Conservative super PACs log modest hauls in first half of the year

July 31, 2013

Updated at 9 p.m.

The post-2012 wariness among conservative donors toward super PACs was evident in the modest takes reported to the Federal Election Commission Wednesday by some of the groups.

Republicans for Immigration Reform, a super PAC launched with substantial fanfare last fall by former commerce secretary Carlos Gutierrez and top GOP fundraiser Charlie Spies, brought in just $193,150 in the first half of the year.

Spies told The Post in June that “it has been a challenge to get donors on the Republican side to reengage” in the wake of the 2012 elections, in which outside groups reported spending a record $1 billion on campaigns, many with little success.

Since then, fundraising has picked up, Spies said Wednesday.

“There is increasing engagement from conservatives and Republicans that support reform,” he said. “July was a good fundraising month, and the letter from 100 Republican leaders and major donors that was spearheaded by Republicans for Immigration Reform earlier this week has gotten a very positive response.”

American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, the behemoth GOP-allied groups that raised more than $300 million in the 2012 cycle, together brought in almost $3.3 million in the last six months.

American Crossroads, a super PAC, raised $1.86 million of the total take, boosted by $1 million from Contran Corp., the holding company of Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons.

“Our fundraising results so far are roughly comparable to where we were at this point in 2011, when you consider the absence of a presidential election this cycle,” said Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio. According to FEC filings, American Crossroads alone raised $3.9 million in the first half of 2011.

“We have yet to make any hard fundraising requests this year for any of our groups, but we've been encouraged by growing donor enthusiasm about the opportunity to win control of the Senate, as well as the paramount need to defend our House majority and block President Obama's second-term agenda,” Collegio added.

Crossroads officials appear to be rethinking their plans for the Conservative Victory Project, a super PAC created this year to engage in GOP primaries. In February, Crossroads President Steven J. Law rolled out the endeavor in the New York Times, saying the super PAC would back “the most conservative candidate who can win.”

Since then, the Conservative Victory Project has raised just $5,660.58 – all from American Crossroads, largely in in-kind contributions.

Collegio said that the group “has been in a start-up phase the first half of this year, and we’ve been assessing how and where it could add value in its space before starting fundraising activity.”

One of the newest entrants on the super PAC field, America Rising PAC, brought in $22,048 between its launch in March and the end of June. It reported receiving no cash donations -- just in-kind contributions from a related LLC in the form of “Web site build” and “rapid response consulting.”

The group aims to be an opposition research and rapid response clearinghouse for the right, in the model of American Bridge 21st Century, which serves that function on the left.

Tim Miller, executive director of America Rising PAC, said the group did not begin fundraising until July, when it hired a finance director and held its first fundraiser.

"We are extremely encouraged by the support inside the party and from grassroots conservatives for a PAC like ours that focuses on candidate research, tracking, and rapid response,” he said, adding that the group is “very optimistic about being able to fund a robust operation that will hold Democrats accountable in the midterms and 2016.”

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, American Bridge raised $2.86 million in the first half of the year, while House Majority PAC brought in $3.3 million and Senate Majority PAC logged $3 million.

Correction: Earlier versions of this post contained incorrect fundraising totals for the House Majority PAC and the Senate Majority PAC. The totals have been corrected.

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Aaron Blake | July 31, 2013