TIME Campaign Finance

Few New Mega-Donors Join 2016 Fundraising

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 Congress

The Trumpification of Congress

People walk past posters supporting politician Ted Cruz put up by the 'StandWithUs' group during a rally calling for the rejection of the proposed Iran nuclear deal outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California on July 26, 2015.
MARK RALSTON—AFP/Getty Images People walk past posters supporting politician Ted Cruz put up by the 'StandWithUs' group during a rally calling for the rejection of the proposed Iran nuclear deal outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California on July 26, 2015.

The GOP Establishment better be ready

Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Donald Trump’s bombastic brand of establishment-hating populism is succeeding: he’s leading in the polls and in media attention. So, perhaps it’s not surprising that some Republicans in Congress are following his example.

On Tuesday, an obscure second-term Republican congressman from North Carolina, Mark Meadows, filed a motion to try and force House Speaker John Boehner from his post. The measure is more than likely to fail, but the move earned Meadows instant media recognition, numerous cable news appearances and instant notoriety.

Meadows isn’t the only one causing congressional GOP leaders headaches these days. During a rare weekend session forced in part by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell smacked down efforts by Cruz and fellow Tea Partier Sen. Mike Lee of Utah to hijack the amendment process on a transportation bill. The duo had hoped to force votes to defund Planned Parenthood and block President Obama’s deal with Iran but McConnell squashed them, going so far as to distribute an e-mail from a Lee staffer to every Republican senator showing that the pair only sought to play politics with the system, not work for solutions.

“To see the so-called Republican leader whip against allowing a vote to defund Planned Parenthood,” Cruz railed to reporters outside the Senate chamber, “makes clear that the McConnell-[Democratic Senate leader Harry] Reid leadership is united in favor of Big Government.”

Cruz, Lee, Meadows and Trump have one thing in common: their disdain for the Republican establishment. All four are seeking to harness discontent within the GOP base to their advantage. And that discontent pays: all four have raised millions of dollars and each bomb they drop earns them more money, more infamy and more attention—all great things whether one is running for president or fending off a primary challenge in 2016.

The idea of committing some incredible antic or uttering an outrageous statement and then running online to monetize it isn’t a new strategy in Washington. As Michael Scherer and I wrote six years ago, members like Michele Bachmann and Alan Grayson had already honed the online money bomb. What’s new here is the target: leadership.

The problem with this strategy is that it heightens dysfunction in a city where dysfunction has already hobbled the system. McConnell will likely get through a long-term extension of the transportation bill this week, but the House won’t be able to pass that bill so quickly. So both chambers will have to pass a three-month stop gap by the end of the week to give Boehner more time to corral his recalcitrant rank and file on the larger bill.

And if getting a transportation bill through is this tough, what’s facing Congress in the coming months is even more daunting: a potential government shut down and default on U.S. debt. McConnell and Boehner better have some aces up their sleeves. Because as Meadows, Cruz and Lee have shown this week, there’s never been more incentive to play the Trump card.

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 2016 Election

The New Republican Power Players in 2016: Wives (And One Husband)

Chris Christie
Mary Schwalm—AP Republican presidential candidate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his wife wife Mary Pat walk in the Fourth of July parade in Wolfeboro, N.H.

Accomplished partners are taking leading roles inside White House campaigns

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was making his way slowly down Main Street in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, held up by yet another fan who wanted a selfie along the parade’s route. The process was delaying the day in July, throwing the whole campaign off-schedule and making Christie’s aides nervous about making it to the next stop. Enter Mary Pat Christie, campaign’s all-purpose fixer. Her task for the day: be the antidote to any long-winded well-wisher or fat-fingered iPhone user.

“Hi, I’m Mary Pat,” she said with an outstretched hand, breaking into the conversation. She subtly grabbed her husband’s elbow and said quietly, “We’ve got to go.” She directed him to the next group of supporters in a way that didn’t offend the voter and got the job done.

