Friday, July 17, 2015.

John Catsimatidis says he’ll do whatever it takes to support his friends.

That’s why the billionaire businessman, who owns a grocery store chain in Manhattan, a real estate firm and a Greek-American newspaper, donated to both Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush in the primary. Catsimatidis helped pay for the chapel at Camp David during George H.W. Bush’s term as President; reports say the Clintons sometimes make use of Catsimatidis’s private jet.

So he gave $2,700 each to Clinton and Bush’s campaigns.

“When friends are running for office you do whatever you have to do,” he said. “If Hillary Clinton was the nominee in the Democratic Party and Jeb Bush was the nominee in the Republican Party, I would go to sleep early on election night because regardless of who got elected our country would be in good shape.”

But that didn’t stop him from also donating $5,400 to Ted Cruz: “He was full of piss and vinegar and caught my fancy.”

Catsimatidis is one of at least 40 people who have donated to both Hillary Clinton and one of her GOP rivals this cycle. Their reasons vary: for some, like Catsimatidis, it comes down to friendship, although not necessarily with the candidates themselves.

Steven Schram, an attorney at Shapiro Lifschitz and Schram, donated to Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio as a favor to his friends: “I generally to not contribute to political candidates,” he said, noting that he’s registered as an Independent. “My two contributions this year were accommodations to friends supporting Clinton and Rubio. … My friends asked me to support their candidate.”

For people like Robert Millman, on the other hand, it’s business. Millman, an attorney at Littler Mendolson, said he thinks electing Clinton “would not be in the best interest of the United States,” but he had to donate to her because of a professional commitment. He said the country “desperately needs” a Republican president, and he donated $250 to Marco Rubio in order to attend one of Rubio’s speeches. But he still hasn’t decided which candidate he will ultimately vote for. “I have no dog in this race. I have an open mind,” he said. “But I will not bring myself to vote for Hillary Clinton.”

David Stevens, the CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association who served in the Obama Administration as the Assistant Secretary of Housing, said he donated to Clinton and Bush because they were the two candidates that would best deal with housing issues. “It’s not a party focus, it comes down to my interest to make certain whoever gets in office has the depth and ability to deal with these complex issues and has these issues in the policy menu of things they’re thinking of coming in,” he said.

Others have loftier ideological goals, giving money on both sides of the aisle to advance a cause or a personal mission. “Since I loathe the hyper-partisanship of our culture, I make a point of giving to candidates of each party, every four years,” said journalist Mayhill Fowler, giving $2,700 to Clinton and $250 to Bush.

As for Patricia Lizarraga, it’s about cracking glass ceilings. The managing partner of Hypatia Capital Group donated $500 to both Clinton and Carly Fiorina and said her donations were about promoting female leaders, regardless of party. “I’m a firm believer that the more women that participate as senior executives in the United States and around the globe, the better the outcomes will be for everybody,” she said. “If there were a third [woman] in the fray, I would support her as well.”

Clinton’s campaign has raised more than $46 million since April; Jeb Bush’s campaign had raised $11.4 million by July 9, and his Super PAC had raised $103 million.

TIME Campaign Finance

Major Donors Hedge Their Bets in 2016 Race

Democratic U.S. presidential hopeful and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to members of the media July 14, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong— 2015 Getty Images Democratic U.S. presidential hopeful and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to members of the media July 14, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

One donor gave to Hillary Clinton as well as Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham

It’s speed dating season for presidential campaign contributors.

More than 1,000 donors — including some of the nation’s most prominent political benefactors — are hedging their bets by spreading contributions among multiple White House hopefuls, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of new campaign finance disclosures and interviews with top fundraisers.

Most double-donors have divided their loyalties among the 2016 presidential race’s legion of Republicans — a field 15 candidates strong and still growing.

Meanwhile, a few liberal contributors are backing both Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and one of her four primary challengers. A handful are even donating to Democrats and Republicans, the Center for Public Integrity’s analysis of contributions for the three months ending June 30 indicates.

Equally notable as most presidential candidates on Wednesday filed their first campaign cash disclosures: About half of the nation’s top 100 political donors during the past six years — as identified by the Center for Responsive Politics — haven’t yet donated to any of them, suggesting they haven’t settled on a favorite as yet.

