With Bush Out, Clinton Tops 2016 Super PAC Support

Pro-Clinton group Priorities USA rakes in $9.5 million from just six donors in January

Hillary Clinton / AP
February 23, 2016

With the Republican field winnowing and wealthy Democratic donors writing massive checks, Hillary Clinton now boasts the richest super PAC of any presidential candidate.

Priorities USA Action, a super PAC backing Clinton’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, brought in $9.6 million in January, $9.5 million of which came from just a half-dozen donors.

The group has raised more than $50 million total during the 2016 election cycle, more than any other super PAC except for Right to Rise, which backed the Republican candidacy of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Bush withdrew from the race on Saturday after a disappointing showing in the South Carolina Republican primary. It remains to be seen what the group will do with the $118 million it raised since last year.

Despite its impressive fundraising totals, Right to Rise only has about $24 million cash on hand, compared to the $45 million that Priorities USA currently has in the bank. That sum makes the latter the wealthiest super PAC of the cycle at present.

Super PACs are technically independent of candidates and their official campaigns, meaning Right to Rise could spend its remaining money supporting or opposing other candidates. It could also return the money to donors, or give it to charity.

"I don't think there's much they can't do with the money—as long as they're not giving it directly to a candidate or party," said Robert Maguire, a researcher and reporter with the Center for Responsive Politics.

"If they wanted to make a name for themselves on Atlas Obscura, they could commission a 400-foot Jeb! statue made of gold," Maguire said. "I'm not a lawyer, but I'm pretty sure that would be legal, too."

In the meantime, Priorities USA has assumed the mantle of wealthiest super PAC committed to backing a single 2016 presidential candidate.

Some of the Democratic Party’s biggest names and deepest pockets have contributed to the group in recent months. Billionaire financier George Soros has donated $7 million. Prominent Clinton backers Cheryl and Haim Saban have chipped in $5 million. Director Steven Spielberg has given $1 million.

The group has also received $1 million from a liberal dark money group, though the sources of those funds are not known.

In January, Priorities donors continued their generosity. The group brought in six seven-figure contributions.

Those included a $3.5 million donation from hedge fund magnate Jim Simons, $1 million each from venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker and his wife Mary Kathryn, $1 million from Houston trial lawyer John Mostyn, $1 million from Slim Fast founder Daniel Abraham, and $2 million from the Laborers International Union of North America.

The vast majority of money given to Priorities during this election cycle has come from high-dollar donors. Among itemized contributions—those above $200—the average donation to the group since last year is more than $400,000.

It has received just $2,245 in contributions below $200.

By way of comparison, National Nurses United for Patient Protection, the one super PAC supporting Clinton rival Sen. Bernie Sanders, has raised just $2.2 million this cycle. The Sanders campaign has repeatedly highlighted its reliance on small-dollar donors to fund its campaign.