Published — September 21, 2018

Election 2018 is awash in special interest cash

In this Sept. 24, 2013, file photo, just cut stacks of $100 bills make their way down the line at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing Western Currency Facility in Fort Worth, Texas. LM Otero/AP

From Bezos and Bloomberg to Facebook and Planned Parenthood, major midterm players abound

This story is co-published with The Atlantic.


With fewer than 50 days remaining before Election Day 2018, political action committees and super PACs are raising and spending huge amounts of money in an effort to influence politicians and propel their preferred U.S. House and U.S. Senate candidates into office.

Republicans are attempting to retain control of both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate, but Democrats are well positioned to at least capture the House — something that would significantly complicate President Donald Trump’s legislative agenda during the final two years of his first term.

Here are some notable numbers the Center for Public Integrity found Thursday in a new round of monthly campaign finance disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission:

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing as Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, appears on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 4, 2018. 
Andrew Harnik/AP

$5,000: How much the political action committee of GEO Group, a private prison company that operates immigrant detention facilities in Texas and elsewhere, gave in August to the re-election campaign of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Private prison company CoreCivic’s PAC, meanwhile, gave $15,000 to the Republican party’s U.S. House campaign arm in August. The companies are pursuing additional federal contracts to hold detainees fighting potential deportation.

Almost 8:1: Ratio of money Facebook’s PAC gave to Republican interests versus Democratic interests during August. The PAC’s biggest contribution, $15,000, went to the National Republican Congressional Committee, which supports GOP candidates for the U.S. House.

$10,129,170: The official amount Amazon.com CEO and founder Jeff Bezos contributed in August to the With Honor Fund, Inc., a bipartisan PAC that works to elect military veterans. The contribution by Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, was about 97 percent of the money the PAC received in August.

$900,000: Amount conservative megadonor and Illinois resident Richard Uihlein plowed into Solutions for Wisconsin, a super PAC, in his unsuccessful bid to propel businessman and Marine Corps veteran Kevin Nicholson to Wisconsin’s Republican U.S. Senate nomination. Nicholson lost to state Sen. Leah Vukmir last month. Uihlein has previously given $3.5 million to Solutions for Wisconsin, according to FEC records. All told, he’s donated more than $31 million during the 2017-2018 election cycle to various political committees.

Republican U.S. Rep. Chris Collins leaves federal court Aug. 8, 2018, in New York. Collins, who represents New York’s 27th District, was arrested this summer on charges he fed inside information he gleaned from sitting on the board of a biotechnology company to his son. After initially suspending his re-election campaign, he’s running again.
Frank Franklin II/AP

84: Number of Democratic congressional candidates now on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red to Blue” roster — such a designation “arms top-tier candidates with organizational and fundraising support to help them continue to run strong campaigns” while providing “strategic guidance, staff resources, candidate trainings and more,” according to the DCCC. Notable is who’s not on the list: Democrat Nate McMurray, who’s running in New York’s 27th District race against Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y. Democratic super PACs also have yet to spend big in support of McMurray. Collins, who represents one of New York state’s most conservative districts, is under federal indictment for alleged insider trading and faces a House ethics inquiry that could result in sanctions, including his removal from office. Collins, who suspended his re-election campaign in August then restarted it this week, also hasn’t committed to serving if he wins re-election.

$1.6 million: How much former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave to Independence USA PAC, a super PAC focused on “gun laws, the environment and education policy.” Bloomberg spent the $1.6 million on in-kind polling and research services, according to super PAC’s latest filing. Bloomberg, who is actively considering running for president, committed to spending $80 million on the 2018 midterms to swing control back to the Democratic party — although he’s recently said he’s “not with the Democratic Party on everything.”

136: Number of state-level political candidates to whom the federal PAC of oil giant ExxonMobil contributed money from Aug. 13 through Aug. 15. The PAC especially targeted politicos in North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wyoming. It’s not unheard of for a federal PAC to make contributions to state-level politicians, but rarely will one make so many such contributions in such a brief period of time. An ExxonMobil representative did not respond to a request for comment.

