SuperPACs Report Their Funds — And The Numbers Are Staggering
ARUN RATH, HOST:
Big money is going to play a bigger role than ever in the 2016 presidential campaign. SuperPACs are the political groups that are supposed to be independent from a candidate's official campaign. But that doesn't stop them from spending millions in support of specific candidates. Last night was the deadline for the superPACs to report on how much money they're raising and what they're spending it on. The numbers are staggering. NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben has been taken to the data, and she's with us from Washington. Hi, Danielle.
DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Hi.
RATH: So what has stuck out the most for you in all these numbers?
KURTZLEBEN: Like you said, it's just how staggeringly huge they are, even compared to last time. One of the most astounding statistics I've found is that Jeb Bush's superPAC Right To Rise raised $103 million in the first half of this year.
KURTZLEBEN: Now, that's more than Obama's main superPAC raised in the entire 2012 cycle. That was around $80 million.
RATH: And what about the other candidates? How are they doing?
KURTZLEBEN: They're, likewise, doing well; nothing close to Jeb Bush's, but still some pretty big numbers. Ted Cruz has several superPACs that have raised $38 million. Hillary Clinton has around $15.7 million dollars from her main superPAC. And Scott Walker, for example, has $20 million.
RATH: Wow. So what do we know about where this huge amount of money is coming from?
KURTZLEBEN: You know, it really depends on the superPAC. You have some, like some associated with Ted Cruz, that are mostly funded by, say, one person or one family. You might have one really wealthy CEO or executive or just a regular donor, who - a regular Republican donor, who decides to give a lot of money to him. But you also have someone like Jeb Bush, who, for a while, put a cap on the donations to his superPAC at $1 million. So you have a lot of small - I use small in quotes there - donors who are only donating $1 million each to Jeb Bush.
RATH: And can we identify who these donors are?
KURTZLEBEN: Yes. We know some of the donors, but not all of them. SuperPACs do have to disclose their donors, but they don't always have to list actual people. Sometimes they'll list an LLC as one of their donors. For example, one of the ones getting attention right now is a thing called Jasper Reserves. That's an LLC that gave $1 million to the Bush superPAC. Now, we know a few things about it. We know it's based in West Virginia. We have an address, but that's really all about we know about it. There are no names yet available on that. And it's something that people are talking about right now on Campaign Finance Twitter.
RATH: So all of this money gushing into the race, does this mean that this is all just going to flood onto the airwaves with TV ads?
KURTZLEBEN: Yes, yes.
KURTZLEBEN: I mean, there's no getting around it. I mean, Independent Expenditure-Only Committees, that's what superPACs are technically called in campaign-finance speak. They spend on independent expenditures, which really means ads, mailers, you know, those pre-roll ads you see when you open up a YouTube video. So we're going to see it both on TV and online. You're going to see ads everywhere. But interestingly, you're also going to see superPACs doing a lot of other things - a lot of - fulfilling a lot of the traditional roles that campaigns tend to fill. So there's no coordination allowed by law between these superPACs and the candidates. But the superPACs are going to do things that a campaign would do. For example, they'll organize people. They'll do policy research. They'll do opposition research.
One interesting group is called Correct The Record. This is an outside spending group that Hillary Clinton is relying on. They're doing something that is called rapid response, which is really essentially knocking down attacks as they come in from her political opponents. So you have a lot of money going to these superPACs and maybe less money going to the campaigns. So that means, you know, maybe less staff for the campaign. But with all of this money fueling all of these candidates, you might see a campaign season that lasts longer because right now, even candidates who are polling in the absolute basement among that giant field of Republicans, they've raked in some serious bucks. You know, some of them have raked in several million. So that gives them that much more fuel to stick it out.
RATH: That's NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben on the line from Washington. Danielle, thank you.
KURTZLEBEN: Thank you.
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