Jeb Bush has what some would see as a strange request for wealthy donors to his Right to Rise super PAC; please keep it under $1 million, for now.
The self-imposed limit, writes Matea Gold of The Washington Post, could be the first time any presidential hopeful has asked supporters to hold back on contributions.
Bush advisers were concerned that the enormous donations from a select few ultra-rich individuals would overshadow the efforts to build as broad a base as possible among contributors.
While continuing the tour of events promoting his PAC – which could soon be backing a presidential bid – Bush is instructing fundraisers to limit contributions to $1 million per person for the quarter.
“This campaign is about much more than money,” veteran Republican fundraiser Howard Leach told The Post. Leach recently held an event for Bush in Palm Beach. “They need substantial funds, but they don’t want the focus to be on money.”
Limiting contributions, even if temporarily, highlights the role big money takes in political campaigns, particularly in the rise of super PACs with their ability to raise unlimited sums from both individuals and corporations. Candidates are under increasing pressure to maintain independence while relying heavily on large-ticket donations.
Although Bush is not yet a candidate, he is on pace to raise tens of millions of dollars for his two Right to Rise PACs by March 31, the end of the first quarter of 2015. This trajectory makes it difficult for potential rivals to keep up.
Bush supporters request donors to honor the $1 million limit for the first 100 days, with the full understanding that they will be repeat givers, with even larger contributions once his campaign officially begins.
March will be the third month of Bush’s powerful fundraising tour, with stops in Florida, Washington DC and New York City. At each stop, Gold notes that staffers are quick to caution fundraisers to avoid allowing a few mega-donors to overpower the overall effort.
“It shows they are disciplined and appreciate that the dominance of a few key people early on is not a productive thing for the campaign or for Jeb Bush,” said Republican fundraiser Rick Hohlt.
A similar situation faced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s 2012 campaign, which was bolstered by a super PAC bankrolled with $15 million from billionaire Sheldon Adelson. The same happened to former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum; investor Foster Friess supported his super PAC.
Bush, on the other hand, is casting a wider net to catch wealthy donors. Several backers gave $100,000 each for tickets to exclusive super PAC fundraisers, like one held last week at the Park Avenue home of private-equity financier Henry Kravis. Some are offering substantially more than that.
Gold writes that Bush fundraisers are coming up in Denver; Sea Island GA; Boca Raton and Atlanta. In the Atlanta one, spots on the host committee for a breakfast event at the elite Capital City Club are only $25,000 a person — a relative bargain.