US political action committees better known as super PACs filed their independent funding reports with the US Federal Election Commission on Monday, changing the balance of fundings that presidential hopefuls receive for their 2016 election campaigns.
Super PACs, namely “independent-expenditure only committees” can raise unlimited amounts of money for the candidates and spend independently of the campaigns.
Overall funding listings show that Republican Candidate Jeb Bush is leading the list with $120 million as the only candidate surpassing the $100 million threshold. Former Florida governor Bush owes most of his fundraising success to super PACs and other individual donors which raised $108.5 million for his campaign.
Former Secretary of State and frontrunning Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton follows ush with $66.4 million.
Former first lady raised the highest amount among all candidates through her own presidential campaign platform with $47.5 million however only $18.8 million from the super PAC donations pushed her to second place behind Bush.
Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz is the third most donated, raising $52.5 million in total. Renaissance Technologies executive Robert Mercer donated $11.3 million to the super PAC working for Cruz’ campaign, marking the highest donation from the super PACs.
Republican Scott Walker, whose presidential platform donation numbers are not available since he announced his presidential bid after the deadline for campaign fundings filings, raised $26.5 million through super PACs which makes him the fourth most funded candidate among all.
There are only two Democrats, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in the top 10 funded list, as Republicans dominate the early fundraising efforts.
The main reason for high disparity between the parties is the nature of the race on both sides.
Republicans work hard to raise as much as possible to cut an edge for themselves in a race which has no favourite, while Hillary Clinton’s status among democrats as clear front runner is considered the reason behind the lower amount of fundraising numbers early in the election cycle.
Role of super PACs in US elections
In addition to personal fundraising, US presidential candidates receive financial help from individuals, unions and other groups providing them unlimited funds through super PACs for anything they would need to promote the candidates, independently of the campaigns.
Super PACs play a major role in US elections since they tend to spend more money than the candidates themselves to promote their election campaigns.
There is a wide range of areas in which the funds are used, including advertising campaigns, chartered planes, hotel rooms, websites, lawyers and anything that would work to elevate the candidate among their opponents.
While super PACs are banned from coordinating directly with candidates or political parties, their managers can communicate with the candidates through the media.
The recent filings of super PACs fundraising reports show the money raised for the 2016 presidential candidates from April 1 to the end of this July.
Several donors funded candidates even before they announced their presidential bids, which could lead to debates about coordination rules which are already controversial.
Although a US Supreme Court case in 2010 held that independent political expenditures are constitutional because they should be evaluated in the scope of freedom of expression, the definition of “independency” of Super PACs is argued to be looser than it sounds.
A non-partisan watchdog organisation, Public Citizen, in a study analysing the 2012 elections, concluded that the reasoning behind the Supreme Court’s decision has “failed on its own terms.”
The presidential candidates are able to ask donors to create a super PACs on their behalf and find substitute ways to go around the coordination rules.
Several watchdog groups argue that candidates could be manipulating the Super PAC concept, which the US Supreme Court allowed following the First Amendment of the US constitution that prohibits the government from restricting independent funds.
However, super PACs insist that they comply with fundraising coordination laws.
David Donnelly, President of Every Voice, a group that support higher restrictions on campaign financing, said “Today’s revelations will just make voter cynicism about politics even worse.”
“How will candidates convince voters they aren’t beholden to $10 million donors?” he commented.
On the other hand, several critics argue that excessive amounts of donations are acceptable, however, coordination laws should be more strict to comply with the “independency” of funding system.
On Aug. 6, the first presidential debate with 10 candidates will take place on Fox news. Names of the candidates will be announced on Aug. 4.