WASHINGTON -- The first major quarterly presidential campaign fundraising disclosures came on Wednesday, but they showed barely half the money flooding into a race in which the campaigns have been overshadowed by the unlimited money super PACs supporting them.
Super PACs, supposedly independent committees that can raise unlimited sums from corporations, unions and individuals, played a big role in the 2012 Republican primary, but are taking over the 2016 campaign -- and the fundraising totals show where the attention lies.
Since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision legalized unlimited contributions from corporations, unions and individuals to so-called independent groups, candidates and parties have increasingly relied on groups like super PACs and dark money nonprofits to buttress their campaigns. This change has accelerated in 2016, as fundraising for almost every Republican candidate has been eclipsed by the super PACs meant to support them.
Overall, candidates raised $122.4 million through June 30. The Republican reliance on super PACs is evident in lower fundraising for their campaigns than Democrats reported.
The entire crowded Republican field has raised $57.6 million. The much smaller Democratic field appears more focused on raising money for their official campaigns than for outside groups. The combined total for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the top two in primary polls, tops the entire GOP field. Clinton and Sanders raised a combined $62.8 million.
Much of this can be traced to the late entrance of candidates into the campaign. This year’s late start was largely due to the decision by some candidates, most prominently former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, to skirt campaign finance laws and directly involve themselves in the creation and funding of their own super PAC.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who announced on July 13, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who will announce on July 21, did not disclose any fundraising numbers, as their official campaigns weren't established until after the June 30 deadline. Walker and Kasich both have been involved in raising money and hiring staff for unlimited money groups of their own.
Bush, the leading GOP establishment choice and the son and brother of previous presidents, raised the most money of any Republican and his did it the fastest. He raked in $11 million since announcing his candidacy on June 15 -- approximately $733,000 per day. That looks like chump change, though, compared with the $100 million Right to Rise PAC, the super PAC Bush founded, will report at the end of the month.
In his fundraising quest, Bush received help from eight Washington lobbyists who bundled $228,400 for his campaign. He also appears on the way to winning the Goldman Sachs crown, as employees and executives of the Wall Street bank gave $144,900, the most from people working for any single entity.
Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) seemingly raised the most money during the period from April to June, with a $12 million total. But that was because $4 million of his haul came from his prior Senate fundraising. The first-term Florida senator actually raised $8.9 million since jumping in the race. Like nearly every other Republican contender, Rubio's totals are dwarfed by the $32 million collected by a super PAC and a nonprofit group backing his bid.
Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) raised $10 million in the second fundraising quarter, but has received the most of any GOP candidate, with $14 million since March. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as he was the first Republican to join the race. Cruz raised a large portion -- nearly 40 percent -- of his April-to-June haul from small donors who gave less than $200. He also has cultivated a donor base that makes many small contributions, to bump them above the $200 mark.
Cruz’s impressive fundraising is likely to be trounced by a quartet of super PACs backing his campaign. The groups are expected to report a haul of $37 million raised from a stable of billionaires on July 31.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson was also among the top Republican fundraisers, bringing in $8.4 million from April through June. His was the lone Republican campaign to raise a majority of funds from donors giving less than $200. Those small donors gave $5.7 million, or 67 percent of his total. Carson spent much of what he raised, with $5.4 million in expenses.
Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) rounded out the top fundraisers of the Republican primary with $6.9 million, although $1.6 million came from a transfer from his Senate account. Paul, like his father, former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul, succeeded with small donors. He raised $3.2 million from donors giving less than $200, or 46 percent of his haul.
Billionaire Donald Trump, who is leading the Republican race in national polls, announced that he had loaned his campaign $1.8 million. He also reported that some people actually made donations to his self-funding campaign, to the tune of $92,000. The former reality television star spent $1.4 million by the end of June.
The other candidates reported lesser totals -- all sure to be outdone by their super PACs when they report at month’s end.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) raised $3.7 million -- aided by a $1.5 million transfer from his Senate campaign; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee raised $2 million; former technology executive Carly Fiorina raised $1.7 million; former Texas Gov. Rick Perry raised $1.1 million; former Sen. Rick Santorum raised $607,000; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal raised $579,000; and former New York Gov. George Pataki pulled up the rear with $255,000.
The sparsely populated Democratic primary field presents a far different dynamic, with Clinton and Sanders focused on raising money for their official campaigns. Clinton reported a total of $45.7 million raised and Sanders pulled in more than $15 million.
Their fundraising strategies were quite different.
Clinton traversed the country to hit up fundraisers hosting some of the biggest party donors, and raked in $31.1 million from contributors who gave the $2,700 primary campaign maximum or more for the general election. This fundraising sweep has allowed the campaign to spend a massive $18.7 million in its first months -- a total higher than what any other presidential candidate has raised for their official campaign so far. While raising $8.1 million from those giving less than $200, Clinton did not receive the kind of small donor love that helped fill Obama’s campaign account during both of his runs.
Small donors, however, provided the bulk of Sanders’s fundraising haul. He raised more than $10 million from donors giving less than $200, thanks to a host of online grassroots giving through the liberal fundraising hub ActBlue. Sanders also shifted $1.5 million from his Senate account into his presidential campaign.
The other two Democratic candidates in the race reported smaller sums. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley reported $2 million in contributions, and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee reported $393,000, with most coming from a loan from the candidate and just $30,000 in contributions.
The big money will be reported at the end of the month, when super PACs file with the Federal Election Commission. Candidates counting on nonprofit groups to support their campaigns, like Rubio, Jindal and Bush, won’t have to worry about this disclosure, as nonprofits don't reveal their donors.