This article has been updated.
Glance at the ten super PACs that raised the most money in the first three months of 2014 and one stands out: the National Draft Ben Carson Committee raised nearly $2.4 million -- more than a half million dollars more than Ready for Hillary, a far higher profile group, collected over the same time period.
The ease with which money flowed into the coffers of conservative advocacy groups that sought to deny President Obama reelection is underscored in a draft tax filing for the twin Crossroads organizations that the Wall Street Journal got a peek at Thursday.
One single donor ponied up $22.5 million of the $180 million haul raised by the tax-exempt group Crossroads GPS in 2012. Because the organization is set up as a social welfare advocacy organization, not as a political committee, it is not required to disclose the names of its benefactors.
On Tuesday night, state Rep. Robin Kelly swept to a convincing primary victory in the special election to replace Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in a Chicago-area House seat. She thanked lots and lots of people in her victory speech but left out the one person most responsible for her win: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent upwards of $9 million of his own money in the final ten days of the 2012 campaign in support of candidates who shared his views on gun control and political moderation, asizablesum that portends how the billionaire envisions his life outside of the mayor's office after his third term concludes in 2013.
Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert has shut down the super PAC he started in 2011 to call attention to current campaign finance regulations, he announced in a letter Monday night.
Colbert cited the death of the "Ham Rove," the fictionalcharacterthat wasdesignedas aparodyofRepublicanstrategist Karl Rove.
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Four months after he first made a splash in the 2012 presidential race, Joe Ricketts is back on the radar.
The wealthy entrepreneur, who funds his own super PAC, is pledging to spend $10 million on helping Mitt Romney win the presidency and $2 million to help GOP House and Senate candidates.
But unlike previous wealthy super PAC donors, Ricketts is a decidedly private and unassuming character. That changed a little in May, when a proposal was leaked in which an ad-maker urged Ricketts to fund ads focused on President Obama’s ties to his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, just days after Ricketts played a big role in helping Nebraska state Sen. Deb Fischer pull an upset in her state’s Republican Senate primary.
With total television ad spending on the presidential race now having crested $500 million, the real fight on the airwaves is not between President Obama and Mitt Romney but rather between President Obama and a cavalcade of conservative-aligned outside groups, according to an analysis of ad buy information provided to the Fix.
Democrats are not satisfied with Mitt Romney’s tax information, Elizabeth Warren releases a new ad, and Ed Case wants to know why he lost in Hawaii.
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In the past two months, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and the Republican National Committee have outraised President Obama and the Democratic National Committee by $61 million.
And, while Obama’s campaign has yet to release its cash-on-hand total at the end of July, it’s a near-certainty that Romney’s $26 million edge at the end of June widened in July.
Add to those numbers the fact that, as of mid-July, Republican super PACs and other conservative aligned outside groups were outspending their Democratic counterparts by a seven-to-one margin on the TV airwaves in swing states, and you are left with a simple, inescapable conclusion: The President of the United States is likely to be heavily outspent in the final three months of this campaign.
A large majority of the country lack even the most basic knowledge of so-called super PACs, according to a new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll — a finding that reinforces the difficulty Democrats face in trying to score political points by shining a light on these outside organizations in the 2012 presidential campaign.
Three-quarters of Americans have either heard “a little” (36 percent) or “nothing at all” (39 percent) about “increased spending in this year’s presidential election by outside groups not associated with the candidates or campaigns.”
In an even more stunning finding, when prompted with four choices as to what a super PAC actually was, just four in 10 said it was “a group able to accept unlimited political donations” — the right answer.
A Democratic-aligned super PAC run by two former Obama White House aides has begun reserving $30 million worth of television ad time in six swing states as it seeks to combat the heavy spending by conservative outside groups.
Priorities USA Action is reserving time in Colorado, Iowa, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, according to sources familiar with the buy. Those sources would not indicate whether this was the totality of the ad spending Priorities USA Action would make on the election or whether this was the first flight of a broader buy. The group, in coordination with the Service Employees International Union, is currently funding Spanish-language ads in Colorado, Florida and Nevada — an effort they say will continue.
If super PACs are indeed saving Mitt Romney early in the 2012 election (as we posited Tuesday morning), he’s got a lot of very wealthy people to thank for it.
About four dozen donors and families have given at least $1 million to super PACs this election cycle, with three-quarters of them giving to the GOP.
Combined, these four dozen donors have provided $130 million of the $308 million super PACs have raised this cycle (more than 40 percent) — a reflection of how much these outside groups are funded by extremely wealthy donors.
And that goes double on the GOP side, where nearly half of the $228 million raised by super PACs has come from about three dozen million-dollar donors.
Republican-aligned super PACs and other outside conservative groups have spent more than $144 million on general election ads in swing presidential states, a huge outlay of cash that has allowed former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney to not only combat but exceed heavy early ad spending by President Obama.
