Jeb Bush

Image courtesy of Right to Rise PAC

Will Bush Outsource Most Campaign Work?
| published April April 23, 2015 |

By Thursday Review staff

Presumed Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (a candidate in all but the strictest definitions) may have major political differences, but they also have something important in common: they are raising money at an eye-popping pace. In fact, Bush and Clinton each may yet set all-time record for the most money raised in a Presidential campaign.

Combined, they may also raise more than all other Presidential candidates in every U.S. election—that’s every election every four years since the beginning of the republic. Both Clinton and Bush already have massive, well-organized non-candidate PACs operating as shadow fundraisers for the actual campaign organizations. Ready for Hillary has been organizing, taking down names, sending emails, and generating money for more than two years. At first, Clinton and top staff sought to distance themselves from Ready for Hillary, but over time decided that the group would serve a valuable purpose by sowing seeds in the early soil of various states, as well as keeping the talk of her candidacy active even as she played it cool.

Now, Clinton’s campaign is operating at full speed—hiring top people in a dozen states, setting up sophisticated operations nationwide, and raking in donations from all 50 states. Meanwhile, Bush’s PAC, Right to Rise, has been active since January, and Bush himself is raising cash at an unprecedented clip.

Either Bush or Clinton could be the first candidate in history to rake-in, then spend, more than a billion dollars before this election cycle is over. Combined, they may break the billion dollar mark before the year is out.

But Bush may do something never attempted before: sub-contract his principal fundraising and cash deployment operations to an entirely separate group, a political action committee which would essentially run the campaign’s donations and spending, manage media operations and television advertising, supervise field operations, and maintain postal mailing lists and email data. Bush is strongly considering placing Right to Rise in charge of many of the day-to-day operations, and will allow the PAC to handle the lion’s share of fundraising—a move which will mean that for the first time in history, a PAC will outspend the official campaign organization of the candidate it supports.

All of this is perfectly legal under current campaign finance laws, though many political analysts say that the move will be complex and risky—essentially sub-contracting fundraising and spending to an outside group which may, as time goes on, operate according to its own internal and external guidelines and without regard to the position of the official campaign staff. But those close to Bush say that the arrangement would not only be in keeping with Bush’s management style, but might also set a positive tone for his 2016 campaign strategy, allowing him to emphasize privatization. Other says that this template would also take pressure off of Bush and his top people to vet and hire staff and micromanage fundraising activity.

The trick is that under current campaign finance laws—those agreed upon after Supreme Court rulings in 2010 and a major rewrite of the laws by the Federal Election Commission—neither the candidate nor his staff can coordinate campaign activity with a super PAC. Any form of communication or collaboration would be a direct violation of those laws. Thus the tricky and complex part of the arrangement: once set in motion, Bush and his top people would have to be extremely careful not to cross that line.

But those close to the Bush staff say that the rewards may exceed the risk. Under the provisions of the FEC laws and those Supreme Court rulings, Super PACs have the capacity to raise unlimited amounts of cash, deploying it and spending it in ways out of reach of the official campaigns. Bush and his strategists also see this new arrangement as a potential counterweight to what most analysts say will be a powerhouse fundraising effort by Clinton and her supporters.

Regardless of the Bush strategy, fundraising and campaign spending is sure to break all records—including those previous political spending highs set by President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney in 2012. And that means television advertising on a scale sure to boggle the mind.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Clinton Foundation Will Continue to Accept Foreign Cash; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; April 16, 2015.

Bush Vs. Clinton: Transparency Wars; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; March 19, 2015.