Super contributors still keeping their checkbooks closed when presidential candidates come calling include the likes of conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, as well as hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, TD Ameritrade founder J. Joe Ricketts and coal executive Joe Craft.

These megadonors are not only capable of helping presidential candidates’ own committees with modest contributions, but can also pour millions of dollars into super PACs and outside groups supporting their chosen candidates.

Such giving — legal thanks largely to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision five years ago in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission — can almost single-handedly shift the contours of a presidential race.

So far, the amounts volunteered by outside groups, like super PACs and nonprofits — at least on the Republican side — have dwarfed amounts raised by candidate committees.

Donations to outside groups are unlimited while a contribution to a candidate is capped at $2,700 per election, creating an even greater incentive for campaigns to lock in wealthy activists’ support.

“People are still on the sidelines,” confirmed Gaylord Hughey, a longtime Republican donor and fundraiser in east Texas who is currently raising money for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

The nation’s top 100 political donors reflect that: Twenty-four of them have invested early money in any GOP presidential candidates, according to the Center for Public Integrity’s analysis.

Of them, 10 have financially supported more than one.

Robert McNair, the owner of the Houston Texans, has even donated to three: Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida.

Meanwhile, about two dozen of the 100 have already donated to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

They include Chicago media mogul Fred Eychaner, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, philanthropist Alida Rockefeller Messinger, Texas trial lawyer Amber Mostyn and entertainment mogul Haim Saban.

One — David desJardins, a software engineer who was an early Google employee — has donated to Democrat Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor running against Clinton.

So many choices

Donors spreading wealth to multiple candidates offer varying reasons for their approach to Election 2016.

Take New York City venture capitalist Ken Abramowitz, a staunch Mitt Romney supporter in 2012 who’s already contributed to six Republican candidates this election cycle — Bush, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Rubio, Cruz, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

“I’m right now in the learning phase and I’m trying to learn about the candidates, learn about their thinking, their capabilities of being president,” he said.

Abramowitz said his contributions were all made so he could attend events with the candidates, as he tries to gauge where they fall on issues he cares about: growing the economy, and protecting both the country and “the culture of America.” He mentally grades them on those issues.

“Eventually, I can’t speak for everyone else, but I’ll just guess, we’ll all find one or two candidates that we, so to speak, fall in love with,” Abramowitz said. “A very small minority of people will fall in love at this early stage.”

Diet company founder Jenny Craig of California has fattened the campaign accounts of Bush, Rubio and Cruz.

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam Adelson, donated to Graham as well as a fundraising committee benefiting Rubio’s U.S. Senate campaign, which Rubio converted into a presidential campaign.

Dallas investment banker-turned-alcohol distributor Sheldon Stein showered Bush, Cruz, Perry and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania with thousands of dollars.

And former World Wrestling Entertainment executive and also-ran U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon of Connecticut split donations between Bush and Fiorina. “She has not formally endorsed any one candidate at this time,” said Kate Duffy, a McMahon spokeswoman.

Mica Mosbacher, a Texas fundraiser for Cruz, said in an e-mail that she knows contributors who have donated to multiple candidates and also has talked to some “fence sitters,” though she said Cruz often wins over donors when he talks to them in person.

“Others have said to me that they committed to someone else but Ted is their number two choice so his message is resonating,” she wrote. “And it’s still early.”

More than 50 donors crossed party lines when contributing to multiple presidential candidates.

One, billionaire grocery mogul and would-be New York Daily News owner John Catsimatidis — a self-described moderate — donated to Clinton on the left and Bush, Cruz and Graham on the right.

Nily Falic, a pro-Israel businesswoman from Florida whose family made its millions running duty-free stores, also straddled party lines, donating to Clinton, Rubio and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. The Falics also helped bankroll the recent re-election of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Kevin O’Connor, who oversees governmental and political affairs for the International Association of Fire Fighters, said the union has so far contributed to Bush, Clinton, O’Malley and former Virginia U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat. The union also plans to send a check to another Democrat in Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, he said.

“We’re just kind of, if you will, helping our friends out,” he said, citing the union’s positive relationships with all those candidates during their previous stints in office. “There are a number of people in the race that have earned our respect and, to some extent, our support financially, and that’s reflected in what we’re doing in these donations.”