Mary Pat Christie is just one of the examples of a politically savvy, deeply involved spouses who are having an impact on the Republicans’ crowded chase of the presidential nomination. Some more subtly than others, these women—and one man—are weighing in on policy, schedules, staff, tactics and strategies. Among them are two Wall Street executives (Mary Pat Christie and Heidi Cruz) who traded their jobs for campaign roles, two nurses (Anita Perry and Karen Santorum), an almost-PhD (Supriya Jindal) and a political consultant (Kelley Paul) who once counted a rival to her husband (Ted Cruz) as a client. Another (Frank Fiorina) left his job as a vice president at AT&T to support his wife’s business career and is a constant figure in her endeavors.

Gone are the days when voters considered it out of bounds when a wife troubled herself with politics or policy. In 1992, Bill and Hillary Clinton were on defense over the idea that she would have a policy role at the White House and a strategic role in the campaign. Now similar two-for-one offerings on the campaign trail are as common as not.

“We’re good partners,” Mary Pat Christie explained to TIME days later. “We have been our whole life. We’ve been married almost 30 years. No one knows each other better than we do.” It’s why, from time to time, she settles into the chair next to her husband when his advisers are ready to start a political briefing. And when he is looking to rake in Wall Street cash, Mary Pat Christie’s Rolodex is invaluable.

Even as Christie was declaring his intentions to run for President, he made a nod that Mary Pat was part of the deal. “Everyone thinks I’m the politician in the family. We did a coin flip when we got married. I called tails. Tails never fails so I’m the guy who ran,” Christie said. “But the politician just as good as me in the family is the woman that I met all those years ago at the University of Delaware.”

For sure, there are less politically involved spouses in the mix, too. Columba Bush, the wife of Jeb, clings to her privacy and insists she never talks policy with her husband. Marco Rubio’s wife, Jeanette, remains focused on raising four children at home in West Miami. Karen Santorum is a full-time caregiver to a daughter who requires near-constant medical attention because of a genetic disorder. “While she may be a great asset on a campaign, she is an indispensable asset at home,” former Sen. Rick Santorum says.

But this is hardly the field of quiet would-be First Ladies standing silently at heir husbands’ sides. If their lives are going to be upended for the unmatched challenge of running for the White House, they’re going to pitch in. Mary Pat left her job as a managing director and bond trader at Angelo Gordon to focus on the campaign. Heidi Cruz is on leave from her job as a managing director at financial giant Goldman Sachs, and has set up shop inside her husband’s campaign. (Heidi Cruz met Ted while working on George W. Bush’s presidential campaign in 2000.)

Similarly, Anita Perry and Janet Huckabee are among the closest political advisers to their spouses and have hired their own chiefs of staff to run their political operations at campaign headquarters. Kelley Paul often schedules campaign events of her own as her husband is tied up with his day job in the Senate. Paul’s advisers describe Kelley Paul, herself a successful political consultant and author, as their best advocate among female voters.

Tonette Walker is described as one of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s biggest boosters—and challengers when she disagrees with him, as she did when he came out forcefully against the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage. “I was torn,” she said in one interview, noting she is very close to a female cousin and her wife. Conservatives immediately criticized the Governor over his wife’s positions. “Someone with a leftist wife is going to have a hard time,” Michael Farris, founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association, tells TIME.

It’s a tough balancing act for these spouses, especially those putting their careers on hold to pitch in with their partners. “I’ll do as much as I can, as long as I can keep that balance with my children at home and life on the road,” said Mary Pat Christie, who chatted with former First Lady Barbara Bush about what to expect during a challenging campaign. It left her unfazed.

That doesn’t mean Mary Pat Christie is giving her husband a pass on what she sees as common courtesies. For example, she is dogging the Governor to remember names of aides and volunteers. “This work is not easy and it’s so important to show your appreciation for people,” Mary Pat Christie told her husband after he fumbled aides’ names. The next time, he remembered.

With reporting by Zeke Miller in Wolfeboro, N.H.

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 2016 Election

Republican Presidential Contenders Slam Planned Parenthood Over Video

Germany Jeb Bush
Michael Sohn—AP Former US Governor Jeb Bush arrives for the Economic Council in Berlin on June 9, 2015.

