Buying of the President

Published — November 10, 2015 Updated — November 11, 2015 at 8:51 pm ET

Super PAC aims to fix Jeb Bush


During week before debate, Right to Rise USA airs more TV ads than anyone


Jeb Bush says he can fix the nation’s problems.

A moneyed super PAC, meanwhile, is fighting to fix Jeb.

Pro-Bush Right to Rise USA aired more than 1,400 ads on TV networks and national cable from Nov. 3 through Nov. 9, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of preliminary data provided by advertising tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG.

For the week, that represents nearly one in three presidential-focused TV ads aired by any candidate or political committee, Republican or Democratic — and roughly one of every two spots in the GOP presidential primary.

The super PAC boost comes at a critical time for Bush, who faces — in the words of Mitt Romney’s deputy campaign manager — a “make-or-break moment” while tonight sharing a Republican presidential debate stage with seven other GOP hopefuls.

And it allows Bush’s own campaign, which has struggled mightily to keep cash flowing, to conserve resources. A candidate’s own presidential campaign may only accept contributions of $2,700 per person, per election. Super PACs, in contrast, may gobble up contributions of any amount, at any time.

Consider that pro-Bush Right to Rise USA has sponsored nearly 10,000 TV ad spots for the election cycle through Monday. Bush own campaign? About 400.

Through June, the Right to Rise USA super PAC, which Bush himself formed before becoming a presidential candidate, had raised more than $100 million. Bush’s official campaign committee raised only about $25 million through the end of September.

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On one hand, the ad blitz — most are running on stations servicing early caucus and primary states Iowa,New Hampshire and South Carolina — haven’t seemed to help Bush much at all. Recent national polls show the former Florida governor languishing in single digits behind businessman Donald Trump, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

On the other, where might Bush be without them? In New Hampshire, where the pro-Bush super PAC has inundated the airwaves, Bush’s numbers are marginally better than his standing in national polls. Same in Iowa. Recent super PAC ads have focused on Bush’s record on jobs, financial matters and budgetary issues.

Among other developments from the past week’s presidential TV ad war:

  • Democrat Bernie Sanders’ campaign aired more than 1,050 TV spots, besting rival Hillary Clinton’s campaign by more than 200 ads. Sanders had not aired TV ads prior to this week, while Clinton has aired more than 9,000 for the election cycle.
  • Carson remains the only Republican candidate — among those enjoying TV ads about their candidacies — to not rely heavily on super PACs. Carson’s own campaign has sponsored more than 2,200 TV spots during the election cycle, which accounts for about 7.5 percent of TV ads so far in the Republican primary.
  • Among Republican advertisers, a nonprofit group supporting Rubio ranked second behind the pro-Bush Right to Rise USA super PAC in terms of total ads aired. The pro-Rubio Conservative Solutions Project was responsible for close to 700 spots last week, or nearly one of every four TV ads in the GOP presidential primary.

This story was co-published with Al Jazeera America.

Read more in Money and Democracy

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