Super PACs lost steam in second half of 2015
WASHINGTON – Sunday is the first time in six months that the public has learned the names of the biggest donors in presidential politics. These contributors give to super political action committees that can accept unlimited amounts of money and are aligned with specific candidates.
The 15 major party candidates in the race also are due to file year-end fundraising reports on Sunday. They have until midnight. Here are some early findings:
BIG MONEY WANES
Many super PACs saw reduced hauls in the second half of the year, compared to the first half. That could be a reflection of the crowded and unusual contest on the Republican side, where frequent poll leader Donald Trump has virtually no outside help while a group backing Jeb Bush has spent tens of millions of dollars and seen little payoff for its investment.
Between July and the end of December, America Leads, a super PAC for Chris Christie, raised less than half as much as the $11 million it had collected between January and the end of June. Billionaire hedge-fund manager Steve Cohen and his wife Alexandra gave the group a fresh $2 million in December, repeating their $2 million gift to the super PAC in the late spring, the fundraising reports show.
Outside groups supportive of John Kasich landed about $3.7 in new contributions, compared to the more notable $11.7 million they’d had harvested for him before June 30. A spokeswoman said January – which is not included in the new reports – has been better. Six donors gave a collective $4 million in recent weeks, including longtime Kasich booster Greg Wendt, a San Francisco investor.
THE CLINTON NETWORK
On the flip side, Democrat Hillary Clinton saw a significant jump in outside money late last year. Her campaign is making aggressive use of these groups. A super PAC called Correct the Record works alongside Clinton’s campaign, saying it is not running afoul of anti-coordination laws because it isn’t spending money on radio or television ads to help her. No other political group is testing that theory.
A second super PAC, Priorities USA, gave Correct the Record $1 million at the end of the year, new fundraising reports show. Priorities, which raised $16.7 million by June 30 saw its coffers balloon to $41 million by December, the group said.
Even when super PAC donors are named, sometimes they’re not fully identified.
One example of mystery money surfaced in the donors to Conservative Solutions PAC, a group aligned with Republican candidate Marco Rubio. Overall, Conservative Solutions raised about $30 million last year, including about $14 million between July 1 and December 31.
One $500,000 check was from IGX LLC, which lists an address in Wilmington, Delaware. The trail appears to go cold at that address. According to the Delaware’s state corporation registry, IGX LLC was established last May. Corporation Service Company- a company that sets up companies – serves as IGX’s registered agent, masking true ownership on state incorporation documents.
Pursuing America’s Greatness, the Mike Huckabee-aligned super PAC, depended heavily on the owner of the Houston Texans football team and the family behind several Branson, Missouri, tourist attractions.
Robert McNair, chairman and CEO of the Texans, contributed $500,000 in July to the super PAC, the largest single contribution to the group in the latter part of last year. (Not that he only supports Huckabee; a month later, he gave $500,000 to Rubio’s Conservative Solutions PAC.)
Other Huckabee super PAC donors include Jack Herschend and Sharon Herschend, who gave $400,000 last quarter. Sharon Herschend earlier gave more than $500,000 to the super PAC.
Herschend Family Entertainment owns several properties in 10 states including the dinner cruise Showboat Branson Bell and Silver Dollar City, an 1880’s theme amusement park in southern Missouri known for its old-timey music and annual holiday light celebration that features a singing Christmas tree. The corporation also owns the Harlem Globetrotters.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Jack Gillum contributed to this report.
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