Pro-DeSantis super PAC dominates cash race

Pro-DeSantis super PAC dominates cash race

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In today’s edition … DeSantis’s economic pitch, a lot like Trump’s … The real-life impact of an abortion ban … but first …

Pro-DeSantis super PAC dominates cash race

The super PACs backing former president Donald Trump and four of his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination each had at least $10 million in cash on hand on June 30, according to newly filed campaign finance disclosures.

It is the latest evidence that several Republicans are assembling enough financial support to allow them to compete with Trump for the nomination with the Iowa caucuses less than six months away.

No super PAC is as flush as Never Back Down Inc., which is backing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s campaign. The super PAC had nearly $97 million in cash on hand on June 30 — more than the super PACs backing nine other major GOP presidential candidates combined.

  • “The super PAC’s fundraising haul includes millions of dollars from former supporters of Donald Trump who publicly cut ties after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, including Nevada hotel magnate Robert Bigelow, who gave more than $20 million, and Silicon Valley investor Douglas M. Leone, who gave $2 million,” our colleagues Michael Scherer and Maeve Reston report.
  • “The two biggest donors in Republican politics during the 2022 midterm cycle, packaging magnates Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein, also gave $1 million each.”

DeSantis’s campaign had $12.2 million on hand on June 30 — less than Trump or Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.). Combined with his super PAC’s haul, though, DeSantis has nearly $110 million in financial resources. (Super PACs are legally barred from coordinating with the presidential candidates they support but are typically led by trusted allies.)

What the super PAC backing Trump raised

Make America Great Again Inc., the super PAC backing Trump’s campaign, had $30.8 million in cash on hand on June 30, the second-highest total. Trump also had $22.5 million on hand in his campaign account, giving him more than $53 million in combined financial resources.

But the super PAC backing Trump spent nearly $38 million in the first six months of the year — more than double the $14.6 million it raised. 

The spending included transferring more than $12 million to Trump’s leadership PAC, Save America. The leadership PAC has paid more than $40 million in legal bills this year that Trump and others have racked up as he faces “a federal indictment in Florida, state charges in New York, and the prospect of additional criminal indictments in Washington and Fulton County, Ga.,” as our colleagues Josh Dawsey, Devlin Barrett and Spencer S. Hsu scooped over the weekend.

Donors to the super PAC backing Trump in the first half of the year include Patricia Duggan, a Floridian who gave $5 million and who was also major donor to the super PAC backing Trump’s 2020 campaign, and the casino magnate Phil Ruffin, who gave $2 million.

Charles Kushner, the father of Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner; Elizabeth Grau, Trump’s sister; and Woody Johnson, Trump’s ambassador to Britain, each gave $1 million. Trump pardoned Kushner — who was once a top Democratic donor — in his final weeks in office; Kushner had previously served time for tax evasion and other crimes of which he was convicted in 2005.

What the super PACs backing other Republicans raised

Here’s what the super PACs backing DeSantis and Trump’s rivals for the nomination had on hand on June 30:

  • SFA Fund, Inc., which is backing former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley’s campaign, had more than $17 million. Haley’s campaign had another $6.8 million on hand on June 30.
  • Trust in the Mission PAC, which is backing Scott’s campaign, had more than $15 million. Scott’s campaign had another $21.1 million on hand.
  • Best of America PAC, which is backing North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum’s campaign, had more than $11 million. Burgum’s campaign had another $3.7 million on hand.
  • SOS America PAC, which is backing Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s campaign, had $5.6 million. Suarez’s campaign had less than $1 million on hand.
  • Tell It Like It Is PAC, which is backing former New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s campaign, had $5.5 million. Christie’s campaign had another $1.6 million on hand.
  • Committed to America PAC, which is backing former vice president Mike Pence’s campaign, had $1.8 million. Pence’s campaign had another $1.1 million on hand.
  • America Strong and Free Action, which is backing former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson’s campaign, had about $944,000. Hutchinson’s campaign had about $379,000 on hand.
  • American Exceptionalism PAC, which is backing the entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy’s campaign, had about $225,000. Ramaswamy’s campaign had another $9 million on hand.

