Super PAC or Not So Super PAC? The Difference Between Jeb and Bernie
Policy + Politics

Super PAC or Not So Super PAC? The Difference Between Jeb and Bernie

When you’re running the super PAC supporting former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s run for the Republican presidential nomination, there are some things that are simple. You want to buy some advertising? Fine. Cut a check to the firm that handles that for you.

That’s precisely what the Bush super PAC Right to Rise USA has been doing for much of the month of July when, according to Federal Elections Commission filings, it spent more than $300,000 in ad purchases, mostly through the ad placement firm Revolution Media Group.

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The expenditures are usually in nice, round numbers. A $20,000 check here, a $10,000 check there.

Others seem to prefer to drop their cash all in one really big pile. The Believe Again PAC supports Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is struggling in the polls and likely won’t make the first-tier Republican debate next week. The PAC has staked much of Jindal’s future on Iowa. In chunks of $313,950 and $419,330, plus a few smaller buys, it has poured nearly $800,000 into the early caucus state through OnMessage, a Virginia-based political consulting firm.

No doubt the story is similar when you are running a PAC such as Ready PAC, which supports Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. However, as of Friday afternoon FEC databases had no data available on its recent expenditures.

Things are a little different, however, when you are filing your expenditures for a more hands-on operation like, say, the Democratic Socialists of America. The DSA is supporting Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders who, despite characterizing himself as a Democratic Socialist, is running for the Democratic Party’s nomination.

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There aren’t many big checks being cut by the DSA PAC. The group spends most of its money on postage, photocopying and printing. Here’s a sample:

Sanders Expenses

It also has to deal with the little things that the Right to Rise PAC and Believe Again PAC don’t – like a $4.50 charge for using the Internet on an airplane. Or a $1.30 photocopying charge. Or 64 cents worth of paper purchased at Staples.

In its filing for the second quarter of the year, the DSA PAC reported total contributions received of $741.11 and total independent expenditures of $10,939.66, roughly the equivalent of one of the smaller checks cut by Right to Rise.

Sanders never embraced super PACs, so it shouldn’t seem strange to find that he’s not supported by very many of them. But at this rate, it’s going to take a lot of photocopies and buttons to put Bernie’s supporters in the same league as his their well-financed competition.

CORRECTION: The original version of this story incorrectly said that the Super PAC Generation Forward had spent $10,000 in support of Sanders. In fact, the money was spent on efforts to oppose Sanders. Generation Forward Supports former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.