Which 2016 hopefuls made the best investments this year?


Not all of the political donors we evaluated in our post-election return on investment report are corporations or special interest groups trying to influence federal policy. A few are politicians or their backers who might have an eye on the White House two years from now.

Potential presidential hopeful John Bolton: Will his 2014 investments pay off?(Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

How the the potential presidential hopefuls fare with their 2014 political bets? As we pointed out already, many of the committees linked to possible 2016 candidates are holding money back for the next campaign but there were some well-placed investments this year.

Here’s a look at where the money behind some of the most frequently mentioned names for the next presidential race went this year, listed in order of amount of money spent:

1. John Bolton super PAC

The super PAC backing former President George W. Bush’s hawkish former U.N. ambassador for the presidency spent more money trying to get Republicans elected this year than any other group associated with a 2016 presidential hopeful: $3.2 million. But big bets equal bigger risks: The Bolton super PAC posted a lower rate of return than some of its rivals, at 76 percent. While the PAC backed winners in the North Carolina and Arkansas Senate races, it got blanked in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state of New Hampshire. The Bolton PAC backed Scott Brown, who failed to oust Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and opposed Ann Kuster, a New Hampshire Democrat who won re-election to the House. See a detailed profile of the Bolton super PAC on Sunlight’s Real-Time Federal Campaign Finance tracker.

2. Allen West Guardian PAC

The successor to a leadership PAC that West established before he lost his seat in Congress, the Guardian PAC spent $1.3 million helping Republican Senate and House candidates this year, boasting a 99 success rate so far. But one of West’s beneficiaries, Republican House candidate Dan Bongino, is waiting for more than 5,800 absentee ballots to be counted to learn whether he’ll succeed in his effort to oust Rep. John Delaney, D-Md. West, who remains a money magnet and sought-after speaker despite losing his seat in Congress, recently said he’s thinking about running for a different House. More details on the Allen West Guardian PAC are available here.

3. Reclaim America PAC

The official leadership PAC of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., had a 100 percent success rate on its investment of $562,955. The lion’s share of the PAC’s spending was — coincidentally enough — in Iowa, where Republican Joni Ernst nabbed an open Senate seat, but also where caucus-voters will cast the first ballots of the 2016 presidential race. Rubio also backed Republicans Tom Cotton in Arkansas and Cory Gardner in Colorado. Both ousted Democratic senators in states that have been key battlegrounds in in recent presidential contests. See more on Reclaim America PAC. Here’s a video where a ready-for-his-close-up Rubio touts his effort to “take back the Senate.”

4. National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee

The super PAC, which seems to be having some success in luring the charismatic conservative physician into the 2016 race, so far has a perfect score on its $531,788 in 2014 investments. The super PAC spent more than $300,000 to help Republican Thom Tillis oust Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C. And so far the investment that the group made against Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is looking good. The veteran senator has been forced into a Dec. 6 runoff. More details on the Draft Ben Carson Committee.

5. Jobs Growth and Freedom Fund

The leadership PAC of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, had a 52 percent return on investment on $282,655 in independent expenditures. Cruz won his $133,333 bet in Iowa on Joni Ernst, but spent the same amount backing Scott Brown’s unsuccessful Senate bid in New Hampshire. Cruz spent $5,333 each helping three other Senate candidates: Tom Cotton, who won in Arkansas, David Perdue, who won in Georgia, and Dan Sullivan who has a lead but is still waiting for the election to be called in Alaska. More details on the Cruz PAC here.

6. Reinventing A New Direction — RANDPAC

Rand Paul’s Reinventing a New Direction (RAND Pac) boasted a 90 percent return on a $164,800 investment helping Republicans win in Kansas, Kentucky, Iowa and North Carolina. His only bad bet: New Hampshire Senate. More details on RANDPAC.

In contrast to other groups touting 2016 presidential candidates, the Ready for Hillary super PAC made no independent expenditures on behalf of 2014 candidates, confining its limited campaign spending to transferring money to state Democratic committees.

And there are more 2016ers on the horizon: A Draft Rob Portman Committee, evidently aimed at enticing Ohio’s centrist GOP senator into the White House mix, filed registration papers on Monday with the Federal Election Commission.