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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 
GOP debate.

   "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 
Martin O'Malley.

   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.


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