Roughly 80 percent of all ad spending by Republicans on the general election has come from these super PACs, as Romney has expended a relatively meager $35 million to date on ads in swing states, according to ad buy figures provided to the Fix by a GOP media buyer.
By contrast, the $20 million that Democratic super PACs have spent on ads so far in the general election accounts for just 19 percent of total ad spending on the Democratic side.
That the rise of super PACs has given a small number of wealthy donors an outsized level of influence in our political discourse isn’t a secret.
After all, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich wouldn’t have even been in the Republican primary game if it wasn’t for a supportive super PAC funded by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. And super PACs supportive of Mitt Romney have kept him within financial shouting distance of President Obama in critical swing states like Florida and Virginia.
But, wrapping your arms around just how few people are behind these hyper-influential groups is always tough. Until now.
Check out this awesome infographic that spells it all out. The most important point? In 2011, 17 people made contributions of $1 million or more to the nine biggest conservative super PACs. That $28 million in donations accounted for half, yes HALF, of all the money these groups collected.
The top super PAC supporting Mitt Romney set a new standard for fundraising by a super PAC in June, collecting $20 million, a PAC aide told The Fix.
Restore Our Future’s unprecedented total is four times what the super PAC raised in May and more than three times what the top super PAC supporting President Obama raised in the same month. (That super PAC, Priorities USA Action, also set a personal best in June with $6 million raised.)
Voters in eight swing states carried by President Obama in 2008 are evenly divided on whether they will cast their ballot this fall based on what the incumbent has done in his first four years in office or what he would do in a second term, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The poll suggests an even-steven battle between the past and the future that carries major electoral consequences this fall.
In the eight swing states — Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wisconsin — identified by The Fix, 41 percent of respondents said their vote would be about Obama’s first term, while 41 percent said it would be about what he would do in a second term.
First, he was charged with vampire capitalism. Now, Mitt Romney stands accused of forcing a laid-off employee to build what the employee calls “my own coffin.”
That’s the powerful closing line of a bold new ad from the top super PAC supporting President Obama, Priorities USA Action. The ad is the fourth in a series hitting Romney for job losses that occurred in companies taken over by the venture capital firm he founded, Bain Capital.
Priorities USA Action, the leading Democratic-affiliated super PAC, collected $4 million in May, its best month of fundraising since its inception and a sign, its founders argue, of its growing momentum.
The $4 million haul is roughly equivalent to what the group, which is run by two former Obama White House aides, collected in April and March combined. Sources familiar with its fundraising operation insist that June fundraising will eclipse May. The group has raised $40 million total to date.
A super PAC that made a big splash by helping take down a few House incumbents this primary season has scaled back its involvement in recent weeks thanks to a cash shortfall.
After spending $2.7 million on a plethora of primaries over the last four months, the Campaign for Primary Accountability has failed to replenish those funds and had just $227,000 cash on hand at the end of May.
And with still nearly half of congressional primaries to come — including some inviting targets in Tuesday’s primaries — it doesn’t appear the super PAC will be able to take advantage of some solid opportunities to unseat other incumbents in the weeks ahead.
The top super PAC supporting Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign raised just shy of $5 million in May and ended the month with $8.4 million cash on hand.
Restore Our Future’s fundraising report does not include a reported $10 million contribution from casino magnate and former Newt Gingrich supporter Sheldon Adelson, which came to light last week.
To read the news coverage of late, you could be forgiven for thinking that we’re headed into a campaign in which super PACs will determine the winner. Ten million dollars from Sheldon Adelson here, $1 million from Bill Maher there, and it’s easy to conclude that these new organizations will have the biggest say in the identity of the next president and control of Congress.
But it’s not quite so simple.
In fact, the realities of campaign advertising today still put a premium on candidates themselves — and specifically, on their fundraising.
The GOP-aligned third party group Crossroads GPS is up with a new ad hitting President Obama for “growing our debt faster than our economy.”
The ad is the third of a $25 million ad blitz this month from the group, which is the issue advocacy arm of the American Crossroads super PAC.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is not returning calls from the Ricketts family and is “livid” over a New York Times report that Joe Ricketts commissioned a proposal for a multimillion-dollar ad campaign linking President Obama to the president’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, according to an Emanuel aide.
Joe Ricketts’s children, which include Obama bundler Laura Ricketts, bought the Chicago Cubs in 2009 and have been in talks with the city about renovating the team’s 98-year-old stadium, Wrigley Field.
That appears to be on hold now.
“The Mayor was livid when he read that the Ricketts were going to launch a $10 million campaign against President Obama – with the type of racially motivated ads that are insulting to the president and the presidential campaign,” said the aide, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly about the situation. “He is also livid with their blatant hypocrisy.”
Updated at 4:34 p.m.
