George W. Bush brother’s campaign to use outside groups to win in 2016
Ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the younger brother of former U.S. President George W. Bush, is preparing to embark on an experiment in U.S. presidential politics: delegating many of the key tasks of seeking the White House to a separate political organization that can raise unlimited amounts of campaign cash.
The strategy aims to take maximum advantage of a new world of campaign finance created by a pair of 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decisions that gave rise to organizations known as super PACs, which have become huge players in America’s political landscape.
The catch is that super PACs are legally barred from coordinating their actions with the candidates or campaigns they support. But the architects of Bush’s plan believe the ability of super PACs to raise unlimited amounts of money legally outweighs that disadvantage.
Bush, the son and brother of two former presidents, has not yet formally entered the race for the 2016 Republican Party nomination but an announcement is expected soon. The former Florida governor has aggressively laid out the groundwork for a campaign, emerging as one of the top-tier candidates in a crowded field of potential Republican hopefuls looking to challenge likely Democratic Party nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Super PACs have been created to support other candidates, including Clinton. But Bush’s plan would be the first to endow his super PAC, called Right to Rise, not just with advertising on his behalf, but with many of the duties typically conducted by a campaign.
“Nothing like this has been done before,” said David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, which opposes limits on campaign finance donations. “It will take a high level of discipline to do it.”
For Bush, the potential benefits are enormous. Campaigns can raise only US$2,700 (NT$83,765) per donor for the primary and US$2,700 for the general election. But super PACs are able to raise boundless amounts of cash from individuals, corporations and groups such as labor unions.
The Risk for Bush
The risk for Bush is that once he enters the race, his super PAC will not have access to him and his senior strategists to make pivotal decisions about how to spend the massive amount of money it will take to win the Republican nomination and, if successful, the White House.
For example, if the campaign decided to change its focus from one issue to another, it could not share that decision with the super PAC.
Critics believe that coordination can take place surreptitiously, and such illegal activity isn’t punished by the Federal Election Commission comprised of three Democratic and three Republican members unable to agree on most anything.
Former FEC commissioner Scott Thomas, a Democrat, doubts the Justice Department would ever look at such a case because the FEC has been so precise in detailing what is allowed and what is not.
“You’d have to show a true smoking gun, showing the candidate controlling the campaign and the super PAC,” said Thomas, a lawyer now in private practice in Washington.
One way Bush is already addressing the coordination ban is by frontloading his efforts inside Right to Rise. Because he is not yet a candidate, he can now spend time raising money for the super PAC and take part in strategic campaign planning under its auspices. He has raised tens of millions of U.S. dollars for Right to Rise.
One reason Bush’s aides are comfortable with the strategy is because Mike Murphy, Bush’s longtime political confidant, would probably run the super PAC once Bush enters the race.
Should Bush move ahead as his team intends, it is possible that for the first time a super PAC created to support a single candidate would spend more than the candidate’s campaign itself — at least through the primaries. Some of Bush’s donors believe that to be more than likely.
The exact design of the strategy remains fluid. But at its center is the idea of placing Right to Rise in charge of the brunt of the biggest expense of electing Bush: television advertising and direct mail.
Right to Rise could also break into new areas for a candidatespecific super PAC, such as data gathering, highly individualized online advertising and running phone banks. Also on the table, tasking the super PAC with crucial campaign endgame strategies, such as the operation to get out the vote.
The campaign itself would still handle those things that require Bush’s direct involvement, such as candidate travel. It would still pay for advertising, conduct polling and collect voter data.
Bush’s plans were described to The Associated Press by two Republicans and several Bush donors familiar with the plan, who spoke on condition of anonymity because Bush has not announced his candidacy.
Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said: “Any speculation on how a potential campaign would be structured, if he were to move forward, is premature at this time.”