The union will go through its endorsement process and make a decision on its formal endorsement sometime between August and October, he said.

Strictly on the Democratic side, Hollywood honcho David Geffen wrote checks to Clinton and Sanders.

Generating big money early

There are 480 days until Election Day 2016 rolls around, but it doesn’t feel that way on the presidential fundraising circuit.

Before campaign fundraising books closed on June 30, the candidates sent out dozens of desperate fundraising emails with subject lines like “Friend, this is it” and “Last Chance!”

Their goal: to post the highest possible fundraising number for the quarter, the first time most of them were required to file a campaign disclosure report.

The reports, which were due by 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, show some clear winners and losers.

Clinton posted by far the biggest haul of hard money — $47.5 million. She also spent the largest amount, $18.7 million, though she still had the most cash on hand, with $28.9 million.

Celebrities dotted her disclosure, from Beyoncé Knowles-Carter (employer: self-employed; occupation: entrepreneur) to actors Ben Affleck and Leonardo DiCaprio, who all gave the maximum $2,700 allowed toward the primary.

Sanders, a self-described social Democrat, came in second in the cash race with about $15.2 million. Strikingly, more than three-quarters of Sanders’ contributions this quarter came from small-dollar donors who gave $200 or less, compared to about 17 percent of Clinton’s.

Bush came third, with $11.4 million, though the super PAC supporting him has reportedly raised more than $100 million to support his candidacy. Prominent donors to his campaign include hedge fund titan Daniel Loeb and oil and gas billionaire Trevor Rees-Jones. Bush also received at least 56 contributions totaling nearly $150,000 from people who listed investment banking giant Goldman Sachs as their employer.

He was followed by Cruz, with $10 million.

But the campaign committee hauls of Bush and Cruz — and those of several other Republican candidates — were dwarfed by fundraising totals for nominally independent political committees supporting them.

At least five Republican candidates — Fiorina, Bush, Rubio, Perry and Cruz — are backed by super PACs and nonprofits that have reportedly raised millions more than the campaigns themselves.

The outside groups are already picking up the tab for ads and organizing costs in early states. Super PACs aren’t required to reveal their finances until July 31, while nonprofit organizations that support candidates are generally allowed to keep their donors secret.

Candidates technically are not permitted to coordinate with outside groups such as super PACs, although many are pushing the boundaries.

For instance, before officially announcing his candidacy last month, Bush fundraised for Right to Rise, the super PAC supporting him, and it will engage in core functions such as campaign advertising.

Clinton is working directly with Correct the Record, a super PAC that provides it with opposition research but does not advertise. A super PAC supporting Fiorina has publicized her endorsements and answered questions from the press.

“There will be a lot more money spent by super PACs than by the campaigns” this time, said Charlie Black, a longtime Republican lobbyist and fundraiser who is currently neutral in the primary.

“Hard money” raised directly by campaigns does have its advantages despite federal laws limiting how much of it candidates may raise.

The candidates pay lower rates for television ad time, for instance, and have more control over how money is spent.

“If I were running a campaign, I would hate that I can’t control my own campaign, my own message,” Black said.

From April 1 to June 30, presidential candidates collectively reported raising more than $120 million through their campaigns, even though several of them didn’t formally announce until a few weeks ago.

Still, that’s only a fraction of the hundreds of millions of dollars the super PACs and nonprofits supporting them have so far voluntarily disclosed raising — and some of those groups have not yet said how much money they’ve taken in.

Donors writing multimillion-dollar checks to those outside groups, though, may be dancing with more than one date.

Hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer is one example.

He’s reportedly a main donor to a connected group of super PACs supporting Cruz. The groups have said they have raised more than $37 million, though it isn’t yet known how much is from Mercer.

That’s a pretty substantial investment in Cruz. Campaign finance filings yesterday, though, show he and his family also contributed to Fiorina.

TIME Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton Far Outpaces Democratic Rivals in Spending

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has spent more than $18 million since her campaign launch.
Alex Wong—2015 Getty Images Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has spent more than $18 million since her campaign launch.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign spent $18.7 million since its launch on expenses ranging from payroll to voter files and office furniture, as the Democratic frontrunner sought to build a huge national operation that includes staff in all 50 states.