The video was taken by undercover activists

Several Republican presidential candidates blasted Planned Parenthood in the wake of a widely shared video in which officials from the organization discuss how medical practitioners can preserve fetal organs for medical research during abortions.

Activists at the Center for Medical Progress secretly recorded the video, which the group says shows Planned Parenthood officials talking about the sale of fetal body parts.

In a statement, Planned Parenthood officials said that neither the patients nor the organization profits from the donation of fetal tissue. “In some instances, actual costs, such as the cost to transport tissue to leading research centers, are reimbursed, which is standard across the medical field,” the statement reads.

Former Gov. of Florida Jeb Bush, who once called himself “probably the most pro-life governor in modern times,” tweeted that the video is “a shocking and horrific reminder that we must do so much more to foster a culture of life in America,” while Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called the video “absolutely horrifying and disgusting.”

In a statement, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz called for an “immediate investigation” into Planned Parenthood in response to the video, which was taken by an undercover activist. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky circulated a petition to defund Planned Parenthood that included a call for donations to “set the stage for a pro-life President.”

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal directed his state health department to investigate local chapters of the organization in response to the video. And former Texas Gov. Rick Perry called it a “disturbing reminder of the organization’s penchant for profiting off the tragedy of a destroyed human life.”


TIME ted cruz

Ted Cruz Picks a Winning Book Fight With New York Times

Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, speaks during the Faith and Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" legislative luncheon in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, June 18, 2015.
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, speaks during the Faith and Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" legislative luncheon in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, June 18, 2015.

Better than making the bestseller list

One of the hoariest cliches in conservative politics is to claim you don’t read the New York Times. Ted Cruz has picked a fight with the Times after the paper claimed that people aren’t reading him.

The spat between Cruz and the Gray Lady began last week, when the newspaper said it would omit the Texas Republican’s new memoir, A Time for Truth, from its bestsellers’ list. The book has sold 12,000 copies since its release on June 30, according to Nielsen Bookscan data provided to TIME. That’s enough to rank the volume among the top few nonfiction hardcovers.

But the paper determined the book’s stats were goosed by “strategic bulk purchases” in a bid to game the system and make the list. The Times has stood by its decision as Amazon, an impartial retailer, and publisher HarperCollins have said they found no evidence of attempts to manipulate sales statistics.

Cruz’s team wanted to make the bestsellers list, which would have conferred a stamp of credibility on his literary debut. But a public battle with the paper of record was an even better result. For a conservative presidential candidate, the New York Times—an emblem of liberal elitism, right up there alongside arugula, the Toyota Prius and San Francisco—is a perfect foil.

And the Cruz campaign has done its best to fan the flames, blasting out a series of statements decrying partisan bias. The kerfuffle is “a chance to get yet more attention and drive readers to Senator Cruz’s book,” Keith Urbahn, the book’s literary agent, told Politico. “This controversy is already helping sales.”

MORE: Here’s Which 2016 Candidate’s Book Sold the Most Copies

As it happens, A Time for Truth is a good read—especially by the dismal standards of the genre. A candidate memoir has two overriding goals: first, to make money for the author; and then, to do no harm to the writer’s future prospects. When boring is the best-case scenario, the result is almost always a pudding of platitudes. (A typical line from Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices, selected by opening the book at random: “Hard men present hard choices—none more so than Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia.”) Even worse, such books reveal little about the author, other than he or she is ambitious or long-winded enough to write an entire book without saying anything controversial.

Cruz’s book is different. First, he is both a fluid writer and a talented storyteller. He knows how to bait the hook to lure in readers. A section about clerking at the U.S. Supreme Court, for example, opens with an anecdote about watching hard-core pornography with Justices William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O’Connor.

But the book has merits beyond the prose. One of them is the revealing glimpse it offers into Cruz’s family background. The senator has gotten a lot of mileage out of the remarkable life of his father, a Cuban revolutionary who came to Texas with $100 sewn into his underwear, learned English from the movies, launched an oil company and now travels the country as a Tea Party icon. But Rafael Cruz isn’t the only member of the family with an fascinating story.