$2.1 million: Amount super PAC League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund received from Bloomberg and Democratic megadonor Michael D. Bills — they gave $2 million and $100,000 respectively. LCV Victory Fund spends money to defeat federal candidates who oppose “clean energy” policies and to elect candidates who support them.

In this Aug. 6, 2015, file photo, Lin-Manuel Miranda appears at the curtain call following the opening night performance of “Hamilton” at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York.
Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

$100,000: What Lin-Manuel Miranda’s company, 5000 Broadway Productions, gave to Latino Victory Fund, a PAC that supports Latino candidates running for office. Latino Victory Fund recently launched a recruiting effort to encourage Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego to run for the late Sen. John McCain’s seat in Arizona’s 2020 special U.S. Senate election, according to Politico.

1: Number of political contributions Twitter’s PAC made in August. The recipient: Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., who got $2,700. At nearly 70,000 followers, Wicker’s official Twitter account ranks in the bottom half among U.S. senators. (On the low end, U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., has fewer than 15,000 followers, while Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has more than 7.9 million followers.)

$4,177: Income labeled “refund-media,” the only money that came into the John Bolton Super PAC in August. The super PAC did, however, spend more than $45,400 on legal fees last month — watchdog groups have filed multiple complaints against it — and still had more than $2.6 million in the back as of Aug. 30, federal records show. Bolton’s political arm went dormant when he joined the administration as national security adviser earlier this year.

$99,937.34: The difference between what Democratic super PAC Duty and Country raised and spent in August. The secretive group, which which formed in April, received one contribution last month: $100,000 from retired Illinois resident Robert Burt. It spent $62.66 in bank fees last month. Duty and Country took advantage of loopholes in disclosure law to delay disclosing its funders until after West Virginia conducted its U.S. Senate primary on May 8.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., talks to campaign volunteers at a Democratic campaign office on primary election day, Aug. 28, 2018, in Phoenix. Sinema is seeking the current U.S. Senate seat occupied by outgoing Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, and faces Republican Rep. Martha McSally in the general election.
(Ross D. Franklin/AP)

$1.1 million: Amount of cash Planned Parenthood Votes spent supporting Arizona’s Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema and opposing Republican Rep. Martha McSally. The super PAC shelled out more than $850,000 on Sinema alone, who received a score of 100 percent from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s scorecard that tracks congressional member voting records on legislation related to abortion and health insurance, among other issues.

$10,000: How much money Ed Rollins, co-chairman of the pro-Trump Great America PAC, earned in August from his PAC work. Rollins has weathered criticism this month for his comments about assault accusations in connection with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and how many Puerto Rico residents Hurricane Maria killed.

10: The number of Republicans candidates for federal office who each received a $1 contribution in August from Club for Growth on behalf of Jerald Smith, a part-time substitute teacher in Fort Worth, Texas.

$600,000: What billionaire businessman George Soros gave in August to new — and until now, financially secretive — liberal super PAC Red and Gold. Hedge funder James Simons and Austin W. Marxe of AWM Investment Company also gave $500,000 and $100,000 respectively in August, according to recent filings. Red and Gold’s latest filing also revealed Senate Majority PAC, a major Democratic super PAC, to be its largest donor so far with $1.7 million. Red and Gold last month spent significant money attacking Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., who ultimately won the Republican nomination for Arizona’s U.S. Senate seat. But it wasn’t fully known until Thursday who funded Red and Gold.

$7.4 million: The total amount given by just four megadonors to liberal Senate Majority PAC in August: Newsweb Corp. CEO Fred Eychaner ($4 million), Soros ($1.4 million), real estate broker George Marcus ($1 million) and comedian Bill Maher ($1 million). Those four together accounted for about 40 percent of the super PAC’s receipts in August.

183: Number of contributions to Trump’s re-election campaigns made in April, May or June that the FEC flagged as exceeding federal contribution limits. Trump campaign treasurer Bradley Crate explained in a letter Thursday to the FEC that the campaign has refunded, redesignated or otherwise addressed to comply with federal rules.

$0: Amount of money the National Football League’s PAC gave in August to federal politicians. Trump, along with other congressional Republicans, have been highly critical of the league’s policies regarding players protesting during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before games begin.

Read more in Money and Democracy

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