GOP donors rebelling over the futility of super-PAC spending?

posted at 6:41 pm on January 13, 2016 by Ed Morrissey

We hear plenty from progressives about the dangers of the Citizens United decision and the influence of big money on campaigns. However, the reality of the 2016 campaigns has GOP donors lamenting the current structure … or their own choices within it. The Hill’s Jonathan Swan reports on the rising level of buyer’s remorse among big Republican donors who have watched Donald Trump render super-PACs irrelevant, at least for now:

GOP front-runner Donald Trump’s relatively cheap campaign — contrasted with the millions of dollars spent on behalf of Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Scott Walker and Rick Perry — has left  donors, fundraisers and conservative leaders questioning the value of super-PACs, which got a boost from the 2010 Supreme Court decision that allowed independent groups to raise unlimited cash.

“People are upset about the Citizens United decision; people are upset about all this money flowing into politics, but at the end of the day it has no impact,” said New York financier Anthony Scaramucci, who was a national finance co-chair for Scott Walker’s presidential campaign before moving to raise funds for Bush when Walker quit the race.

“I mean, with the free media, or whatever the term is, when they allow Trump to go on to every TV station in America — if there’s evidence that PACs are so consequential, please explain it to me,” Scaramucci said.

The lack of impact goes across the board, but one candidate in particular will get the most scrutiny. Jeb Bush worked hard to get big-ticket donors on board early as a way to crowd out other potential challengers and to get the GOP to coalesce around his bid. Not only did that fail, but then Trump’s rise made the super-PAC efforts ineffective ever since. And don’t think that the deep-pocketed backers of Bush haven’t noticed it either:

The cautionary tale cited by nearly every donor or fundraiser interviewed on or off the record has been Bush. He has fallen in polls despite the more than $50 million already spent on his behalf by the group Right to Rise, which far outraised every other super-PAC with its mid-year haul of $103 million. …

In conversations over the past six weeks, a number of major Right to Rise donors have privately told The Hill that they are holding on to hope that the political action committee can turn things around.

And, while doubts are mounting, none of the super-PAC’s largest donors interviewed was willing to publicly abandon the group’s leader, Mike Murphy. Murphy has been trying to reassure them that his is a winning strategy and that their six- and seven-figure checks are being judiciously spent.

Judicious? Right to Rise spent big bucks to attack Marco Rubio’s footwear, while their candidate now wants to talk about Rubio’s height. The problem here doesn’t seem to be the super-PAC structure, but the candidate that it serves. And there may well be legitimate criticisms of the strategies pursued by the super-PAC — say, on obsessing over Rubio’s heel selection and ignoring the front-runner — but that’s a separate issue than the choice of candidate. The donors themselves put their money on Bush without ever asking themselves, “Is the electorate clamoring for yet another hereditary ruler?”

As for Trump and his ability to draw earned media, that doesn’t necessarily debunk the potential for super-PACs. He’s been doing that for over thirty years; his gig on The Apprentice came from his celebrity, rather than creating it. It’s a unique feature of this election, and a deliberate strategy by Trump to keep his name and campaign in the headlines. This is unlikely to repeat itself even if other celebrities decide to jump into the race, as there are few who are as adept at manipulating the media as Donald Trump.

Rather than a cautionary tale about super-PACs, this is more another example of a very old lesson: caveat emptor.

Update: Edited one paragraph for greater clarity.


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Comments

My nom :)

Schadenfreude on January 13, 2016 at 6:44 PM

Luke warm

Schadenfreude on January 13, 2016 at 6:45 PM

Jeb looks and acts like a ghoul.

It’s pathetic to watch him.

No idea what transformed him but it’s very bad.

Schadenfreude on January 13, 2016 at 6:46 PM

Trump disbanded his SuperPACs.

Has Cruz disbanded his?

anotherJoe on January 13, 2016 at 6:47 PM

Schadenfreude on January 13, 2016 at 6:46 PM

I think it is desperation.

CoffeeLover on January 13, 2016 at 6:49 PM

Karl Rove Lighting his cigar with a $100 bill: Such rubes.

Mr. Arrogant on January 13, 2016 at 6:50 PM

¡Jeb!’s Super PAC has been struck by kryptonite, not very super.

Redstone on January 13, 2016 at 6:51 PM

Trump disbanded his SuperPACs.

Has Cruz disbanded his?

anotherJoe on January 13, 2016 at 6:47 PM

Of course not, he’s not a liberal billionaire and doesn’t get a fraction of the press coverage.

AYNBLAND on January 13, 2016 at 6:51 PM

Trump disbanded his SuperPACs.

Has Cruz disbanded his?

anotherJoe on January 13, 2016 at 6:47 PM

Do you even know how stupid this sounds? No you don’t or you would not have posted it.

bgibbs1000 on January 13, 2016 at 6:54 PM

Bush should have been the nominee.

