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Bush, Clinton Dominate in Early 2016 Campaign Fundraising

  • Associated Press

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, left, and Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, left, and Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush.

The two presidential candidates whose immediate families include former presidents loom large in early fundraising for 2016.

Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Jeb Bush are building mammoth political operations to power them through the primary contests next year. Their financial backers have poured more than $176 million into their campaigns and the super PACs specially designed to boost them.

Wednesday provided the first peek behind the fundraising curtains of most presidential candidates, with campaigns filing initial fundraising reports to federal regulators. Super PACs will file similar documents at the end of this month.

Spending money quickly

The new reports show that Clinton's campaign is spending money at a rapid clip: The former first lady and frontrunner in the Democratic race has paid out 40 percent of the $47 million in donations that she amassed by the end of June, employing some 364 people and building infrastructure across the country in preparation for next year's general election.

Bush, the former Florida governor and son and brother of ex-presidents, spent more than one-quarter of the $11.4 million in fundraising that he collected in the final 16 days of June, according to the reports. The campaign invested heavily in payroll and policy consulting.

Wednesday's Federal Election Commission reports cover financial activity between April 1 and June 30, a period when almost all of the 22 presidential hopefuls jumped into the race, and list the names of everyone who gave at least $200. The maximum contribution for the primary is $2,700.

The FEC documents also showed how candidates are spending – or saving: In the crowded Republican field, Florida Senator Marco Rubio started July with almost $10 million, just ahead of Bush, and far in front of the rest of the GOP pack.

Money story

Yet a candidate's own campaign is just one page in the money story.

Super PACs can accept contributions of any size. They're limited on how closely they can work with the campaigns but are often staffed with close confidants of the candidates. In many cases, the candidates themselves have "blessed" the super PACs and pitched in with their fundraising.

These and other powerful outside groups account for about two-thirds of the roughly $400 million raised so far for the presidential election, according to an Associated Press tally of FEC documents and financial totals provided by the groups that haven't yet reported.

No current candidate has made as much use of super PACs and their unlimited-donation potential as Bush.

Before he officially declared his candidacy, he spent the first six months of the year raising huge sums of money for Right to Rise. That group says it has raised a record $103 million.


Outside groups are furthering the ambitions of at least four other Republican presidential aspirants: Rubio, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Texas Governor Rick Perry and Ohio Governor John Kasich. In each case, the fundraising for those entities is outpacing the fundraising for their campaigns.

Rubio's overall take from donors – $44.7 million to his campaign and two outside groups – includes $15.8 million for a nonprofit that won't file any public budget information until at least next year and keeps its donors secret.

Some donors are secret for another reason: They're too small. The FEC only requires names and identifying information for people who give more than $200.

These kinds of contributors are underwriting Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' Democratic presidential campaign, FEC reports show, accounting for more than three-quarters of the $13.7 million in contributions he collected. Sanders also transferred $1.5 million from his dormant Senate campaign account.

Also doing well on the small-donor front is Republican retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. About 68 percent of his $10.6 million raised this year was in contributions of $200 or less. Carly Fiorina, a California technology executive also seeking the GOP nomination, raised 43 percent of her $1.7 million this way.

Control over money's use

Because the money is coming directly to those candidates, they have tighter control over how it is used.

By comparison, 3 percent of Bush's campaign cash and 17 percent of Clinton's came from small donors.

A few major Republican candidates are missing from the initial campaign finance reports. Kasich hasn't officially launched his campaign yet.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made their campaigns official too recently to file second-quarter FEC reports, although a Christie-allied super PAC said on Tuesday that it has raised $11 million. The first look at their campaign numbers will come in mid-October.