Super PACs lifted by megadonors, unions in third quarter

Wrestling magnate and former Senate candidate Linda McMahon has given $6 million to a pro-Trump super PAC. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

By: Jack Noland

Three liberal labor-connected super PACs took in more than $44.4 million in the third quarter of 2016, according to reports filed last weekend, while two others that are backing GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump drew in $30.3 million. The five were among the largest super PACs to file reports for the three-month period ending Sept. 30; some other major super PACs, including the pro-Hillary Clinton Priorities USA Action, file monthly reports, which are due in two days (Oct. 20).

A quick rundown:

For Our Future PAC

On the liberal side, For Our Future PAC, a super PAC formed earlier this year by environmentalist and former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer and four labor unions, brought in more than $30 million last quarter. A hefty chunk of that haul came from the unions, with the AFL-CIO, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association kicking in contributions of more than $1 million over the course of the cycle.

Steyer's NextGen Climate Action super PAC gave $5.0 million.

And the group also came into some Silicon Valley money, with Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife, journalist and philanthropist Cari Tuna, combining for $5 million in gifts.

For Our Future spent $3.8 million supporting or opposing a number of federal candidates between July and September, concentrating on battleground Senate and House races. But the group has saved its big artillery for the presidential race, dropping more than $3.3 million on pro-Clinton or anti-Trump expenditures.

United We Can PAC

United We Can PAC collected almost $9.8 million in the third quarter, with the majority coming from the Service Employees International Union; the union has given just under $7.8 million to the super PAC this year. NextGen Climate Action Fund chipped in another $1.05 million in the three-month period, while Planned Parenthood Votes donated $334,416, with both giving in-kind staff salaries and benefits.

As with For Our Future, United We Can has focused its independent expenditures on a variety of close federal races around the country, but it has invested most heavily in the presidential contest. In the year-to-date, the PAC has made about $10.8 million worth of independent expenditures backing Clinton and opposing Trump; much of that has been spent on voter canvassing and literature.

Working America Coalition

Working America, the AFL-CIO's political advocacy and independent expenditure affiliate, also raised and spent significantly in the third quarter. The super PAC took in over $4.6 million during the period, much of it coming from the AFL-CIO and related unions in the form of in-kind staff time and services.

Working America fell into the pro-Clinton, anti-Trump camp, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on fliers, direct mail and other efforts. The super PAC has also spent considerable resources on battleground congressional races.


Republican fundraising heavyweights Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, whose large checks to outside groups have buoyed GOP campaigns for years, gave $10 million to Future45 -- controlled by the ultra-wealthy Republican donors Todd and Joe Ricketts -- in the third quarter, good for most of the $12.3 million the organization received.

The PAC sits on $9.9 million in cash to spend down the stretch. So far, Future45 has spent just over $3.3 million on anti-Clinton independent expenditures; it hasn't been involved in any House or Senate contests.

Rebuilding America Now

Devoted solely to helping elect Trump, Rebuilding America Now, founded by investor and Trump backer Tom Barrack, collected almost $18 million last quarter, largely from a handful of high-dollar contributions. Former wrestling executive Linda McMahon kicked in $6 million of that sum, despite having previously called Trump "deplorable"; that was a fraction of the nearly $50 million of her own money she spent trying to win a Senate seat in 2010 and 2012. Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus was good for another $5 million and the super PAC also saw seven-figure donations from businessmen Ronald Cameron, Peter Zieve and Walter Buckley, Jr.

So far, the super PAC has spent about $17 million praising Trump or attacking Clinton -- about three times as much on the latter than the former.