Clinton hasn’t won the nomination, but she’s already raised millions for the Democratic Party
Democrats are taking advantage of new rules lifting gift limits “There’s more confidence … this money will be used to benefit her”
Although the primary season is just getting under way, Hillary Clinton has already started raising money as if she’s the nominee. In September, Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee created the Hillary Victory Fund, a vehicle for soliciting large donations and distributing the proceeds to her campaign, the DNC, and 33 state parties that have agreed to
accept money from Clinton’s fund. (Some states, like Iowa, aren’t participating.) Since then, Clinton has raised $26.9 million for the fund. That includes at least 24 contributions of more than $300,000 apiece, some from her most loyal donors: Florida billionaire S. Daniel Abraham, Los Angeles entertainment mogul Haim Saban and his wife, Cheryl, and financier George Soros.
Joint fundraising committees are nothing new; in 2012, both Mitt Romney and President Obama set them up after they secured their party’s nomination. The 2014
Supreme Court decision McCutcheon
v. Federal Election Commission effectively eliminated limits on giving to party and campaign committees in each two-year election cycle, set at $117,000 in 2012. Now, deep-pocketed donors can give hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.
The only other way to make such large contributions is by giving to outside groups like super PACs, which can take unlimited donations but aren’t allowed to coordinate directly with candidates. “This is money the candidate controls,” says Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign-finance watchdog.
The DNC urged candidates to take advantage of the new rules by creating joint fundraising committees in 2015 for the benefit of themselves and the party, before they know whether they’ll win the nomination. The first $2,700 of any contribution to the Hillary Victory Fund goes straight to Clinton’s campaign. The next $33,400 goes to the DNC, and the remainder is split evenly among participating states.
Bernie Sanders set up his joint fundraising committee, the Bernie Victory Fund, in November. So far it’s reported only one contribution, a $1,000 transfer from the DNC, which is the only entity aside from Sanders’s own campaign committee designated as a recipient of funds. No one in the crowded field of Republican candidates has set up a similar vehicle. “I expect that there’s more confidence on the part of Clinton that this money will be used to benefit her,” Krumholz says.
So far, the Hillary Victory Fund
has distributed $2.9 million to state committees. “Hillary’s always made it a priority to strengthen the party,” says Josh Schwerin, a spokesman for her campaign. “She believes in the importance of electing Democrats up and down the ballot.”