Bernie Sanders does not have a SuperPAC, but he is leading in New Hampshire.
While seemingly innocuous and perhaps unremarkable, this achievement is nothing short of monumental in light of the financial landscape that dominates modern Presidential politics. Bernie Sanders has raised all of his campaign money through regular, regulated, and reported donations directly to his campaign. The rules and regulations governing those donations are nothing to sneeze at; they help maintain at least some level of transparency by divulging where candidates are getting their money. Theoretically, this serves to inform us, the electorate as it were, of any special interest ties to a candidate. Big PAC totals usually mean a large number of business donors, or at least several mega-donors. Yes, there are smaller groups that add to these numbers, but typically candidates only receive tens of millions of dollars when the business interests pick you to win (or at least hedge their bets that you have a chance to win) and not from one small social group.
Currently, presidential candidates raise obscenely more money from their PACs than from their actual campaign. Thanks to the infamous, or famous, depending on your opinion regarding campaign finance, Citizens United case, (I'm sticking with an overall infamous vibe) PACs and SuperPACs are essentially like giant, ever-expanding money bags that mega-donors try to fill. The trick is that the bags can't actually be filled, they just keep expanding, even though from the outside it looks like a regular bag. They are the Mary Poppins' bag of political funds.
But I digress, I was not being hyperbolic when I said that candidates raise obscenely more money from these ever-expanding money bags than from their normal campaign. The fundraising numbers, from August 1, 2015, not only show that sixteen of the “Top 20” candidates have a SuperPAC, but also demonstrate the stark contrast existing between regular campaign money and SuperPAC money. Of the four candidates that do not have a SuperPAC, two of them, Kasich and Chafee, won't need one since their campaigns have almost no chance of success. That leaves the two candidates with a shot, Trump and Bernie. Trump already has $10 Billion, so clearly he's doing alright, which leaves Bernie as the sole outlier. But of the candidates using these funds, just how much of their money is SuperPAC related? Great question.
THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCES.
To see who’s received the most of the campaign funding in PAC form, I'm using information from the NY Times, which can be found by clicking here: NYTIMES ARTICLE. The chart below is nothing terribly elaborate; I'm just adding the cash raised with the money raised from SuperPAC and other PACs and then calculating the percentage. I have listed them in the same order as the NY Times, total money raised, from all sources. Here are the top nine money grabs so far:
|CANDIDATE AND TOTAL RAISED||% OF FUNDS FROM PAC|
|Jeb Bush - $120,000,000||90.4%|
|Hillary Clinton - $67,800,000||29.9%|
|Ted Cruz - $52,500,000||72.6%|
|Marco Rubio - $42,000,000||41.2%|
|Scott Walker - $26,200,000||76.3%|
|Bernie Sanders - $15,200,000||0%|
|Rick Perry - $15,000,000||92%|
|Chris Christie - $14,000,000||100%|
|Rand Paul - $13,900,000||49.6%|
*All numbers accurate as of Aug. 1, 2015*
When I look at this list, I notice two very big items: First, Donald Trump, the GOP Poll leader by a fair margin, isn't on the list. Second, only two people on that list have less than 30% of their campaign money from PACs, and both are Democrats. But back to the reason I'm typing this: Bernie's big fat 0%.
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
Bernie's ability to obtain over $15 million in campaign funding without taking a single dollar from a PAC is monumental in modern politics. If you took away Jeb Bush's PAC funding he goes from having the most money, to not even making my list, having only $11.4 million. In other words, Bernie's campaign (as a guy that can't win and is too old) has made MORE money from regular, regulated donations than Jeb Bush, a GOP “top tier” candidate. This matters because of where things seem to be heading at the moment. On one side Donald Trump is leading the polls. Trump hasn't taken a dime of PAC money and he also has raised just under $2 million, but he's already in front and his lead has actually grown recently in some polls, though overall he seems to be coming back to the field. Sanders has raised less than a quarter of what his main opponent, Hillary Clinton, has raised, but has managed to take over the top spot in New Hampshire, all while taking nothing from a PAC.
Conversations about politics so often turn to corruption, interest groups, or that candidates are “bought and paid for” by corporations. But, as of right now, the two likely nominees of both main political parties actually might not be bought and paid for by anyone but their supporters based on their ideals. Obviously there is a massive difference between Bernie, a career politician, and Trump, a career...whatever Trump is...(business man?), as well as their ability to fund their own campaigns. Trump has made it a point to say loudly, and often, that he is worth $10 billion (with a B folks) and can fund his own campaign. Even if he is overselling that number by a bit (say by 30%), he is still worth more than $5 billion, and could still potentially afford to run his campaign on his own dime. (Though as a business man that sounds like a really stupid idea.) Bernie can't do that – he needs the donors to succeed, and so far they are turning out in droves.
WHAT IT MEANS.
If nothing else, this means we could have a guy named Donald that holds his lips like a duck, and may or may not have a wig on, debating a guy named Bernie. That is F.U.N. on a silver platter. On a broader scale it could mean (very, very, very, very strong emphasis on the word 'could' here) that our next President really will not have been elected on the back of corporate interests or special interest groups, which is something interesting. Granted, Trump is sort of his own corporate interest, so maybe he isn't so clean after all. It also means that future candidates may have to second guess the SuperPAC approach, which I think would be a net positive for the process, and give the power back to the voters.
Bernie is attempting to do just that by placing the potential success of his campaign in the hands of the very people he's trying to convince: The voters. Sadly, that's a novel idea in the modern political landscape. It's a government for the people, by the people, and brought to you by Toyota. I can live with my favorite television show trying to sell me testosterone supplements and pizza within 45 seconds of one another, but it would be really nice if our political candidates didn't have to do the same.
- Adam Sommer
Editing by Andrew Hooper