How to Give Back $157m

Su­per PACs have a prob­lem once their fa­vored pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates drop out “A lot of donors prob­a­bly as­sume that the▶...▶has to be used on pol­i­tics”

Bloomberg Businessweek (Europe) - - POLITICS/ POLICY -

All last year su­per PACs had one goal: raise as much money as pos­si­ble for the can­di­dates they backed. They suc­ceeded. In 2015 the groups, which can col­lect un­lim­ited funds to sup­port political causes, amassed about $343 mil­lion on be­half of pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates—an un­prece­dented amount. About $157 mil­lion re­mained in su­per PAC ac­counts on Dec. 31, the last time they were re­quired to file fi­nan­cial state­ments with the Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion (FEC); of that, more than half was held by su­per PACs sup­port­ing Repub­li­cans John Ka­sich, Chris Christie, Carly Fio­r­ina, Marco Ru­bio, and Jeb Bush. Those groups spent heav­ily in New Hamp­shire, fu­el­ing more than $40 mil­lion in ad buys in the weeks be­fore the state’s Feb. 9 pri­mary, and an ad­di­tional $12 mil­lion in South Carolina, where Repub­li­cans will hold their pri­mary on Feb. 20. (Christie and Fio­r­ina an­nounced on Feb. 10 they were sus­pend­ing their cam­paigns.) As other Repub­li­cans come un­der in­creas­ing pres­sure from the party to win or get out of the way, the su­per PACs face a quandary: what to do if they’ve raised more money than they end up spend­ing.

In Septem­ber, Wis­con­sin Gov­er­nor Scott Walker, a fa­vorite of Tea Party ac­tivists, be­came the first ma­jor Repub­li­can to drop out of the race. His cam­paign was go­ing broke af­ter spend­ing lav­ishly on staff salaries and travel, and Walker de­cided to back out rather than in­cur ad­di­tional debt. In Novem­ber he sent out an e-mail so­lic­it­ing do­na­tions to pay off more than $1 mil­lion in out­stand­ing bills. “We feel per­son­ally ob­li­gated to make sure that ev­ery small busi­ness that ex­tended us their good faith and credit is re­paid,” Walker wrote.

Un­in­tim­i­dated PAC, the group sup­port­ing Walker, still had about $20 mil­lion of the $23 mil­lion it had raised to sup­port Walker’s bid. By law, Un­in­tim­i­dated was pro­hib­ited from bail­ing out the cam­paign but faced very few other re­stric­tions. Can­di­dates are strictly reg­u­lated on fundrais­ing and spend­ing, but su­per PACs aren’t

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