Unspent Money Burning Holes in Super-PAC Pockets
So far, most of the spending on the 2016 race for the White House has come from the candidates' official campaigns. That's likely to change in the coming months.
Super-PACs and 527s, outside groups that can raise unlimited amounts of money to help candidates as long they don't coordinate, have been relatively quiet thus far, spending only about $23 million of the $261 million they raised in the first half of the year. That left plenty of powder in the keg, even as the potential for more massive fundraising came into focus with last week's disclosures by the groups.
The first open seat in the White House since the Supreme Court's 2010 decision that gave rise to super-PACs has sparked a race for the nation's deep-pocketed donors. While official campaigns still outspent super-PACs and 527s in the 2012 presidential campaign, that dynamic is expected to be reversed in this election cycle.
This year, about 60 people donated at least $1 million to such groups supporting the various candidates vying for their parties' nomination, showing the breadth of wealth the groups can draw on, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
That pace of giving is leaving behind official candidate committees, which can only accept a maximum of $2,700 per individual donor. Of the $129 million those committees collectively raised in the last quarter, about $47 million, or 37 percent, was spent.
Not unlike the candidates' official committees, outside groups have spent money in the early campaign days on mundane needs such as staffing, rent and research.
Two groups supporting Democrat Hillary Clinton spent $1.83 million in the first six months of the year. About half of the pro-Clinton group Priorities USA's spending was on payroll, salaries and associated taxes. About 27 percent was on research.
Meanwhile, the pro-Jeb Bush Right to Rise USA, the largest fundraiser so far among super-PACs, spent only $5.44 million of the $103 million it collected. Groups supporting Republican Scott Walker spent about 23 percent of the total $26 million they raised. Some of Right to Rise's largest expenditures were for database management, which drew $586,000, and consultants for finance, communications and legal issues, which cost $1.87 million in the first half of the year.
Spending on television and digital ads for all candidates is expected to surge in the coming months.