The Super-PAC Psy-War Advantage

Bloomberg Politics‘ Tim Higgins has a comprehensive look at presidential fundraising today based on 2d quarter reports, but because Super-PAC reports are not due until the end of the month, he’s only looking at official campaign accounts–you know, “campaign contributions” before Super-PACs arrived to complicate and then dominate the picture.

The numbers illustrate a couple of things Nick Confessore explained in his BloggingheadsTV appearance with Paul Glastris and myself (partial clip below):

First of all, the argument that Super-PACs are some sort of great “equalizer” in politics is belied by the fact that in the Republican field, anyway, the candidates are much more “equal” when you look at “hard money” fundraising. On the Democratic side, omission of Super PACs shows Bernie Sanders as a guy whose fundraising we’d all be talking about in, say, 2008; like Obama then, he’s demonstrating a large and potentially expandable small-dollar donor base (the percentage of his money contributed by people tossing iin under $200 is the highest in the two-party field).

Second of all, the big disproportions that emerge when Super-PACs are considered represent a psy-war advantage, too, assuming Nick’s right that campaigns really do think they can elude responsibility for savage attack ads run by their Super-PACs. Since Jeb Bush has far and away the largest Super-PAC bankroll, it stands to reason that his potential to go negative in a huge way could wind up being a very important factor in the GOP nomination–much as it was for Mitt Romney in 2012, though Mitt had a lot of help from his rivals’ various face-plants and own-goals.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.