Who’s writing the checks

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) urged Republican donors last week to consolidate around a single challenger to Trump for the nomination by early next year — but donors for now remain divided among multiple candidates, and some are even backing more than one.

Warren Stephens, an Arkansas investment banker and Republican megadonor, gave $1 million in January to the super PAC supporting Hutchinson. In June, he followed up with $100,000 to the super PAC backing Pence, $50,000 to the super PAC backing Christie and $25,000 to the super PAC backing Haley.

Jeffrey Yass, a Pennsylvania investor and a top Republican donor, gave $250,000 to the super PAC backing Christie. But he also gave $600,000 to Opportunity Matters Fund Action, a super PAC aligned with Scott. Opportunity Matters, in turn, has given $10.8 million to Trust in the Mission, the flagship super PAC backing Scott’s campaign.

Most of the $10.8 million came indirectly from Scott’s top backer is Larry Ellison, the billionaire Oracle co-founder. Ellison gave $35 million to another super PAC aligned with Scott, Opportunity Matters Fund Inc., between 2020 and 2022. Opportunity Matters Fund Inc. then gave $10 million earlier this year to Opportunity Matters Fund Action, which in turn passed the money — onto Trust in the Mission.

While many of the top donors are familiar Republican names, others are relatively new.

Jan Koum, the billionaire co-founder of WhatsApp, gave $5 million to the super PAC backing Haley, making him its biggest donor. He doesn’t appear to have been a major donor before last year, when he gave $2 million to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s super PAC and more than $1.3 million to the Republican Jewish Coalition’s super PAC, according to campaign finance records.

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DeSantis’s economic pitch, a lot like Trump’s

DeTrumpomics? Trailing in the polls, DeSantis released an economic policy blueprint on Monday that largely echoes that of Trump, his chief rival for the GOP presidential nomination, our colleagues Jeff Stein and Marianne LeVine report

“Unveiling a 10-point ‘Declaration of Economic Independence’ in a campaign stop in Rochester, N.H., DeSantis pledged to build on many key priorities of the Trump administration if he becomes president,” Jeff and Marianne add. 

“While embracing a more conservative stance on some issues — including cryptocurrency regulation — DeSantis’s platform reflects the extent to which Trump’s policy vision has come to dominate the GOP, in a sharp break from party orthodoxy before 2016. DeSantis similarly hammered ‘elites’ in Washington and Wall Street, mirroring Trump rhetoric in 2016 that the GOP had once rejected.”

  • “DeSantis’s candidacy has been, ‘I’m the reasonable Trump — you don’t have to worry about the crazy tweets, but I’ll mirror him on the policy,’” Doug Holtz-Eakin, president of the conservative American Action Forum, told Jeff and Marianne. “That’s what this is: Here he is just trying to match Trump.”

The real-life impact of an abortion ban

Our colleagues Caroline Kitchener and Carolyn Van Houten have a powerful follow-up to Caroline’s Pulitzer Prize-winning story last year on a Texas teenager who gave birth to twins after a new law prevented her getting an abortion in the state:

  • “When Brooke met Billy at a skate park in Corpus Christi, Tex., in May 2021, she could not have predicted any piece of the life she was now living. She’d been gearing up for real estate school, enjoying long days at the beach with her new boyfriend. Then she found out she was three months pregnant. And because of a new law, she could no longer get an abortion in Texas. The closest clinic that could see her was in New Mexico, a 13-hour drive away.”
  • “She gave birth to Kendall and Olivia six months later.”

“Brooke, Billy and their baby girls appeared in a story in The Washington Post just days before Roe v. Wade was overturned last summer, thrusting the family into a polarized national debate and turning them into symbols they never imagined they would become.

“For many readers, Brooke and Billy’s story was a Rorschach test, with each side of the abortion debate claiming the teenagers’ experiences as validation of their own views. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) called the story ‘powerfully pro-life.’ Abortion rights advocates decried the Texas law that compelled an ambitious young woman to abandon her education and raise two children on the $9.75 an hour her then-boyfriend made working at a burrito restaurant. People on both sides of the issue donated more than $80,000 to a GoFundMe account that Brooke created, providing a financial cushion the couple says has kept them out of debt.”

Read the full, powerful story here.

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