Democrats and Republicans revealed the names of a new breed of megadonors Wednesday -- ones that can give checks of $100,000 or more directly to the political parties themselves thanks to a Supreme Court decision earlier this year.
The $150,000 donation that Cambridge, Mass., investor Ian Simmons gave to the Democratic group Grassroots Victory Project 2014 is the largest single donation made to a candidate or party since the 2002 campaign finance reforms, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
The money went to an amalgam of 26 different Democratic political organizations, including state and even county party committees, each of whom get a small slice of the donations. In all, 11 people each gave more than $100,000 to the group, which raised a total of $1.3 million during the three month period ending Sept. 30, according to a filing with the Federal Election Commission.
The Republicans' Targeted State Victory Committee raised $2.3 million during the same period, including three donations of $130,000 or more. U.S. lawmakers and party officials can directly solicit these larger contributions, which are typically spent to help candidates in the closest races.
So-called joint fundraising committees are not new, but have grown in size and popularity with changes in the law and the ever-rising need for more campaign cash. The Supreme Court's McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission opinion stripped away a limit on how much one person could give cumulatively to all parties and candidates. That amount had previously been capped at a total of $123,200 for each two-year election cycle.
Much larger checks are raised and spent independent of the parties and their candidates. A conservative group called the Freedom Partners Action Fund raised more than $15 million during the third quarter, with half the money coming from just five people, including $2 million each from trusts controlled by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch. The ads run by these independent groups can't be coordinated with candidates, although voters often find them indistinguishable from candidate ads.