Dubya ruined his chances.

weedisgood on January 13, 2016 at 6:54 PM

They bet on a lame horse.

KCB on January 13, 2016 at 6:55 PM

Trump sure did throw a BIGAZZ monkeywrench into the gope huh.

http://theconservativetreehouse.com/2015/08/22/tripwire-alert-evidence-now-exists-to-show-benefit-of-gope-road-mapped-splitter-strategy/

Garyinaz66 on January 13, 2016 at 6:55 PM

Rubio tried to steal ¡La Jebita!’s mojo wearing girlie shoes. But it didn’t work. It couldn’t work. There’s only one ¡La Jebita!

Rubio is a weather vane. ¡La Jebita! is a train! She could be a train carrying illegals into the country, she could be a train like Thomas the Tank Engine! The possibilities are endless! You will see!

And don’t forget, the “J” in Donald J. Trump stands for “Unhinged”!

Magicjava on January 13, 2016 at 6:56 PM

Trump disbanded his SuperPACs.

Has Cruz disbanded his?

anotherJoe on January 13, 2016 at 6:47 PM

Trump was funding a Super PAC.

RickB on January 13, 2016 at 6:56 PM

Of course not, he’s not a liberal billionaire and doesn’t get a fraction of the press coverage.

AYNBLAND on January 13, 2016 at 6:51 PM

All in DC are owned by their R/D Uniparty millio- and billionaire pimps, who stand for: open borders, gay marriage, abortions and fooling the fools.

Schadenfreude on January 13, 2016 at 6:56 PM

Whiners.

Lolo on January 13, 2016 at 6:56 PM

These are really smart people. Smart enough to put a match to unimaginably large piles of money. Smart enough to turn $’s into smoke.

aquaviva on January 13, 2016 at 6:57 PM

Bush should have been the nominee.

Dubya ruined his chances.

weedisgood on January 13, 2016 at 6:54 PM

obama ruined Hillary’s, twice.

Schadenfreude on January 13, 2016 at 6:57 PM

The donors themselves put their money on Bush without ever asking themselves, “Is the electorate clamoring for yet another hereditary ruler?”

Serves them right for trying to foist that chipmunk on us.

rbj on January 13, 2016 at 7:00 PM

Sorry, but I can’t find a modicum of sympathy for the donors / special interests who go out to ‘buy’ a politician – and then whinge when the voting base demonstrates just how sick and tired they are of craven bought establishment politicians who believe their loyalty is to those donors / special interests as opposed to the voting base.

It’s what often happens when one goes to fight a new war using the tactics, strategies, and mindsets of the last one.

Athos on January 13, 2016 at 7:02 PM

The Jeb* campaign has been proof that marketplaces work when allowed.

NixTyranny on January 13, 2016 at 7:04 PM

Bush should have been the nominee.

Dubya ruined his chances.

weedisgood on January 13, 2016 at 6:54 PM

…dude!…you don’t smoke …”shit“….you…literally…smoke shit!

JugEarsButtHurt on January 13, 2016 at 7:05 PM

stupid rich guys upset at themselves for being stupid rich guys. next time, buy MSNBC and fire everyone instead ..show re runs of Reagan movies all day and get better ratings. far more bang for the buck.

johngalt on January 13, 2016 at 7:09 PM

Q: What does Hollywood do when a certain type of movie is successful?
A: Make more like it until well after it doesn’t work anymore.

Television, same thing.

It is the same for any very successful product.

Guess what kind of Presidential candidate is going to be coming at you for a long time….

Meremortal on January 13, 2016 at 7:12 PM

Bush should have been the nominee.

Dubya ruined his chances.
.
weedisgood on January 13, 2016 at 6:54 PM

.
Sorta chokes you up, doesn’t it?

listens2glenn on January 13, 2016 at 7:13 PM

And oh by the way, Rubio just said he’s all for in-state tuition for illegal aliens.

That would help save the govt a lot of scholarship money.

Think about it.

Meremortal on January 13, 2016 at 7:15 PM

I feel really bad for these donors.

The American people really have a lot of nerve by not falling line and going all in for ¡Yeb!.

It’s ¡Yeb!’s turn.

Redstone on January 13, 2016 at 7:17 PM

So these fools wasted their money trying to buy a nominee. Too bad, so sad.

VorDaj on January 13, 2016 at 7:18 PM

“Thanks Suckers!”

-Professional campaign hustlers.

portlandon on January 13, 2016 at 7:18 PM

The donors themselves put their money on Bush without ever asking themselves, “Is the electorate clamoring for yet another hereditary ruler?”

Well, this is true, as far as it goes, Ed, but didn’t you kind of do the same thing? You were certainly more in Bush’s camp than just about any other candidate until the notion of him as an absolute joke reached critical mass.

