Emerging Pro-Trump Super PACs Backed by Big GOP Donors

By Kenneth P. Doyle

Oct. 17 — Two super political action committees that have emerged as major supporters of Donald Trump's presidential campaign have collected more than $30 million in recent weeks, including multimillion-dollar contributions from wealthy Republican donors who once were reluctant to support him.

One of the super PACs, Rebuilding America Now, raised nearly $18 million in the three-month period that ended Sept. 30, according to a quarterly disclosure report filed with the Federal Election Commission on Oct. 15. Its top donations were led by $6 million from Linda McMahon, a cofounder of the WWE Wrestling franchise and a former Republican Senate candidate from Connecticut.

The other emerging pro-Trump super PAC, Future45, raised more than $12.5 million, with $10 million from Sheldon Adelson, the head of Las Vegas Sands Corp., and his wife, Miriam.

The infusion of funds to support Trump came as independent expenditures aiding the Republican nominee ticked up significantly, according to FEC reports. However, pro-Trump spending remains at just half the level being spent to support Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Clinton Side Spends More

Outside spending favoring Clinton has totaled nearly $100 million since Sept. 1, according to Bloomberg BNA's analysis of FEC independent expenditure reports. Outside money favoring Trump was just under $50 million in the same period.

Overall, Clinton's campaign and allied groups have raised more than two-and-a-half times the amount raised by Trump and his allies. The Clinton side led the Trump side in the money race by $517 million to $205 million raised through the end of August, according to an analysis on FEC reports by the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics.

Most of the money being spent by outside groups on both sides is going for television attack ads.

The pro-Trump super PACs receiving recent new funding still appear to have millions left for the final weeks before the Nov. 8 election. Most of the ads, which are available for viewing on the group's website, attack Clinton for having a private e-mail server and other actions she took as President Barack Obama's secretary of state.

Future45 has reported spending nearly $3 million on election messages since Sept. 1, while a companion nonprofit group, 45Committee, which doesn't disclose its donors, reported about $7 million spent on ads. Future45 had nearly $10 million in cash on hand at the end of September, according to its latest FEC report.

Rebuilding America Now has spent about $3.5 million since Sept. 1, according to recent FEC independent expenditure reports. The super PAC reported to the FEC that it had over $3 million in cash at the end of last month.

Trump Had Rejected Super PACs

During the presidential primaries, Trump rejected support from outside spending groups. He emphasized self-funding of his campaign and criticized his rivals for the Republican nomination as dependent on big donors.

Trump gave his campaign nearly $50 million before securing the Republican nomination but has contributed only about $2 million per month since then. He recently has said he would spend a total of $100 million of his own money on the campaign, but he still is more than $40 million short of that mark.

Meanwhile, Trump has welcomed outside donors since the primary season ended and has been gaining support from some of the big Republican donors he criticized during the primaries.

The latest pro-Trump super PAC donors are among those who worked against him earlier this year. For example, McMahon, the top donor to the pro-Trump Rebuilding America Now, previously gave to the super PAC supporting a Trump primary rival, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The next-largest contributor to Rebuilding America Now, Home Depot founder Bernard Marcus, contributed $5 million to the pro-Trump super PAC but previously gave to super PACs supporting other primary candidates, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

‘Never Trump' or ‘Never Hillary.'

Even more remarkable was the turnaround of TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, who gave $1 million last month to Future45.

Ricketts previously had given to a super PAC called Our Principles PAC, which was dedicated not to supporting another candidate but solely to opposing Trump during the primaries. Ricketts gave $1 million to the anti-Trump super PAC earlier this year, while his wife, Marlene Ricketts gave the anti-Trump group $4.5 million.

The Ricketts couple and other donors previously opposed to Trump appeared to be supporting him now primarily due to their even greater opposition to Clinton. While the Twitter hashtag of the anti-Trump Our Principles PAC was #NeverTrump, the hashtag of the pro-Trump Rebuilding American Now is now #NeverHillary.

A number of other big Republican donors have refused to get on board Trump effort, however, though they continue to fund efforts aimed at electing down-ballot Republicans.

For example, the super PAC Freedom Partners Action Fund, which is funded by Koch Industries Inc. Chairman Charles Koch and others allied with the Koch network of conservative donors, has spent nearly $29 million so far in this election. Almost all the money has gone for TV ads and other messages supporting Republicans in key Senate races.

The Koch-backed super PAC has spent only about $35,000 in the presidential race—all for a handful of early mailings opposing Clinton before Trump emerged as the Republican nominee.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at kdoyle@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at hrothman@bna.com

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