(Rich Galen, Mullings.com) – It has been an axiom of politics since 2010 that you can’t be a legitimate candidate for your party’s nomination for President if you don’t have a Super PAC associated – but not coordinating – with you.
The basic rule of Super PACs, according to OpenSecrets.org:
Super PACs may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates.Super PACs must, however, report their donors to the Federal Election Commission. Unlike traditional PACs, Super PACs are prohibited from donating money directly to political candidates.
See where the definition of a Super PAC includes the phrase “may raise unlimited sums?” That means it can take a check from any legitimate donor in any amount. Millions at a time if you can find a guy with a big enough checkbook.
A Federal campaign can only receive checks from individuals up to $2,700 per cycle. It is called “hard money” not in the least because it is very hard to raise.
The reason Super PACs came into my line of sight this weekend was because of the demise of the Rick Perry campaign. Several weeks ago it became known he had no money in his campaign account to pay his staff.
The Super PAC that was organized to support Governor Perry is named the Opportunity and Freedom PAC. According to the Washington Post, the PAC “had raised nearly $17 million by mid-July” and “most of it came from just three donors.”
In August, the PAC said it was taking over the ground game function in Iowa – it was going to pay for the offices and staff on behalf of the campaign. But if the PAC can’t coordinate with the campaign, how to you get the candidate scheduled into the coffee shop in Ottumwa that the PAC paid to organize and advance?
Staff is not permitted to move back and forth between a campaign and its associated PAC. According to the Associated Press “Super PACs have to wait 120 days to bring aboard anyone currently” with a federal campaign.
There has been a theory that the existence of Super PACs would allow candidates to stay in this process longer than they might otherwise. That is true to some degree. Without question Newt Gingrich was able to stay in the 2012 race because of donations by Sheldon Adelson to his Super PAC but, in the end it just extended the inevitable.
Gingrich once said that a campaign is an entrepreneurial endeavor: If people like what you say and the way you’re saying it, they’ll donate money to keep you going.
Raising money $25, $50 or even $2,700 at a time requires an enormous investment on the part of the campaign in the candidate’s time, the staff’s talent, travel and events. No matter how successful the Super PAC fundraising is, a campaign simply can’t survive with the candidate flying coach with one staff aide, staying at motels with outside entrances to the rooms, driving around in a borrowed four-year-old SUV.
Other players have large amounts in their Super PAC funds. Gov. Scott Walker’s PAC, according to Open Secrets has raised over $20 million. Sen. Marco Rubio’s PAC has raised $16 million, and Sen,. Ted Cruz’ three PACs have raised an astonishing $36 million.
The most recent poll in Iowa has Cruz at 10% (3rd), Rubio at 6% (4th) and Walker at 5% (5th). Carly Fiorina is right behind them at 4%.
They all trail Donald Trump with 29% (no Super PAC) and Dr. Ben Carson (about $7 million in two Super PACs) right on his shoulder with 25%.
The amount of money available to these candidates is not reflective of their current standing, at least in Iowa.
On the other side, Sec. Hillary Clinton’s PACs have raised over $16 million, but she trails Sen. Bernie Sanders (who has no Super PAC support) by 10 percentage points 43% – 33%.
What does this tell us?
It tells us that Super PACs can provide a lot of cover, but they can’t cover up a campaign – or a candidate – that is not making the retail sale.
For my many Jewish readers, happy new year. Here’s to a happy and healthy 5776.
Mr. Galen is a veteran political strategist and communications consultant. He blogs at www.Mullings.com.