Her campaign has spent more money than both her Democratic rivals have raised.

“Thanks to the more than 250,000 Americans who have stepped up to support Hillary Clinton’s campaign, we have had the ability to make critical investments in our organization that will put us in position to win the primary and the White House,” said campaign manager Robby Mook.

Some of the campaign’s more significant expenditures included $370,000 for the New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina Democratic party voter files, nearly $2 million outsourcing its direct marketing to a Washington, D.C.-based firm, and millions of dollars in payroll for the campaign staff of nearly 350.

The campaign also spent around $440,000 on legal fees, according to filings, including $163,000 to the law firm of the campaign’s lawyer, Marc Elias.

The campaign can afford to spend, having raised $46.7 million since mid-April, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, another contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, raised about $15 million in the first quarter. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley brought in around $2 million.

The spending represents some 40% of the money Clinton has raised since her official launch.

The campaign has taken a famously cheap approach, with staff forced to take buses, fly commercial and buy minimal office furniture and supplies. Some of that was reflected in the expenditures: in the month of June, for example, payroll expenditures to campaign manager Robby Mook totaled just $4,910, according to the filings, though Mook holds one of the most senior positions on the campaign.

The average donation to the Clinton campaign was $145, and the campaign said that 61% of its donors were women.

Celebrity donors to the campaign included Steven Spielberg, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, Disney Chairman Alan Horn, and Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. Notably, neither Chelsea Clinton nor Bill Clinton donated to the campaign, while the Bush family has already maxed out its contributions to Jeb’s campaign.

Nearly 33,000 people have purchased items from Clinton’s online store, which includes tongue-in-cheek items like a “Chillary” koozie and a “pantsuit tee.”

With reporting by Zeke J. Miller.

TIME mike huckabee

Huckabee’s Early Fundraising Almost Beats His Entire 2008 Amount

Former Arkansas governor and FOX new personality Mike Huckabee speaks during the 2011 Republican Leadership Conference on June 16, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Former Arkansas governor and FOX new personality Mike Huckabee speaks during the 2011 Republican Leadership Conference on June 16, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

His super PAC raises three times what Huckabee's campaign does

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s campaign and its outside allies have raised $8 million so far.

While he most of his rivals, Huckabee has shown during previous elections he is the master of a shoestring budget. His entire 2008 White House bid raised $9 million total. (That campaign predated the invention of the super PAC, which can raise and spend unlimited cash to help a candidate.)

“We’re on perfect pace to do what we talked about early on,” a senior Huckabee adviser said. “Campaigns take money, and the Governor is far ahead of where he was in 2008.”

Of the $8 million, $6 million of it was raised by outside groups who back Huckabee. The other $2 million went directly to the campaign. Huckabee aides said he was only taking money for the primary election, capping donations at $2,700 per person.

The haul, however, is overshadowed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (his political machine raised $114.4 million through his campaign and allied groups) and Sen. Tex Cruz of Texas ($51 million total), Even so, Huckabee’s sum gives him enough resources to continue laying the groundwork in early nominating states such as Iowa and South Carolina.

Huckabee will file his forms to the Federal Election Commission soon.

 

TIME Lincoln Chafee

Lincoln Chaffee Picks Up His Campaign’s Gas and Hotel Bills

Former Rhode Island Governor Chafee poses for a selfie with a student after announcing he will seek the Democratic nomination to be U.S. president during an address to the GMU School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs in Arlington
Jonathan Ernst—Reuters Lincoln Chafee, Former Rhode Island Governor, poses for a selfie with a student after announcing he will seek the Democratic nomination for president in Arlington, Va. on June 3, 2015.

Turning heads not for how much he's raised, but for how little.

Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee has been buying his own campaign gas, using his own credit card to pay for his Facebook account and picking up the bill on a hotel stay.

The reason is necessity: In an age of mega-donors and billion dollar general election campaigns, his campaign is turning heads not for how much he’s raised, but for how little.

The long-shot Republican-turned-Democrat’s campaign against Hillary Clinton raised just $28,387 from donors in its first month, with the candidate chipping in more than 13 times that — all while footing many of his own travel bills, according to a filing with the Federal Election Commission.