Cruz recounts how his mother, Eleanor Darragh, defied her own father to become the first in her family to attend college, emerged from Rice with a math degree, then dodged clerical duties and became a computer programmer at Shell after refusing to learn to type. He talks about his half-sister’s struggles with drug and alcohol addiction, and his aunt’s battles with Castro.

But beyond biography, the book has enough dishy material to sustain the attention of non-political obsessives. It’s filled with interesting nuggets on everything from Justice David Souter’s dietary habits to the Bush campaign’s legal machinations during the 2000 recount to a shouting match inside a Republican Senate luncheon. You don’t need to have a strong opinion of Cruz one way or the other to appreciate the glimpse it offers into campaigns, the Capitol or the country’s top courtrooms.

Like all political documents, this one is self-aggrandizing, meant to explain the origins of Cruz’s brand of conservatism as well as underscore his commitment to principle in the face of adversity. But it’s also sprinkled with enough self-deprecating stories and personal insights to humanize a politician who is often reduced to caricature by both fans and opponents.

If the fight with the Times makes it likelier that ordinary readers will pick up the book, then the paper has done Cruz a favor. And those who end up buying the book because of the spat won’t be any worse off, either.

TIME 2016 Election

Here’s Which 2016 Candidate’s Book Sold the Most Copies

Hillary Clinton Hard Choices
Simon & Schuster

Who is winning the presidential campaign book primary?

A number of 2016 candidates have released books over the last year, with varying levels of success. So far, none of the Republican candidates have matched former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Hillary Clinton’s memoir, but it came out in mid-2014 so it’s been on the market the longest.

Here’s how the most recent books by 2016 presidential candidates stack up, based on release-to-date sales figures from Nielsen BookScan:

1. Hillary Clinton, Hard Choices

Release date: June 10, 2014

RTD sales: 280,000

2. Mike Huckabee, God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy

Release date: January 20, 2015

RTD sales: 66,000

3. Ben Carson, You Have a Brain: A Teen’s Guide To T.H.I.N.K.B.I.G.

Release date: February 3, 2015

RTD sales: 23,000

4. Ted Cruz, A Time For Truth

Released date: June 30, 2015

RTD sales: 12,000

5. Rand Paul, Taking a Stand

Release date: May 26, 2015

RTD sales: 9,000

6. Marco Rubio, American Dreams

Release date: January 13, 2015

RTD sales: 8,000

7. Rick Santorum, Bella’s Gift

Release date: February 17, 2015

RTD sales: 6,000

8. Carly Fiorina, Rising to the Challenge

Release date: May 5, 2015

RTD sales: 3,000

TIME 2016 Election

Ted Cruz Wanted to Be This Character in The American President

Ted Cruz American President Michael J Fox
Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, U.S. 2016 presidential candidate and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on oversight, agency action, federal rights and federal courts, pauses while speaking during a hearing in Washington, D.C., on June 4, 2015.

The 2016 candidate opens up about his early years in politics

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz offered a glimpse into his early political career on Sunday, recounting his years as an “arrogant little snob” long before he became a fierce Texas senator and conservative firebrand.

Cruz, who is touring to promote his campaign and his new book, A Time for Truth, said on NBC’s Meet the Press that he “desperately wanted” to hold a senior position at the White House while serving on George W. Bush’s presidential campaign in 2000.

“Frankly, I wanted to be … Michael J. Fox’s character in The American President, a young, idealistic staffer in the Oval Office, saying, ‘Mr. President, do the right thing,'” Cruz said. “And that didn’t happen, and it became clear it wasn’t going to happen because I had burned too many bridges.”

Cruz also recalled how, in his 20s, he had learned to be less “cocky”—otherwise, he said, thousands of grassroots activists wouldn’t have propelled him to victory during his 2012 Senate campaign.

“You can’t run a grassroots campaign if you’re an arrogant little snob,” Cruz said. “I needed to get my teeth kicked in.”

Read next: How Ted Cruz Plans to Disrupt the GOP Presidential Primary


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