Taken from a Getty Images Photograph
Money makes the world of politics go ’round. Sad that that is the case, but it is. And in the 2016 presidential election, a whole lot of money is going to get spent trying to either defend Hillary Clinton from her detractors or pump her up to her own base.
Enter the “SuperPACs,” the “non-profit” Political Action Committees that are doing the advance work for their own candidates separate from the official campaigns run by the candidates and the political parties themselves. These organizations, thanks to the 2010 Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, can raise as much money as they want to help any one candidate.
Donors to these groups get no particular tax breaks since they are what the non-profit industry calls 501(c)(4)s, or the nonprofits that don’t have to publish their donor list. (On the Republican side, these are the groups that Lois Lerner and the IRS were holding hostage by not giving them non-profit status.) The tax break is off-set by the world not knowing which horse any one person is backing. That also means that the people doing the donating at the major gift level have money to burn.
Enter George Soros, the billionaire who has been known to drop eight figures on presidential campaigns and the man other Democratic donors look to for who to support. This time around he’s backing Hillary Clinton. According to Politico, Clinton operative David Brock’s American Bridge 21st century is set to report to the Federal Elections Commission $7.7 million raised with a cool $1 million of it from Soros.
In addition to the American Bridge fundraising, the American Bridge 21st Century Foundation – related, but not the same – has raised an additional $1 million, with Priorities USA, a Clintonian attack dog group, raising $12 million. As Politico put in a headline, that’s $20 million, and a full five percent of it from George Soros. (Even money that he drops more cash in the coming months.)
Hillary Clinton’s campaign itself raised $45 million in the first quarter of the year. Not bad for someone scandal ridden and facing multiple felonies. Plus, she’s not taking questions from reporters and every time she actually appears in public her poll numbers drop. The billionaire club must know something we don’t.
Lest anyone think that only Democratic billionaires and rich people seek to influence elections, the Koch Brothers really are intent on raising almost $900 million to influence the 2016 election, and Republican presidential candidates are all working with their own SuperPACs and raising cash from Republican billionaires.
The super PACs supporting Clinton’s prospective GOP rivals like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas are raking in huge checks or commitments from their side’s billionaires. New York hedge fund manager Bob Mercer is the leading backer behind a network of pro-Cruz super PACs that boasted of raising $31 million while Miami businessman Norman Braman is considering donating as much as $25 million to a super PAC backing Rubio.
That’s a lot of money tossed into politics to back candidates who aren’t even confirmed nominees. SuperPAC purposes are multi-fold, but in Hillary’s case the majority of the groups are really there to counter “attacks” on her and her record.
While super PACs are still barred from coordinating their spending strategies with the campaigns they’re trying to help, operatives in recent years have pioneered techniques for ensuring complementary efforts.
American Bridge 21st Century, for instance, in 2013 launched a project called Correct the Record, that has been filling many of the functions of a traditional campaign rapid-response operation, providing real-time pushback against GOP attacks on its website and via email for use by Clinton’s defenders. The group became a stand-alone super PAC in May, splitting off from American Bridge, and hinting at plans to work even more closely with Clinton’s campaign.
And thus, the need for billionaires like George Soros to back the candidate most likely to help him or her in the coming years…and the one that most closely reflects a chosen political ideology. What is interesting, though, is that he his one of the few willing to drop serious cash at the billionaire level – as in seven figures or more – on political campaigns. That $7.7 million that David Brock’s campaign raised? 22 donors with the average gift being $140,000. Still a lot of money to those who don’t have it, but for a lot of wealthy donors, not that much at all.