It’s the latest development in Chafee’s quixotic presidential bid. He was a Republican Senator until 2007, an independent who suffered from unpopularity during his single term as governor. During his announcement speech he endorsed moving the U.S. to the metric system in order to show the world that the country wants to strike a new posture on the international stage.

Chafee loaned his proto-campaign almost $164,000 in January, and another $200,000 on June 19, just two weeks after announcing he was challenging the former Secretary of State. He has also kicked in $662.03 for in-kind expenses.

TIME jeb bush

How Jeb Bush’s Super PAC Will Spend $103 Million

It can't coordinate with his campaign, but it may not have to

Jeb Bush’s official campaign headquarters sits tucked away in a nondescript Miami corporate park, across from a Wal-Mart SuperCenter and around the corner from a Chick-fil-A and a Denny’s diner. Bush’s plane tickets and hotel rooms are reserved by schedulers in the grey fortress. His speeches are drafted in dank cubicles. When his top lieutenants on his payroll meet, they huddle in the conference room in a bunker-like former utility building about 10 miles from Miami’s glorious beaches.

But the real base of power for the former Florida Governor’s bid for the White House is almost 3,000 miles away in Los Angeles. When it is time for millions of dollars of television ads to start, that happens in the Carthay neighborhood. There, longtime Bush adviser Mike Murphy and his team of fewer than a dozen ad makers, researchers and digital ninjas collaborate in a spacious, light-filled office suite that is more fitting for a Hollywood blockbuster than a political campaign. Already, the super PAC has raised $103 million—some of it with Bush’s direct help.

Welcome to the new type of White House campaign, one where the biggest spender is not the candidate and outside advisers will have more interactions with voters than anyone on the ballots. A handful of deep-pocketed donors can pick up the tab for a massive advertising blitz and only a Kleenex-thin barrier keeps the outside groups from the campaigns. When Sen. Ted Cruz was ready to release a summary of his fundraising to date, his campaign included the super PAC’s haul, too, lumping the whole sum together.

Maybe they should. The team running what is now the Bush campaign and the Bush super PAC huddled frequently at the Dallas Hyatt to plot strategy before the race officially got started. Sen. Rand Paul has his nephew-in-law running his nominally independent super PAC. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s super PAC is run by his one-time boss, former Rep. Bob Livingston.

But Bush’s approach to the super PAC is the one that is—depending on who is telling the story—either the most imaginative or the most audacious.

Campaign and super PAC aides could, and did, discuss broad strategies for how to approach the primary and general elections, including the strengths and weaknesses of Bush and his Democratic and Republican rivals. But where some advisers have maintained that campaigns and super PACs could coordinate during the entire pre-campaign period, Bush’s team opted for a more conservative position, banning all coordinated talk of specific expenditures.

For example, they could discuss Ben Carson’s vulnerabilities as a first-time candidate, but couldn’t plan for a specific ad hitting him on that in the week leading up to the Iowa Caucuses.

“The timing of having a super PAC publicly acknowledging it supports a candidate and raising money early, allows you huge flexibility in using that money,” said one person briefed on the Bush campaign and super PAC’s plans.

On Thursday, Bush’s campaign announced it raised $11.4 million over just 16 days. An hour later, Right to Rise USA released its fundraising haul: a record $103 million haul, with $98 million cash on hand.

By raising so much, so soon, Bush’s team is hoping to get a jump on ad reservations—a tactic already employed by Sen. Marco Rubio’s far smaller independent effort—seeking to avoid a repeat of one of Mitt Romney’s critical errors. In 2012, one third of Restore Our Future’s funding came in in the final eight weeks of the campaign, at which point the airwaves were already saturated and the group had to pay high prices for fewer ads than the pro-Obama efforts.

Now the group can reserve TV ad time, invest in a digital operation, explore mail—with its six-week lead time—and potentially run a phone banking operation. It’s a flexibility that has never-before-existed in a presidential campaign.

Early indications were that the super PAC could have branched into field work on behalf of Bush’s campaign, much like how fellow Republican candidates Carly Fiorina and Bobby Jindal have used their outside groups. But the effort was abandoned, at least for now, because most of the benefit of field work comes from coordinating with the campaign.

