The Republican and Democratic presidential contenders reported on the financial health of their national campaigns even as they were in the thick of the Nevada Democratic caucuses and South Carolina primary.
Most of the outside groups known as super political action committees also faced a midnight Saturday deadline to report to the Federal Election Commission.
What we learned:
As Jeb Bush ended his Republican presidential bid after disappointing results in South Carolina, new fundraising reports underscored how dire his financial situation had become.
The super PAC Right to Rise USA, which raised a record $118 million last year, took in just $379,000 in January. Most of that came from a single donor: Richard DeVos, the founder of the Michigan company Amway and owner of the Orlando Magic basketball team. Devos wrote a $250,000 check on in mid-January. He also gave the same amount, at the same time, to a super PAC backing Bush rival Marco Rubio.
Right to Rise spent more than $34.5 million in January alone including $7 million in operating expenses and more than $27 million on various kinds of advertising.
Through Saturday, the super PAC had plunged some $85 million into materials backing Bush and bashing other candidates, most notably Rubio. The majority of that money — $75 million — went into television and radio commercials, advertising tracker Kantar Media’s CMAG shows.
Meanwhile, Bush’s official campaign raised just $1.6 million in January and was down to less than $3 million in available cash as this month began.
TRUMP GROUND GAMES
Donald Trump, who won South Carolina on Saturday, was planning ahead for the multi-state March 1 primary contests, his fundraising report showed. In addition to South Carolina and next-to-vote Nevada, Trump’s campaign reported renting space in Alabama, Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma and Tennessee, which all vote on what’s known as “Super Tuesday.” He was also paying rent in Florida, which votes March 15.
That contrasts with some of his competitors. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who finished second to Trump in New Hampshire earlier this month, had put most of his resources into that state. The only other place he had rented office space as of January was Massachusetts.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who topped Trump to win Iowa on Feb. 1, rented space for his campaign in South Carolina and Nevada, his January report showed. Rubio’s campaign appeared to have done little to set up shop in the March states.
CANDIDATE CASH FLOW
Cruz began February with considerably more cash available than all of his Republican presidential rivals. His campaign had about $13.6 million, even after spending $12.7 million in January alone. He also raised about $7.6 million last month, ahead of his Iowa victory.
Rubio’s campaign began this month with just over $5 million in cash, after spending $10.3 million and raising $4.9 million.
Kasich’s campaign had less than $1.5 million at the beginning of February. His campaign spokesman said he raised more than $1 million in the first few days after New Hampshire — something that won’t be reported to the FEC until mid-March. A super PAC backing Kasich raised $3.3 million in January.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson — a political novice who has harvested huge amounts of money since beginning his campaign — raised $3.8 million, one of his lowest hauls yet, but spent $10.4 million in January. He had about $4 million left at the beginning of February.
Trump’s campaign cash situation is more difficult to assess, since the billionaire has pledged to spend “whatever it takes” to win the nomination. In January, he lent his campaign almost $5 million, making his total investment about $17.5 million so far.
On the Democratic side, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders began February with less than half the available cash of his opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Sanders appeared to be on a spending spree last month, investing some $35 million in his campaign and ending the month with $14.7 million. The numbers were nearly the opposite for Clinton: She spent $19 million, half of it on media buys, and ended the month with $33 million.
Still, the reports show that Clinton’s fundraising dipped below that of Sanders. Clinton raised a bit less than $15 million last month, while Sanders landed $21 million.
A super PAC dedicated to electing Clinton brought in another $9.6 million in big checks last month. About one-third of the money that flowed into Priorities USA was from James Simons, a New York hedge fund billionaire. A laborers’ union contributed $2 million.
Million-dollar donors included Daniel Abraham, founder of the diet product SlimFast; Houston attorney Steve Mostyn, a major donor to the group in 2012, when it backed President Barack Obama; and Jay and Mary Pritzker of the Chicago family that made its fortune in hotels.
Although Priorities officials had planned to preserve their resources for a general election, the group recently began spending money in the primary against Sanders.
CRUZ NETWORK GROWS
Cruz has the biggest network of outside groups helping him out — more than half a dozen. A super PAC called Courageous Conservatives has stood out for employing some of the most aggressive tactics, even though it isn’t the best-funded of those pro-Cruz groups.
In the lead-up to the South Carolina vote, Courageous Conservatives made thousands of automated phone calls bashing Donald Trump, who has consistently led polls in the state. So who’s paying for all this? The group’s January fundraising report shows it has two donors: Stan Herzog, a Missouri builder, and Christopher Ekstrom, a Dallas investor.
A far better funded pro-Cruz group, Stand for Truth, also filed a January fundraising report. That super PAC raised about $2.5 million in January. Its biggest contributor, Trinity Equity, gave more than $1 million. Corporate records show the Houston company shares an address with Quantum Energy Partners, a private equity firm run by Wil VanLoh.
RUBIO’S SILICON VALLEY ASSIST
Rubio also benefits from outside groups. Conservative Solutions PAC spent more than $10.8 million last month— much of it on political advertisements that flooded radio and television ahead of voting in Iowa and New Hampshire.
The super PAC reported raising about $2.5 million during January and started this month with about $5.6 million in available cash.
The group was boosted by a $1 million donation from billionaire Larry Ellison, founder and chairman of the software giant Oracle. Another top contributor was Randy Kendrick, wife of Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick, who was one of handful of donors who gave $250,000.
TRUMP TAKEDOWN? NOT SO MUCH
A super PAC claiming it would try to take down Trump has not really gotten off the ground.
Make America Awesome — a riff on Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan — raised just $8,640 in January. That followed a disappointing December, when it raised just $1,711. The super PAC is led by Republican strategist and outspoken Trump antagonist Liz Mair.
A second anti-Trump super PAC, called Our Principles, fared better. It raised about $3 million last month, almost entirely from Marlene Ricketts, the wife of TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts. The couple had been strong supporters of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, one of the first GOP contenders to leave the race.