The Obama-Clinton surrogate money war begins to tilt toward 2016

One of the weirder aspects of modern politics is that everyone has some other independent organization raising money on his or her behalf. Elected officials have PACs that raise money for them to give away. Independent PACs raise money to spend on a candidate or campaign. Non-profits raise money to help bolster a candidate or politician's pet causes.

So here we are. Last week, Organizing for Action, a non-profit set up to raise money for organizing around President Obama's issues, announced how much it had raised in the second quarter of the year, its sixth quarter in existence. And on Tuesday, Ready For Hillary, a hybrid PAC, announced how much it had raised in support of a possible presidential run by Hillary Clinton. It, too, is six quarters old.

What's interesting is that both groups raised amounts in the same general ballpark. OFA came out of the gates very strong in 2013, but has slowed substantially in the last few quarters. In part, the most recent quarter's lower total -- about $3.87 million -- is due to its decision to curtail fundraising in light of the upcoming elections. But RFH is nonetheless catching up, raising over $2.5 million in the second quarter.

Here's what it looks like on a quarterly basis. (RFH didn't report for its first quarter, and only reported a total for the second half of 2013, which we split in half.)

RFHFunds

All of these numbers are sketchy. No fundraising organization is likely to share exact numbers, given how much benefit wiggle room provides. Both organizations offer occasional glimpses at the size of their donor pools. OFA gets about 100,000 per quarter; in the most recent quarter, RFH reported less than half of that, about 43,000.

But that means that RFH donors generally give more, on average. The organization puts a cap on donations at $25,000 -- in part, according to reports, so that it didn't compete for big donors with the Priorities USA, a Democratic aligned super PAC. The group therefore has more of a need to get more from smaller donors.

This is what the average donations for each group looks like per quarter. (Several of the averages were provided as year-to-date.)

RFHAvg2

What metric actually matters? That's subjective. The more money the groups have, the more of an impact they can have. The bigger the average donation, the more that can be raised as the donor pool increases. And there are complicating factors: OFA's fundraising hiatus and the boost RFH has certainly gotten from Clinton's book tour.

If, however, you would like to use this as a measure of the shifting center of gravity in Democratic party politics, far be it from us to stand in your way.

Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He previously wrote for The Wire, the news blog of The Atlantic magazine. He has contributed to The Daily Beast, The Atlantic, The Daily, and the Huffington Post. Philip is based in New York City.
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