The Bush super PAC has already started spending its money, beginning this week with a $47,000 digital effort opening salvo in Iowa and New Hampshire to boost Bush and attack former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Senior Right to Rise aides say that they’re following a playbook written and run before. The change now, however, is that they’re getting started sooner and more openly. The pro-Bush effort is unusual in that it was formed and raised money heavily before Bush was a declared candidate, and was clear about its association with him. Aides say Bush never directly made a fundraising ask, even before he declared his candidacy.

Coordination rules prohibit scripting an ad featuring the candidate, but the super PAC has found clever workarounds. At Bush’s announcement event, a space on the press riser alongside the likes of NBC and ABC was reserved for Right to Rise USA. The group released a super-cut of the speech set to soaring music a week after the announcement. The catch: they had to white-out any official campaign signage.

That’s not all. The super PAC’s film crews did hours of interviews with Bush about his legislative and personal records, including education reform and cutting the size of Florida’s government, which can be cut down later into an ad by the super PAC team. In essence, the super PAC banked the bulk of its footage for commercials before it had an official candidate.

But there are challenges to such an approach. In a traditional campaign structure, if an ad maven needed details of the candidate’s record, he or she could phone up the candidate or walk down the hall to ask for specifics in person. Murphy cannot do that. To remedy that, Murphy has done the next best thing: he hired a longtime aide to Bush during his time as Governor. That individual is now the link between Bush’s record as Governor and his current campaign’s super PAC.

Also, if a candidate hated an ad, he or she could shelve it. With a super PAC, there’s no mechanism for the candidate to kill it. The scofflaw message can air thousands of times and there’s nothing a candidate can do. But if everyone in Bush’s orbit sticks to the pre-campaign plan, that should not be a problem. After all, they spent months practicing for this moment.

TIME Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton on Track to Raise Record $45 Million in First Quarter

She beat President Obama's 2011 record

Hillary Clinton’s campaign is on track to raise more than $45 million in the first quarter of the primary race, a Clinton official said Wednesday, far outpacing her Democratic opponents and breaking President Obama’s previous first-quarter fundraising record of $41.9 million in 2011.

For much of the past 11 weeks, Clinton has spent her afternoons and evenings attending house parties for donors, where the former Secretary of State regularly spends about an hour and fifteen minutes schmoozing with guests, taking photos, and delivering her campaign talking points. The parties, which follow a nearly identical format and which Clinton holds in states as far flung as New York, Iowa and California, asks attendees to raise $2,700 and hosts to bring in $27,000.

A crucial measure of popular enthusiasm for Clinton, however, will not be just the amount of money she raises, but the number of small-donor donations to her campaign. In that arena she is likely to be outmatched by Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has raked in about $8 million with an average donation of around $40—which puts him at around 200,000 donors.

Clinton’s campaign has set a goal of raising $100 million to pay for the primary, a target that appears well within reach after just two-and-a-half months of fundraising and seven months to go before the Iowa caucus. The numbers have not been finalized, and the Federal Election Commission is not due to release campaigns’ intake through June 30 until the middle of July.

Clinton officials have not yet released the total number of donors that have given to the candidate as of June 30, but in an email to supporters on Tuesday evening shortly before the midnight deadline, the campaign said there were only “2,109 to go” before reaching 50,000 “grassroots donations.”

According to the campaign, much of Clinton’s donations has come from online and grassroots donations, with 91% of donations at $100 or less.

Hillary for America has also built out a robust online store that includes an array of cheeky apparel and accessories, including a “pantsuit tee” a “Chillary Clinton” beer koozie, and a “Grillary Clinton” barbecue apron. The store will allow the campaign to build out an email list as well as bring in small-dollar donations.

“The campaign has been focused on building an inclusive and diverse group of supporters at all levels,” said a Clinton official, “including longtime Clinton supporters, Obama supporters and some who have never really gotten involved in Presidential politics before.”

In a handwritten note posted on her Instagram Wednesday morning, Clinton personally thanked her donors. “Thank you so much for being part of this campaign,” she wrote. “When the road ahead is tough you need the best people by your side. That’s I’m thankful for you.”

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