Super PACs already racing toward 2018 — and 2020

Meanwhile, Ronald Weiser, founder of architecture firm McKinley Associates, gave $200,000 in seed money to pro-Trump PAC America First Action, which formed in April. As for June 30, it had yet to spend any of it directly advocating for Trump.

Florida-based America First Agenda, yet another new pro-Trump super PAC, raised about $21,000 since forming in April. 

Make America Number 1, the pro-Trump PAC largely backed by billionaire megadonor Robert Mercer during Election 2016, has raised less than $740 since Jan. 1, although it still had $873,000 in the bank as of June 30. The group blew through $134,000, or nearly 65 percent of its spending, on legal fees to law firm Greenberg Traurig.

Future45, another pro-Trump super PAC largely funded last year by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and Linda McMahon, who Trump appointed to head the Small Business Administration, secured $105,000 from only two sources so far in 2017.

Nearly all the money this year, $102,500, came from super PAC Liberty 2.0, which was bankrolled by Murray Energy, Hobby Lobby and oil company Continental Resources during the 2016 election cycle. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s leadership PAC handed over $2,000.  

Lower profile for Democratic super PACs

On the Democratic side, American Bridge 21st Century, a super PAC that largely supported Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and was founded by liberal political operative David Brock, raised $4.1 million during the first half of 2017. Its work this year has focused on anti-Trump and anti-Republican messaging, research and strategy.

Leading contributors include megadonor Barbara Stiefel ($200,000), billionaire philanthropist Pat Stryker ($150,000) and billionaire businessman George Soros ($80,000). (The Center for Public Integrity receives funding from the Open Society Foundations, which Soros funds. A complete list of Center for Public Integrity funders is found here.)

Clinton’s main supportive super PAC, Priorities USA Action, brought in $1.7 million during the first half of 2017. But the bulk of the money was refunds from Election 2016 vendors. The group only brought in about $27,000 in bona fide contributions as its profile has shrunk. It’s primarily focused on polling, health care policy and voter suppression issues during 2017.

Another pro-Clinton super PAC, Correct the Record, has all but folded after it raised millions of dollars last year to no avail.

Trump himself kickstarted the 2020 presidential race when he filed re-election paperwork with the FEC on Jan. 20, the day of his inauguration.

Since then, the president has conducted several re-election campaign events, including large-scale rallies and a June fundraiser at his Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

In mid-July, Trump’s 2020 re-election committee reported raising nearly $8 million from April 1 to June 30 — an unprecedented amount so early in a presidential election cycle. Trump’s campaign entered July with almost $12 million in reserve.

Presidential candidates usually don’t begin actively raising campaign money until the year before an election.

Congress ‘up for grabs’?

Among U.S. Senate-focused super PACs, top Republican groups raised more than double the dollars of top Democratic groups.

At $8.2 million during the year’s first half, the GOP-aligned Senate Leadership Fund outpaced liberal Senate Majority PAC, which brought in $4.6 million. Another pro-Republican super PAC, Senate Conservatives Action, raised $1.1 million of its own, half of which came from Richard Uihlein, founder of shipping supplies company Uline.

Conservative donors such as Home Depot cofounder Bernard Marcus ($2 million) and hedge fund manager Steven Cohen ($1 million) are the biggest Senate Leadership Fund donors so far in 2017. The Democratic Senate Majority PAC pulled $1 million each from Deborah Simon and Cynthia Simon-Skjodt, daughters of Melvin Simon, founder of the shopping mall company Simon Property Group.

Republicans cling to a 52-48 Senate majority over Democrats and the two independents who caucus with them. The Senate is expected to be the primary battleground in 2018, although Democrats also hope to make gains in the House.