Money talking loudly: A guide to the super PACs
Reports newly filed with federal regulators produce the first major accounting of who is paying for the 2016 presidential campaign.
Washington — Nearly all of the contenders for president are encouraging their deep-pocketed donors to give not just to their campaigns, but to groups known as super PACs as well.
Unlike campaigns, these outside groups aren't limited in how much money they can accept from individual donors. While they can't directly take orders from the candidates they're spending money to help elect, they still account for about $2 of every $3 raised so far in the 2016 race for president.
Many super PACs had to file their first fundraising reports with federal regulators by midnight Friday. The super PAC filings will detail how money was raised and spent from January to the end of June and include the names of donors.
Two weeks ago, many of the candidates filed their first campaign fundraising reports. Together, the reports from the super PACs and the candidates will produce the first major accounting of who is paying for the campaign for president.
Here is a guide to what's already known about the presidential super PACs, based on information provided by the groups and their official filings with the Federal Election Commission.
THE BIGGEST DONORS
A super PAC aiming to help Texas Sen. Ted Cruz win the Republican presidential nomination raised from a single donor nearly as much as the candidate's formal campaign raised in three months. A $10 million donation from Toby Neugebauer is the largest contribution so far to any of the candidate-specific super PACs. Neugebauer is an energy investor in Texas and the son of GOP Rep. Randy Neugebauer. The money went to Keep the Promise II, one of several similarly named super PACs all working to help elect Cruz.
The Wilks family in Texas pooled together for a $15 million gift to a second pro-Cruz super PAC. Brothers Farris and Dan Wilks made billionaire lists by getting into the booming shale gas industry.
LOCAL MILLIONS FOR WALKER, RUBIO
TD Ameritrade's billionaire founder Joe Ricketts, his wife, Marlene, and their son Todd together gave just over $5 million to a super PAC supporting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's Republican presidential ambitions. The Ricketts family owns the Chicago Cubs. Diane Hendricks, the billionaire executive of a wholesale roofing company headquartered in Wisconsin, also wrote a $5 million check.
Those donors accounted for half of the money raised by the pro-Walker super PAC, called Unintimidated. Richard Uihlein and his wife, Elizabeth, gave $2.5 million. In recent years, Uihlein moved his packaging supply company, Uline, entirely out of Illinois and into Wisconsin because of tax incentives.
Million-dollar donors also featured prominently in the super PAC supporting Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's presidential bid. Miami-based automobile dealer Norman Braman gave $5 million; Besilu Stables LLC, owned by Miami health care executive Benjamin Leon, gave $2.5 million. In total, the group Conservative Solutions pulled in about $16 million, including a $3 million gift from Oracle founder Larry Ellison.
A lone local donor also is propping up the super PAC supporting former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Of the $3.6 million raised by Pursuing America's Greatness, 83 percent came from Ronald Cameron, chief executive of Arkansas-based Mountaire Corp., one of the country's largest poultry companies.
JEB BUSH'S JUGGERNAUT
Right to Rise, a super PAC helping Republican former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, is backed by two dozen donors who have given $1 million or more. Miguel "Mike" Fernandez, a Miami health care investor, made the biggest contribution at just over $3 million.
Four Texas couples who built fortunes from the oil and gas industry are also among the biggest donors, with each couple contributing $2 million: Trevor and Jan Rees-Jones, Ray and Nancy Hunt, Richard and Nancy Kinder, and Hushang and Shahla Ansary.
Both of Bush's ex-president relatives also donated to Right to Rise. His father, George H.W. Bush, gave $125,000; brother George W. Bush gave $95,000. Jeb Bush aggressively courted big donors in the six months before he announced his presidential campaign, when he faced no legal restrictions on his work with the super PAC. Now that he's a candidate, Right to Rise is in the hands of a longtime friend and strategist, Mike Murphy.
