If you have watched TV recently, you have probably seen advertisements by Super PACs (political action committees) in support of, or in opposition to, candidates of both parties.
OpenSecrets.org publishes a useful summary of such organizations in the Influence and Lobbying section of their website under PACs.
For example, the latest report shows the Right To Rise USA Super PAC in support of Jeb Bush raised about $118 million, and already spent almost $70 million of it trying to help him in early primaries.
Contrast that to the Jeb Bush campaign committee, which is constrained by campaign finance rules which do not apply to Super PACs, which can raise unlimited amounts of money. Individuals can donate millions of dollars at a time to Super PACs if they can afford it. The campaign committees face many constraints. In the case of the Jeb Bush committee, it raised about $32 million and already spent $24 million of it at the end of 2015.
Ted Cruz had raised about $47 million for his campaign, and spent about $28 million. There are multiple Super PACs which support him, and they have raised over $40 million while spending only a little over $10 million of it in 2015.
You can find the original data at FEC.gov, but it is cumbersome to research. OpenSecrets.org makes it much easier to see the scope of all such PACs in both parties, and who they favor or oppose. Super PACs invest almost nothing in grassroots work to grow the base of the party between elections.
Most of the major candidates now have Super PACs for 2016 through which they have raised well over $200 million in total. Once again, that is in addition to their campaign committees as well as other PACs such as lobbying groups and party organizations which may also assist them.
By the end of the 2012 election cycle, Super PACs had already spent over $600 million. It may well go over $1 billion in the 2016 election cycle, plus many tens of millions spent by the individual candidate campaigns and the party organizations or regular PACs.
It is sad to consider where most of this money actually goes. A high percentage goes to produce and place those TV ads you probably ignore. They buy up virtually all of the available television ad time in target markets at election time. That is a great windfall for the liberal TV networks which don’t even reliably reach active or potential Republican voters, or treat such candidates and their issues fairly.
In effect, many wealthy Republican donors are trying to help the candidates of their choice, but in doing so are enriching the liberal media channels which do not even treat Republican candidates fairly, or present policy issues and news fairly. Worse yet, the ads do not necessarily reach and influence the voters they need to persuade to support Republican candidates. It is a massive gamble which may not produce many votes, while grassroots field work produces results.
Would successful people normally give away millions of dollars to organizations with so little accountability for performance? Their desperation to win is helping liberal media channels to prosper as candidates lose.