Joe Ricketts made a big splash in American politics this week.
First, the founder of Omaha-based TD Ameritrade helped guide state Sen. Deb Fischer to an upset victory in the Nebraska GOP Senate primary with a late $250,000 influx from his super PAC – the first of what The Fix reported Wednesday would be a significant entrée by Ricketts into the 2012 election.
Then, the New York Times reported Thursday on just what that big entree might be: that Ricketts commissioned a study on how his super PAC could spend $10 million on an intense ad campaign tying President Obama to his controversial former pastor, Jeremiah Wright .
For his part, Ricketts rejected the idea that he had any plans to make Wright a major issue of the campaign.
“Not only was this plan merely a proposal — one of several submitted to the Ending Spending Action Fund by third-party vendors — but it reflects an approach to politics that Mr. Ricketts rejects, and it was never a plan to be accepted, but only a suggestion for a direction to take,” said a spokeswoman for Ricketts.
The denial aside, Ricketts has suddenly become a major player in American politics.
But just who is he?
The news that a conservative super PAC is contemplating an attack on President Obama’s association with the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright has lit the political world on fire. (You can read the full document here.) But there’s plenty of reason to think such an attack simply wouldn’t work.
The main one? People like President Obama personally and it’s hard to imagine an assault on someone he has already repudiated would undermine that basic likability factor.
The Club for Growth, Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.) Senate Conservatives Fund, the Tea Party Express and FreedomWorks all backed losing candidates in Tuesday’s Senate primary in Nebraska.
But one outside group emerged victorious, and you should expect to hear more from it.
The Ending Spending Action Fund super PAC, funded by Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, whose family also owns the Chicago Cubs, made a mark in Nebraska with a targeted and very late $250,000 ad buy on behalf of Deb Fischer. The buy came just when momentum had shifted to Fischer and was double the amount the state senator spent on ads for herself. And in a close race, it might have made the difference for her.
But Ricketts’s ties to Omaha (where Ameritrade is based) don’t mean he’s done now that the Nebraska primary is over.
Republican-aligned Crossroads GPS is going up with a $25 million TV ad buy over the next month seeking to set the table for November’s general election and define President Obama.
The massive TV buy from the policy arm of the American Crossroads super PAC will focus on jobs, the economy, Obamacare and government debt.
It matches a $25 million ad campaign that the Obama campaign has already announced for this month.
The Club for Growth cemented its role as the preeminent third-party group in Republican primaries on Tuesday, guiding Richard Mourdock to a stunning 22-point win over six-term Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.).
By the end of the Indiana campaign, the Club and its affiliated political action committee, Club for Growth Action, dumped nearly $2 million into ads against Lugar, far exceeding investments by groups like the National Rifle Association ($600,000), Citizens United ($96,000) and spending more on ads than both Lugar ($1.6 million) and Mourdock ($700,000).
It’s just more of the same from a group that has successfully picked its battles over the years and toppled a series of more moderate Republican incumbents and establishment candidates, with very few big losses along the way.
But while the win might have been the Club’s biggest upset to date, the real test may lie ahead.
The Club has backed candidates in four Senate primaries in the coming months, and all but one is an underdog. In addition, it appears likely the Club’s hand-picked candidate will finish third in Nebraska next week.
But first, the Club’s record:
The news was greeted with a major sigh of relief in Democratic circles: philanthropist George Soros had decided to open his checkbook — to the tune of $2 million — to several liberal outside groups, the leading edge of what is expected to be $100 million in spending by the Democracy Alliance, a group of major Democratic donors.
Soros cut a $1 million check to America Votes, a group formed during the 2004 election that focuses on grassroots organizing and advocacy, and another $1 million to American Bridge, a research operation run by David Brock.
“As he has in the past, George is focusing his political giving in 2012 on grassroots organizing and holding conservatives accountable for the flawed policies they promote,” wrote Soros political adviser Michael Vachon in an email to donors on Monday night. “Both groups are part of a progressive infrastructure, or center left establishment, that plays an increasingly important role in elections.”
But, it may be where Soros and the Democracy Alliance are not giving money — at least not yet — that is the more important development, according to a number of Democratic strategists who pay close attention to the world of major donors.
President Obama tried his best to run a campaign against the influence of super PACs, and he came up short.
But there is some evidence that such a strategy may work on the state level.
Look no further than the Utah Republican Party convention over the weekend. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) took a strong majority of the vote and nearly avoided having to go to a June primary with his opponent — a good showing considering the position Hatch was in last year — and he did it in large part by running against outsiders who had come to Utah to unseat him.
The Adelson family gave a super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich another $5 million in March, bringing the family’s total investment in the lagging GOP presidential candidate’s campaign to more than $20 million.
