Dems Far Behind GOP in Raising Money 07/31 06:25
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hillary Rodham Clinton has a message for the country's
wealthiest Democrats: I need you, unfortunately.
"We're going to have to do what we can in this election to make sure that
we're not swamped by money on the other side," the front-runner for the
Democratic presidential nomination said Thursday.
But when asked how she feels about encouraging large contributions to a
group supporting her candidacy, she replied: "Do I wish that we didn't have to
be doing this? Yeah, I do."
Clinton's paradox when it comes to fundraising explain why, six months into
the 2016 race for president, Democrats are barely in the conversation when it
comes to the groups known as super PACs.
The groups, which unlike formal campaigns can accept contributions of any
size, will formally report their fundraising totals Friday to federal
But most of those aligned with specific presidential candidates have already
said how much they raised between January and June. So far, they account for
roughly $2 of every $3 given in the 2016 presidential race, with the vast
majority of those donations aimed at helping Republicans win back the White
Less than 9 percent of the money given to candidate-specific super PACs so
far will benefit Clinton and her rivals for the Democratic nomination,
according to an Associated Press analysis. The AP compared money raised by
formal presidential campaigns with what the super PACs say they plan to report
having raised on Friday.
The main pro-Clinton group, Priorities USA Action, raised $15.6 million in
the first half of this year. That puts it behind super PACs pledged to support
five contenders for the Republican nomination, including one whose polling
numbers are so weak that he may not even qualify to take part in next week's
"We all have to get real about the clown car of Republican candidates that
could very well be the limousine the next president is riding around in," said
Damian O'Doherty, who heads up the super PAC helping Democratic candidate
Clinton would appear to be a candidate readily able to land million-dollar
donors to a super PAC backing her candidacy. She has more than two-dozen years
in the presidential spotlight, dating to her husband's first run for the White
House, and strong ties to big-money power bases on Wall Street, in Hollywood
and among organized labor.
And some of the top donors in Democratic politics have given massive checks
to Priorities, including entertainment executive Haim Saban, whose $2 million
gift makes him the largest donor to the super PAC so far, and hedge fund
billionaire George Soros at $1 million.
But while Priorities collected from about 30 donors in the first six months
of the year, the super PAC helping Republican candidate Jeb Bush persuaded
9,900 contributors to give a record haul of $103 million. Bush's super PAC also
has more than a dozen contributors who have given at least $1 million, with the
top donor, Miami health care investor Miguel "Mike" Fernandez, giving $3
The bottom lines for super PACs backing four other GOP contenders: $38
million for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, $26 million for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker,
$16 million for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and $16.8 million for former Texas
Gov. Rick Perry --- who may not have the poll numbers needed to make the top 10
cutoff for the first GOP debate.
Priorities, at least, can measure its donations in the millions. Generation
Forward, the super PAC organized to help O'Malley, raised just $289,000 in the
first six months of the year. The three other contenders don't appear to have
any outside help, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has bluntly said, "I will
not have a super PAC."
The difference is driven in part by that attitude. Democrats have largely
condemned the 2010 decision of the Supreme Court in the case known as Citizens
United that, along with subsequent court and regulatory actions, created the
super PAC and the era of unlimited donations.
Clinton, for example, said at the outset of her campaign that opposition to
the Supreme Court ruling would be a litmus test for her nominees to the high
As Mitt Romney and other Republicans began raising hundreds of millions of
dollars through super PACs in 2012, President Barack Obama reluctantly
"blessed" Priorities, which some of his former aides created. Yet he appeared
as a featured speaker at only one of its donor gatherings.
"The Obama campaign treated Priorities like an unwanted stepchild," said
Steven Law, president of American Crossroads, one of the best-funded super PACs
dedicated to helping Republicans. "That on-again, off-again relationship
affects donor behavior."
But O'Doherty, the head of the pro-O'Malley super PAC, predicted that as
"the stakes become clear," Democratic donors will begin opening their wallets
to super PACs, "even if they're still a little bit contemptuous of these
Clinton's allies have set lofty goals for fundraising: Priorities hopes to
at least triple the $80 million it raised for Obama. The group secured $14.5
million in new commitments in July, said a person familiar with the group's
fundraising, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss details that won't
be made public for another six months.
Bill Burton, one of the former Obama aides who started Priorities and isn't
involved with the group this time, said would-be Democratic super PAC donors
are probably waiting to feel like their money could make a difference.
Priorities' biggest fundraising boon came the day after the first 2012
general election debate, Burton said, when Obama's performance was widely
"Nothing inspires donors like sheer panic," he said.