The nation's billionaires are already showing their influence in the 2016 presidential campaign, with disclosure reports filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission showing that 40 of the nation's wealthiest people have already donated some $60 million into candidates' super PACs.
The money is climbing steadily after a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that allows unlimited contributions into the super PACs, reports The Wall Street Journal
. According to the reports, groups that back 17 presidential candidates have already brought in more than $250 million this year, with the lion's share going toward former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
So far, the largest donor is Renaissance Technologies executive Robert Mercer, whose $11 million check went to one of the four super PACs backing Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Meanwhile, roofing supply billionaire Diane Hendricks has donated $5 million toward Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's super PAC, and auto dealer Norman Braman has donated $5 million toward Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the reports show.
Meanwhile, two super PACs for former Texas Gov. Rick Perry received more than $11 million from two Texas billionaires, and the super PAC that backs New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has several billionaires backing it.
GOP candidates aren't alone in attracting the money, however. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already received $7.5 billion from eight billionaires.
But it's Bush's Right to Rise committee that is really raking up the cash so far, raising $103 million in just the first six months of the year, including $17.4 million from some 20 billionaires.
Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer complained to The Wall Street Journal that such players are becoming too dominant. His watchdog group has filed complaints against Bush, claiming that he avoided campaign donation limits by starting his super PAC back in January while waiting to announce his campaign.
However, not all Bush's funds are from billionaires, as 3,300 checks from "small donors" giving $25,000 or less were reported.
Bush's war chest is angering some like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who complained to the Laura Ingraham radio show on Thursday that he doesn't think Bush is going to be "able to buy the presidency," and even his $100 million won't make him "inevitable."
Bush's super PAC, though, has been showing some signs of struggle. It started out in January by raising more than a million dollars a day for eight days, bringing in $14 million by month's end. However, as more candidates announced their own races, the money toward Bush's group started to decline.
Meanwhile, Cruz' totals are opening eyes, especially given his "outsider" reputation in office, reports Politico
. His four affiliated super PACS reported on Friday fundraising totals of just under $38 million on Friday.
Most of that came from seven individual donors with $11 million alone being reported by the super PAC Keep the Promise, the one supported by Mercer.
That PAC, though, also spent the most money, but not on Cruz. Out of the $536,000 it spent, $500,000 of it went as a donation to the super PAC CARLY for America, which supports former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.
Meanwhile, another super PAC, Keep the Promise II, reported a single $10 million donation from Puerto Rico-based investor Toby Neugebauer, the son of Texas Republican Rep. Randy Neugebauer.
The largest part of Cruz' fundraising, though, came from the super PAC Keep the Promise III, funded by Texas fracking billionaire brothers Faris and Dan Wilks and their wives, JoAnn and Staci, reports Politico.
Yet another pro-Cruz group, the Keep the Promise PAC, attracted $1.8 million, with almost all the money coming from Texas donors who include Robert McNair Sr., the chairman and CEO for the Houston Texans.
But Bush is expected to either match or exceed those totals in the second half of this year, and Right to Rise is projected by some Republican fundraisers to have $175 million or even more in the bank as 2016 arrives.
The real heavyweights haven't started donating yet, however. The billionaire Koch brothers' PACs are expected to spend just under $890 million in 2016 to support conservative causes and candidates. Cruz, Fiorina, Bush, Rubio, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker are expected to attend a meeting this weekend in California in hopes of attracting Koch money.
Also, Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson is expected to spend more than $100 million this year, like he did in 2012.
Meanwhile, Rubio and Walker, like Cruz, are seeing donations from a few major donors, instead of the several smaller donations in the Bush tallies.
Rubio's Conservative Solutions PAC raised $16 million, mainly through donations from Philadelphia Eagles owner and longtime Team Marco member Norman Braman, who has given $5 million in three payments, and has reportedly pledged at least $5 million more, and Oracle founder Larry Ellison, who donated $3 million.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal
reports, billionaire Donald Trump is almost nearly self-financing his own campaign, meaning his operation doesn't have to follow many of the rules that bind his rivals in the GOP race.
This means he can raise and spend unlimited amounts of his own money, and also retains control of all of his money, much of which is being directed into his bank accounts, unlike his competitors, who are forbidden from coordinating activities with their own super PACs.
Trump's FEC reports that out of $1.4 million spent by his campaign in the second quarter, 40 percent went to Trump entities, including paying more than $500,000 to his airline, Tag Air, Inc., and another $10,000 a month in rental fees for Trump Towers. Further, another $38,000 reimbursed Trump Corp. for "facility, resources and domain names,” his FEC report, filed in July, said.
The report showed Trump's campaign raised $1.9 million in the second quarter, of which $1.8 million came from his own accounts.
But still, when he announced his candidacy, Trump proclaimed that he doesn't "need anybody’s money.…I don’t care. I’m really rich." His campaign has confirmed to The Wall Street Journal
that he has $300 million in cash and liquid assets, but that may be the tip of the iceberg.
Corey Lewandowski, his campaign manager, said, “If he wanted, which he doesn’t, he could have billions of dollars of cheap financing against his unlevered assets from banks overnight."
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