The final stretch: The big-spending super PACs behind Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton at a podium speaking at a rally.
Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally in Des Moines, Iowa, in October 2016. (Photo credit: Barbara Kinney-Hillary for America/Flickr)

If the story of Donald Trump’s supporting super PACs is one of disarray and infighting with underwhelming financial results, the story of Hillary Clinton’s super PACs is one of total domination. Outside groups supporting Clinton have outspent Trump groups nearly two to one, and one group, Priorities USA, has been able to command record-shattering amounts of money. The situation couldn’t be more different than 2012, when groups supporting Romney drastically outspent those supporting Obama. Some of the big players from that election, like American Crossroads, are sitting out this round, largely thanks to Trump.

As we head into the last week before the election, let’s take a look at what the super PACs supporting Clinton have spent. We’re focusing on the groups specifically dedicated to Clinton that we profiled last year, as well as the millions are being spent by other groups.

Priorities USA Action

  • Total receipts: $175,968,142
  • Total spending: $161,244,075
  • Total independent expenditures: $117,047,422

Priorities USA is the outside spending behemoth of this election, and indeed all time, raising more money than any super PAC in history: more than $175 million to date. The group has made $108,977,100 in independent expenditures, meaning it finally passed the pro-Jeb Bush super PAC Right to Rise USA. Its last filing showed that it had $15 million cash on hand as of Oct. 19. Almost all of its independent expenditures, $110 million, have been ads opposing Trump rather than supporting Clinton.

Priorities’ biggest donors include some Democratic megadonors: hedge-fund manager Donald Sussmann, who has given a total of $21 million to the group, businessman George Soros and entrepreneur Fred Eychaner.

Priorities also has a joint fundraising committee with EMILY’s List Women Vote!, which has raised exactly $1 million. It’s transferred most of that money to Women Vote!.

Correct the Record

  • Total receipts: $9,422,574
  • Total spending: $8,085,616
  • Total independent expenditures: $0

Correct the Record is an interesting case. Its whole apparently legal existence depends on it not making independent expenditures, because it openly coordinates with the Clinton campaign, which is otherwise forbidden for a super PAC. Last year, a Correct the Record spokesperson told The Washington Post that the group would be using the FEC’s “internet exemption,” which exempts content posted for free online from the rules banning coordinated communications. Hacked emails from Wikileaks indicate that Correct the Record was indeed coordinating with the campaign.

But Correct the Record’s inability to run ads doesn’t mean it hasn’t been working to elect Clinton. Correct the Record received a lot of criticism in March when it announced its Barrier Breakers project, a “digital task force” to “push back” against anti-Clinton content on social media like Twitter and Reddit. Correct the Record claimed it would spend $1 million on this effort. So, according to Correct the Record at least, the group is spending money on supporting Clinton — just not on the “coordinated communications” that would be prohibited by the FEC. The Campaign Legal Center is not convinced by this argument, filing a complaint with the FEC earlier this month.

American Bridge 21st Century

  • Total receipts: $19,150,668
  • Total spending: $17,503,787
  • Total independent expenditures: $143,186

American Bridge, which primarily focuses on opposition research against GOP candidates, has only recently made any significant independent expenditures this cycle. In October, it made about $140,000 in expenditures against Trump on video production and mailings. The payee was Ourso Beychok Inc., which is owned by former American Bridge Campaign Director and current Media Matters President Bradley Beychok’s father, Michael Beychok. The New York Times reported in July 2015 that David Brock, the group’s founder, was leaving American Bridge to move to Correct the Record and focus on the “coordinated side,” where independent expenditures supporting Clinton were banned, but he’s continued to receive around $9,000 a month from the group, implying he never actually left the “so-called independent expenditure side.”

Aside from independent expenditures, American Bridge is still spending a lot of money: $17.5 million throughout the cycle. Most of that goes on payroll and consulting; of that, they’ve paid $2.1 million to the Bonner Group for fundraising work.

The rest

When we last wrote about the Clinton-supporting super PACs last year, we included Ready PAC, a hybrid super PAC formerly known as Ready for Hillary. That group has made no independent expenditures and hasn’t otherwise spent anything significant this year; its disbursements seem to be mostly payroll and legal costs.

A number of other groups have also dropped several million each on supporting Clinton or opposing Trump, spending enough to compete with the pro-Trump groups even without Priorities USA:

  • United We Can, a super PAC affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), has spent $8 million opposing Trump and $3.8 million supporting Clinton. The SEIU’s own super PAC has spent $2.8 million supporting Clinton.
  • Women Vote!, mentioned earlier, has spent $4.4 million opposing Trump and $4.2 million supporting Clinton. The rest of their $26 million in independent expenditures this cycle has gone toward various House and Senate races.
  • Planned Parenthood Votes, a super PAC arm of the eponymous group, has spent $2.5 million supporting Clinton and $2.7 million opposing Trump.
  • NextGen Climate Action Committee, a super PAC founded by megadonor environmentalist Tom Steyer, has spent $4.6 million opposing Trump.
  • FairShare Action, a super PAC which is almost entirely funded by dark money from affiliated 501(c)(4)s, has spent $1.1 million supporting Clinton.

To see how this compares with outside spending on Trump’s behalf, read our companion post on the pro-Trump super PACs.