PAC Contributions Nearly Half of 2016 Campaign Money

By Madi Alexander

June 29 — Campaign money is flowing faster than ever before to political action committees, including super PACs freed by recent court rulings to take unlimited contributions, according to Federal Election Commission data analyzed by Bloomberg BNA.

Money contributed to PACs—including traditional PACs, super PACs and so-called hybrid PACs—accounted for 47 percent of all federal campaign contributions during the first 15 months of the 2016 election cycle—a higher percentage than in any of the previous six presidential election cycles, the analysis showed.

The FEC's most recent statistical summary of campaign money covered contributions and spending in the current two-year election cycle through March of 2016.

Candidates', Parties' Shares Drop

While the share of total contributions going to PACs has increased sharply in the current cycle, the analysis of FEC figures showed, the shares of total campaign contributions going directly to congressional candidates and political party committees in 2016 reached their lowest levels for this point in a presidential election cycle since 1992. Just 16 percent of total campaign contributions went to party committees and 19 percent went to congressional candidates.

Money given directly to presidential candidates, meanwhile, accounted for 18 percent of total campaign contributions through 15 months of the 2016 cycle.

According to the figures in the latest FEC summary, PACs received $1.94 billion in contributions in the 2016 election cycle, with $1.06 billion going to super PACs and hybrid PACs accepting unlimited contributions.

Meanwhile, congressional committees received $796 million in total contributions and Democratic and Republican party national committees accounted for a combined $647 million in 15-month period. Total presidential candidate receipts were $735.3 million for the 15-month period.

PAC Money Up After Citizens United

Super PACs —created after the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC and subsequent court rulings—can take unlimited contributions for independent campaign spending. Traditional PACs take limited contributions from individuals and can in turn contribute money directly to candidates. Hybrid PACs have separate accounts so they can make both independent expenditures and direct contributions to candidates.

In the 2000 presidential election cycle, PACs raised just 21 percent of all federal contributions reported during in the first 15 months of the cycle. The percentage of total contributions going to PACs remained at 25 percent or below in every presidential cycle from 1996 through 2008.

The share of total contributions going to PACs started going up significantly, however, in the 2012 presidential election cycle—the first conducted after the Citizens United ruling.

The percentage reached 34 percent through the first 15 months of the 2012 cycle and grew even more during the current cycle. The rise in contributions to super PACs—including more than a dozen that supported individual presidential candidates—helped lift the total PAC share to account for nearly half of all campaign contributions reported to the FEC.

To contact the reporter on this story: Madi Alexander at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at

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