Ready for 2016? Likely contenders not big spenders on mid-terms

Mug shots of Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz
Super PACs backing some potential presidential contenders seemed to be spending this year with 2016 in mind.

Though the candidates they support might not have much in common, PACs and super PACs associated with Hillary Clinton, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio spent no more — and often far less — than one of every five dollars they raised in the 2014 cycle supporting other candidates.

Ready for Hillary, the super PAC set up to boost the campaign of the former first lady, New York senator and Obama administration cabinet official, raised the most money and was stingiest it, with just two percent of the more than $10 million it raised spent to help candidates running in 2014 or transferred to other committees. By contrast, Rep. Paul Ryan, D-Wis., who served as Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012 and might harbor presidential ambitions of his own, raised $3.2 million for his Prosperity Action leadership PAC and contributed almost 30 percent of that amount to Republican candidates and committees. Ryan is said to have his eye on another seat — the powerful chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee — which may explain his eagerness to win friends and influence among his GOP colleagues.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s leadership PAC, Reclaim America, made $593,000 of independent expenditures on its way to spending 18 percent of its funds helping other candidates. Of that amount, 60 percent went to research and advertising in Iowa, where Republican Joni Ernst is in a neck-and-neck Senate race, but also where the first ballots of the 2016 presidential race will be cast. Rubio’s PAC also spent $1 million on strategy and research, with Something Else Strategies the largest recipient at close to $300,000. In 2010, the firm helped Rubio beat then-Gov. Charlie Crist, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for Senate, in one of the biggest Tea Party-fueled upsets that year.

Although Sen. Ted Cruz’s Jobs, Growth & Freedom Fund raised $1.8 million, just $81,000 made its way to other federal candidates, including $17,000 to candidates running in Iowa and New Hampshire. The PAC also made $282,000 in independent expenditures, of which $266,666, or 94 percent, were in the same two states. Its biggest expense was $157,000 paid to Campaign HQ, a political consulting firm headquartered in Iowa.

Of the $3.1 million that Rand Paul’s Reinventing a New Direction PAC raised, more than half — $1.6 million — was spent on fundraising, with Strategic Fundraising, a Chicago-based telemarketing firm, winning the lion’s share. The libertarian leaning Kentucky senator spent just seven percent of his funds helping other candidates or committees, with the biggest chunk — $164,800 — poured into independent expenditures. The largest sum was spent supporting GOP Sen. Pat Roberts in Kansas, but RANDPAC also chipped in $12,000 of support for conservative Senate candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Ready for Hillary has been a prolific money-raking machine, with $10.3 million in receipts in its first year and half of operations. According to Party Time, it’s hosted 38 events since October 2013, including events with politicos in Iowa, Chicago and Los Angeles.

A hybrid super PAC, Ready for Hillary maintains separate accounts: one that abides by campaign finance limits that traditional PACs follow so that it can contribute to candidates, and a second that accepts contributions in unlimited amounts that can be used for independent expenditures. The former account made $2,600 contributions to a pair of Democratic House candidates; it also transferred more $209,000 to other federal committees, mostly parties.

Ready for Hillary’s biggest expenditures were to Rising Tide Interactive, a list-building firm that’s creating a “grassroots movement from the ground up” for the potential presidential candidate. The firm received $1.9 million or its efforts.

Election Day 2016 is only 735 days — and billions of dollars — away.