As Jeb Bush stockpiles a political war chest for his presidential campaign-in-waiting, his finance committee has donated $122,800 to Republican officials and state parties in the first five weeks of its existence, an indication of the tactical focus and tenacity with which the former Florida governor is approaching both giving and receiving in the early days of the 2016 fundraising season.
Bush’s committee, Right to Rise PAC, Inc., has given to 14 candidates and five parties, sprinkling donations throughout states with the earliest presidential primaries and supporting federal officials—both moderate and conservative—who face re-election in 2016, according to figures obtained by Bloomberg Politics. Bush’s team is planning to release the totals later Friday.
“I'm proud to support great conservative candidates who are committed to renewing America's promise by expanding opportunity and igniting upward mobility in our country," Bush, the PAC's honorary chairman, said in a statement. “In the coming months, our PAC will continue to support conservative candidates and conservative policies that will ensure all Americans have the right to rise.”
In truth, the total is a rounding error as compared to some of the numbers circulating around Bush, the son of one former president and brother to another. His allies, for example, are aiming to collect $100 million in the coming months through the political committee and a companion super-PAC that bears the same name. The suggested donation was $100,000 at an event Bush attended in New York on Wednesday, and the same for another in Chicago next week. During a visit to Washington last month, Bush's team asked supporters to commit to raising as much as $500,000.
But in another context, it's a notable amount: Bush's committee is transferring as much as it legally can to each candidate and state party he's chosen to support: $5,200 to individuals and $10,000 to the parties.
Bush's total donations after a little more than a month compare favorably to what other Republican presidential aspirants gave during the entire 2014 election cycle. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican weighing a White House bid, used his PAC to give candidates and committees $143,200 over the course of the two full years of 2013 and 2014, more than Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, or Rick Perry, according to campaign finance reports.
Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell declined to say how much the Right to Rise committees have collected since they were created Jan. 6. The super-PAC can accept donations of unlimited size. Those committees aren't required to file their first public reports until July.
Since opening his committees, Bush has been on a torrid fundraising pace—including 60 events in the final 70 days of the first quarter—as his team attempts to send an intimidating signal to the rest of the potential presidential field.
Bush's cash chase takes him to Washington on Tuesday. He'll speak to about 150 people who have paid $1,000 or more for a luncheon three blocks from the White House at lobbying firm BGR Group's office. At least 40 people attending have signed on as "co-sponsors" of the event, promising to write $5,000 checks or raise $10,000, according to a Republican source familiar with the planning. Bush will then head to McLean, Virginia, for a dinner at the home of DLA Piper attorney Jamie Wareham. That event costs at least $5,000 per couple.
Bush supporters are also moving quickly to sign up Mitt Romney’s fundraising team, now that the party’s 2012 nominee has declined a third bid for the White House. They've locked up half of Romney’s top New York bundlers, according to another Republican source.
Former Romney loyalists now backing the former governor are Brenda LaGrange Johnson, the former U.S. ambassador to Jamaica, and Clifford Sobel, the former ambassador to Brazil. Both were appointed to their positions by former President George W. Bush, Jeb Bush’s older brother.
Muneer Satter, a former senior partner at Goldman Sachs and the chairman of Romney’s fundraising efforts in Illinois in 2012, is also now raising money for Bush. He’s a co-chairman of a Chicago area fundraiser later this month where attendees are being asked to raise up to $250,000, or give $100,000, according to a person familiar with the planning. Bush will be in the Windy City to speak to the Chicago Council of Global Affairs on Feb. 18.
One of Bush’s most successful fundraisers to date was the event he attended in New York on Wednesday hosted by billionaire Henry Kravis, the founder and co-CEO of KKR & Co. LP, a global investment firm with roots in private equity. The suggested contribution was $100,000.
On the donation side of the ledger, the Bush's PAC contributed $5,200 each to Senator Chuck Grassley and Representative David Young of Iowa; Senator Kelly Ayotte and Representative Frank Guinta of New Hampshire; and Senator Tim Scott and Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina. The states, whose Republican parties also each received $10,000, traditionally hold the earliest presidential nominating contests.
The PAC also donated $5,200 to Representative Mia Love of Utah, who recently became the first black female Republican ever elected to Congress; Representatives Barbara Comstock of Virginia and Elise Stefanik of New York, both of whom have ties to former President George W. Bush's administration; and Representative Martha McSally, a freshman member from Arizona who Bush supported during the 2014 election.
Rubio, the U.S. senator who lives just a few miles from Bush in Florida, collected $3.91 million during 2013-14 with his political action committee, Reclaim America, and donated $111,800 of it to other candidates and party committees. His PAC also spent $528,400 on television ads for candidates during the election cycle, according to campaign finance reports.
Reinventing a New Direction, the committee tied to Paul, a U.S. senator from Kentucky, collected $3.32 million and gave $115,300 to Republicans, including $30,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, during the same two-year period.
Cruz gave $143,200 to other candidates and party committees through his political action committee, Jobs, Growth and Freedom Fund, which collected $1.5 million. Perry, a former Texas governor, distributed $32,900 of the $307,200 that RickPAC collected in the past two years. Perry's donations were exclusively to candidates and state parties in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the three states that traditionally hold the earliest presidential nominating contests.
—Mark Halperin contributed to this report.