In the first half of the year ahead of the 2016 presidential election, the super PAC affiliated with Jeb Bush raised four times as much money as all super PACs — combined — during the same period in 2011.
Together, all super PACs had raised nearly $26 million by the end of June 2011, according to an OpenSecrets Blog analysis. The top fundraiser at that point, the Mitt Romney-backing Restore Our Future, had brought in $12 million.
Right to Rise USA announced June 9 that it had raised the money from about 9,900 donors and declared that 400 of those gave more than $25,000. Restore Our Future, at the end of the same period in 2011, had just 90 contributions of more than $200, reports show.
In fact, in less than six months Right to Rise managed to raise more than all but two 2012 super PACs did in the entire two-year cycle. Those were Restore our Future and American Crossroads, Republican operative Karl Rove’s super PAC, which raised $154 million and $117 million, respectively. The super PAC that supported President Obama’s re-election campaign, Priorities USA Action, raised a total of just $79 million.
For months, reporters and political operatives have speculated that Right to Rise was swimming in money. The Washington Post reported in March that the super PAC had to politely ask its donors not to give more than $1 million right away.
Bush’s close association with the group, including the fact that he raised money for it for months leading up to when he formally entered the race, has triggered questions about whether the candidate illegally coordinated with the group.
One critic, Republican campaign lawyer Cleta Mitchell, noted that Bush could not have helped the group raise unlimited funds if he were a federal officeholder like several other candidates.
“Because he was not a federal officeholder, and not a governor, he didn’t have the legal restrictions that they face in fundraising,” Mitchell said. “Federal officeholders and candidates can’t raise more than $2,700 for a campaign or $5,000 for a PAC. Governors are restricted in being able to raise money from anyone in the financial services industry, which eliminates a lot of the sources of money.”
Mitchell has been affiliated with a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, the Conservative Solutions Project, supporting Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), one of Bush’s main rivals for the GOP nominations. The nonprofit has said it plans to spend more than $20 million on issue advertising in the race.
Of course, Right to Rise can start spending its massive haul as well. Last week, the group disclosed its first expenditures: $47,000 worth of media buys intended to oppose Democrat Hillary Clinton.