Miriam Adelson’s latest donation to the Winning Our Future super PAC, recorded on March 21, shows up in a report filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission and comes as a bit of a surprise. Not only is it a surprise because Gingrich’s campaign has no momentum, but also because the super PAC basically hasn’t spent any of the money in the month since she gave it, and because her husband, billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, said a week after the donation that Gingrich was “at the end of his line.”
Thus, many assumed the Adelsons had stopped funding the former House speaker’s campaign.
The top Democratic super PAC supporting President Obama’s reelection campaign is going up with a new ad casting Mitt Romney as the candidate of the wealthy.
The biggest news of the 2012 presidential election on Tuesday wasn’t Rick Santorum dropping out of the Republican primary. It was American Crossroads, a conservative super PAC, launching television ads in six swing states hitting President Obama .
Santorum’s decision, while somewhat surprising in its abruptness, changed very little in the working dynamics of the race. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was going to be the Republican presidential nominee before Santorum dropped out. Nothing about Santorum’s announcement changed that.
The top super PAC supporting Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign is up with a new ad in Illinois suggesting that Mitt Romney and President Obama are basically the same.
The Red, White and Blue Fund ad rehashes Romney’s record as governor of Massachusetts and concludes, “More debt and taxes, less jobs. More of the same.”
As the ad progresses, the camera scans different parts of a picture of Romney’s face, eventually revealing a picture of Obama right beside his.
Former Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine’s Senate campaign is getting its very own super PAC.
The New Virginia PAC is being launched by two former aides to Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) — Steve Bouchard and Harmony Knutson — and media consultant Mark Longabaugh, for the sole purpose of electing Kaine to the state’s other Senate seat.
The top Democratic super PAC is still having trouble raising money, despite getting President Obama’s blessing.
Priorities USA Action, a super PAC founded by former White House aides, raised $2 million in February, co-founder Bill Burton confirmed Tuesday.
That’s a big step up from a dismal January, in which the PAC raised $58,000, but half of the $2 million haul came from from comedian Bill Maher’s $1 million donation.
Nearly seven in 10 registered voters would like super PACs to be illegal, including more than half who feel that way strongly, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Sixty-nine percent of all Americans and voters alike say super PACs, a fundraising vehicle that allows wealthy donors to make unlimited donations in support of a particular candidate or party, should be banned. Just 25 percent said they should remain legal.
The top super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich is going up with nearly $900,000 worth of radio ads in six key states holding contests in the next two weeks.
The Winning Our Future ad buy appears to come on the heels of another significant cash infusion from casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and gives Gingrich the kind of presence on the airwaves that he hasn’t had on Super Tuesday, which could be a make-or-break moment for his struggling campaign.
President Obama’s campaign announced late Monday that it will embrace the top super PAC supporting Obama’s reelection campaign, in what amounts to the latest example of the president embracing political pragmatism over principle.
This balancing act has marked many of his most significant campaign promises and policy decisions; Obama embraces principle up to the point where it’s pretty clear that pragmatism is the more logical choice.
Super PACs are still very much a Republican-dominated world.
Fundraising numbers filed Tuesday complete the picture of a 2011 that was dominated by Republican-leaning super PACs, as their Democratic counterparts struggled to make an impact.
A super PAC supporting Mitt Romney filed a report Tuesday showing it raised $30 million in 2011, and the pro-GOP American Crossroads super PAC raised $18.4 million (and raised a combined $51 million with its nonprofit affiliate Crossroads GPS). That outpaced the top four Democratic-leaning super PACs combined.
The super PAC supporting Mitt Romney for president is up with another new ad targeting Rick Santorum in South Carolina, even as Romney’s campaign turns its focus to Newt Gingrich.
The new ad from Restore Our Future mentions earmarks for a tea pot museum and the so-called ”Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska and features clips of the former Pennsylvania senator saying he’s “proud” of the earmarks that he pursued when he was in Congress
CONCORD, N.H. — A new documentary set to be posted online by a super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich accuses Mitt Romney of getting rich at the expense of tens of thousands of American employees at four companies.
The documentary, titled “When Mitt Romney Came to Town,” paints the GOP presidential frontrunner as a corporate “raider” more unscrupulous even than Wall Street executives, preying on the misfortune of people who lost their jobs when his company, Bain Capital, turned around their companies.
A super PAC supporting Texas Rep. Ron Paul’s presidential campaign has posted a series of humorous — if crude — web videos of impersonators sending up Paul’s GOP opponents.
The videos, from a group called “Endorse Liberty,” feature impersonators of Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry reacting to their performances in Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses.
The leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination continue to churn out positive television ad after positive television ad, even on the eve of the first ballots being cast in a close race in Iowa.
So is this the end of negative campaigning?
According to the Post’s handy “Mad Money” campaign ad tracker, the ad war between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich has been a veritable love fest. Every ad run by Gingrich has been positive, and 87 percent of Romney’s ads have been positive.