The news that Jeb Bush's official presidential campaign account is running out of money may have been taken as bad news by some in the Republican Party.
They have been concerned about the surprising rise of outsider Donald Trump, while at the same time the expected GOP pack leader, Bush, has been unable to gain even half as much support in the national polls as compared to top dog Trump. And the concern of so-called "establishment" Republicans was likely only compounded when it was just disclosed that three key, seasoned Bush fundraising operatives have departed the campaign.
Republican presidential candidates, businessman Donald Trump, left, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush talk together before the start of the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP/Chris Carlson)
"Troubling Signs" is how Politico headlined the news of the recent Bush campaign personnel changes. There was some uncertainty over whether the fundraisers had resigned or were let go, but it was clear that Bush's official campaign is having serious problems raising enough of its own money in the wake of the Trump juggernaut.
The Bush campaign is clearly going through a round of belt-tightening as Trump continues to rise in the polls. According to the New York Times, just before the three fundraisers made their departure, the Bush campaign had gone through an additional round of staff and salary reductions.
Bush supporters have minimized the apparent growing financial problems of Jeb's presidential campaign. They say there is plenty of pro-Bush campaign money in the bank.
Politico observes that "Bush's Super PAC," which must be legally independent of the official campaign, has had "massive success raising money." According to Breitbart, "Bush's Super PAC," the Right to Rise PAC, raised $103 million in the first six months of 2015, while Bush's official campaign raised $11 million. The "Bush Super PAC" success in fundraising has even inspired catcalls from billionaire Trump, who has charged that Jeb is hardly independent of the many wealthy donors who have given to it, calling Jeb a "puppet" of its donors during a speech at the Iowa State Fair.
Yet as Jeb's official campaign fundraising and spending appears to be in some degree of turmoil, a key point missing from news reports about the well-funded independent "Bush Super PAC" that Bush supporters are relying on, is the word "independent."
Super PACs are a fairly recent phenomena, and an outgrowth of a string of federal court decisions that establish that the Federal Election Commission's former restrictions on the amount of money and sources of campaign finances to candidate committees cannot be extended to so-called "independent expenditures."
In return for maintaining independence from an official campaign of a candidate, a Super PAC is allowed to collect contributions in excess of the limits on contribution amounts imposed by the FEC on official campaigns, and can raise funds from sources that are otherwise prohibited by the FEC, such as corporations and unions. But the Super PAC must operate independently from the candidates it chooses to support.
Jeb Bush, former Florida governor and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, signs his autograph following an announcement tour at Molengracht Plaza in Pella, Iowa, U.S., on Wednesday, June 17, 2015. Bush insisted 4 percent annual U.S. economic growth for a decade is an attainable goal as he campaigned today in Iowa, brushing aside questions raised by economists about whether he's overreaching. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
The truth is, the "Right to Rise" PAC is not Jeb Bush's PAC. Rather, it is an independent political committee of organizers and donors who, for the time being, are Jeb Bush supporters. All it takes to create a Super PAC like "Right to Rise" is to file a simple Statement of Organization, FEC Form 1, under a cover letter that promises the following to the FEC:
"This committee intends to make unlimited independent expenditures, and consistent with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decision in SpeechNow v. FEC, it therefore intends to raise funds in unlimited amounts. This committee will not use those funds to make contributions, whether direct, in-kind, or via coordinated communications, to federal candidates or committees."
Thus, "Right to Rise" really isn't Jeb Bush's Super PAC. It is rather, an independent expenditure committee of operatives and donors that Trump sarcastically refers to as the "puppeteers," who favor Bush right now. And since it is indeed legally independent of Jeb Bush, it is not legally committed to support him. An amount like $103 million is not a sum to be invested unwisely.
The "Right to Rise" PAC could decide to support or oppose any of the 17 candidates currently running for the GOP nomination, not just Bush. Should Bush continue to fail to gain traction in the polls, if his support further erodes, and as the primary process proceeds to what some political veterans are suggesting will be a "brokered convention," this observer suggests that six months from now the "Right to Rise" PAC may not continue to be referred to as the "Bush Super PAC" in the press.
James V. Lacy, a frequent guest on Fox Business News Channel's "Varney & Company, is editor of "Taxifornia 2016: 14 Essays on the Future of California"
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