The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The most remarkable number in the Jeb Bush super PAC’s $103 million haul

A vendor holds money while selling buttons and t-shirts outside an event where Former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush announced he will seek the 2016 Republican presidential nomination on the Kendall Campus of Miami Dade College in Miami, Florida, U.S., on Monday, June 15, 2015. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg)

The federal poverty level in 2015 is $24,250 for a family of four -- a mere $750 from the nice round number of $25,000. People earning below (and even a bit above) that figure are eligible for a number of benefits from the government, including food stamps and Medicare. In 2013, 45.3 million Americans lived in poverty -- about 14.5 percent of the population.

In the grand new super PAC era of American politics, $25,000 apparently marks another sort of poverty, too.

In releasing its massive $103 million fundraising totals Thursday, the Jeb Bush-supporting Right to Rise super PAC declared that more than 9,400 of its 9,900 donors -- about 95 percent of them -- had made donations of $25,000 or below. Hooray for the little guy!

The PAC hoped to evoke a refrain that's come to be expected in the post-Barack Obama era of campaign fundraising. In 2008, Obama assuaged the concerns of people staggered by his massive fundraising totals by pointing out how many of the donors only gave a small amount of money -- usually setting the bar at $250 or some other figure less than that. In doing so, it simultaneously demonstrated organizing prowess and grassroots support in one fell swoop. Granted, it turned out that many Obama donors had given a lot of small donations, but the idea stuck. A big topline was fine, as long as you showed that the little guy was behind you, too.

That's what Right to Rise is trying to do -- show that it has a lot of people willing to chip in aren't necessarily multi-millionaires. It's just ... jarring that the index the PAC used as its measure of the little guy is the same figure used to determine which people need public help to eat.

Nine thousand donors scraped together $25,000 or less to hand over to Bush's PAC -- no doubt restricting the family to one Tiffany's visit per week until the glass jar on the fridge was stuffed with enough Treasury bonds to make a difference.

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