Another highlight of the Right to Rise donor list is corporate money. Four dozen corporations or organizations gave a total of more than $16 million to the super PAC, or about 15 percent of its overall haul.
The largest corporate contribution was $2 million from Rooney Holdings, a Tulsa, Oklahoma-based construction company. San Francisco-based American Pacific International Capital Inc., an investor and developer with projects in the United States and China, gave $1.3 million.
Another roughly $1 million gift came from Juno Beach, Florida-based Nextera Energy Inc., a large energy company that operates in 27 states and Canada. The company owns Florida Power and Light, the largest electric company in the state, where Bush was governor. The charitable trust for the U.S. Sugar Corporation, a sugar-cane producer based in Florida, gave $505,000.
Meanwhile, Manhattan-based Access Industries, an international holding company led by Len Blavatnik, one of the world's wealthiest men, gave $1 million to a pro-Walker super PAC and $500,000 to one supporting the longshot presidential ambitions of South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.
The Supreme Court's 2010 decision in the case Citizens United made it clear that corporations and unions can contribute in unlimited ways to political races, so long as that money comes through outside groups that are not directly coordinated with the candidates. Corporations and unions remain legally barred from giving to the official campaigns of the candidates.
CHRIS CHRISTIE SUPPORTERS
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie may not be leading in the Republican presidential polls, but his supporters are contributing six and seven figures to a super PAC supporting his candidacy.
The filing from the America Leads super PAC provides one of the first insights into Christie's fundraising network, which includes notable names such as New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon, Hewlett-Packard Chief Meg Whitman and Linda McMahon, the former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment. The group raised $11 million through the end of June.
Among the largest contributions were $1 million each from hedge fund manager Steven Cohen and his wife Alexandra Marie Cohen, and $750,000 from Quicken Loans founder Daniel Gilbert. Christie's brother Todd gave $100,000, while long time Christie cheerleader and Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone gave $250,000.
The list, according to a person familiar with the numbers, includes more than a dozen billionaires as well as many donors the group believes could afford to spend much more should the governor's campaign take off in the coming months. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss donors' financial information.
RAND PAUL'S (PAY)PALS
PayPal board member and Silicon Valley investor Scott Banister gave $1.25 million to Concerned American Voters, one of three super PACs supporting Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's presidential bid. All three filed their FEC reports earlier this week.
Two other donors gave big to pro-Paul entities. Jeff Yass, managing director of high-frequency trading firm Susquehanna International Group, split a $2 million contribution between Purple PAC and America's Liberty. George Macricostas, head of a data center company called RagingWire, gave more than $1 million to America's Liberty.
Thanks mostly to those three donors, the trio of pro-Paul super PACs raised about $6 million through the end of June.
RICK PERRY'S TEXAS TWOSOME
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry isn't performing well enough in national polls to guarantee he'll have a spot on the first GOP debate stage, and his campaign has so far only raised about $1 million. But thanks to two Texans, his presidential effort has the money to carry on.
Several super PACs working together as an operation called Opportunity and Freedom say they raised $16.8 million through June 30. About two-thirds came from Kelcy Warren and Darwin Deason.
Warren, a billionaire Dallas energy executive who gave $6 million, also serves as finance chairman of Perry's campaign. Because of that position, he's legally restricted in what he can tell the super PAC. Fellow Dallas businessman Deason gave $5 million. Deason made his fortune by selling Affiliated Computer Services, a data-processing company, to Xerox.
There won't be much talk of Democrats in the presidential super PAC filings. That's because they account for less than 9 percent of the total super PAC haul so far, according to an Associated Press analysis that compared money raised by formal presidential campaigns with what the super PACs say they plan to report having raised on Friday.
Priorities USA Action, the main group helping Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton, will report having raised $15.6 million by June 30. Haim Saban, an entertainment executive, gave $2 million to Priorities, making him the top donor. Hedge fund billionaire George Soros, one of the biggest Democratic donors in earlier elections, gave $1 million.