Right Mover on January 13, 2016 at 7:22 PM

obama ruined Hillary’s, twice.

Schadenfreude on January 13, 2016 at 6:57 PM

Obama would win a third term if allowed

weedisgood on January 13, 2016 at 7:23 PM

All in DC are owned by their R/D Uniparty millio- and billionaire pimps, who stand for: open borders, gay marriage, abortions and fooling the fools.

Schadenfreude on January 13, 2016 at 6:56 PM

+10

And don’t forget making all of us reliant on Big Government.

EdmundBurke247 on January 13, 2016 at 7:23 PM

They bet on the wrong horses. Boo-hoo.

myiq2xu on January 13, 2016 at 7:23 PM

When you can’t seem to get a read on the market, you are bound to waste resources.

Clearly the donors didn’t think that the angst and anger of the citizenry against “the Establishment” was going to be a significant factor.

Clearly they were wrong.

ProfShadow on January 13, 2016 at 7:25 PM

I’ve noticed Trump uses his money selectively.

sorrowen on January 13, 2016 at 7:27 PM

Trump disbanded his SuperPACs.

Has Cruz disbanded his?

anotherJoe on January 13, 2016 at 6:47 PM

Cruz doesn’t own casinos or Golf courses.

How does he pay for his campaign?

libfreesMom on January 13, 2016 at 7:34 PM

Cruz doesn’t own casinos or Golf courses.

How does he pay for his campaign?

libfreesMom on January 13, 2016 at 7:34 PM

Oh, I don’t know? How does any other politician do it? Through donations from supporters.

He doesn’t need Goldman Sachs and the rest of the banking sector funding his superpacs.

NWConservative on January 13, 2016 at 7:42 PM

Obama would win a third term if allowed

weedisgood on January 13, 2016 at 7:23 PM

He received 7 million fewer votes the 2nd time around if he kept it up this time he would lose in a land slide.

RickB on January 13, 2016 at 7:44 PM

Obama would win a third term if allowed

you mean a TURD term. the first 2 have been steaming piles, so why should the Turd be any different.

Senator Philip Bluster on January 13, 2016 at 7:55 PM

I hope they spend as much as they can in the primaries. Spend it all.

wolly4321 on January 13, 2016 at 8:09 PM

The problem here doesn’t seem to be the super-PAC structure, but the candidate that it serves.

Exactly. No amount of lipstick is going to turn a neocon pig into a supporter of liberty.

TBSchemer on January 13, 2016 at 8:45 PM

+10

And don’t forget making all of us reliant on Big Government.

EdmundBurke247 on January 13, 2016 at 7:23 PM

Trump supports the Big Government even more than Rubio.

TBSchemer on January 13, 2016 at 8:51 PM

Some paper industry lobbyist needs roll up with an 18 wheeler full of tissues right about now.

Oxymoron on January 13, 2016 at 9:31 PM

No one should pay attention to any attack ads. If someone wants to brag about themselves, that’s fine. All the PACs should turn their money over to charity. Pricks should be ashamed for trying to buy candidates.

cimbri on January 14, 2016 at 2:53 AM

What can super-pac money really purchase (legally) except TV and radio ads?

When I was a middle-schooler I was picked on pretty often by school bullies. One thing I recall from the experience is my assumption that everyone standing by silently witnessing my disgrace was in sympathy with the bully, that I was being attacked not by a lone a**hole but by everyone. Since his voice was the only one heard, it was assumed (by me) to be the consensus.
And so in the past, when the Big Three TV networks were the only voices being heard in the American political arena, every lone American assumed that what the networks had to say was how it is (recall the finality of Walter Cronkite’s authoritative signoff: “And…that’s the way it is”).

The internet has pretty much destroyed that monopoly on the First Amendment. Nobody gives two sh*ts about the drivel being spewed in political ads. The somber threatening background music and dark ashen cast of the graphics when showing the enemy and speaking of all the scary things he wants to do to the country, followed by the uplifting, richly-oxygenated music and graphics as the Champion is offered up as the antidote to despair…it’s a transparent con that all but the most dense voter see right through and I believe that the resentment this kind of manipulation engenders is actually counter-productive.

jbspry on January 14, 2016 at 5:19 AM

Maybe the big donors and PACs have finally figured out we aren’t listening to them anymore.

Trump for President, 2016!

earlgrey on January 14, 2016 at 10:16 AM

Do you even know how stupid this sounds? No you don’t or you would not have posted it.

bgibbs1000 on January 13, 2016 at 6:54 PM

So the truth sounds stupid to you? Rube.

earlgrey on January 14, 2016 at 10:20 AM

What morons actually contribute to Jeb! and the other obvious losers? Must be nice to have that kind of money to throw after bad just for the hell of it.

Dr. ZhivBlago on January 14, 2016 at 5:41 PM