It is still relatively early in the season for the 2016 presidential election cycle, but that hasn't stopped the media from making bold predictions and analyzing every bit of PAC spending for every candidate.
Hillary Clinton and challenger Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders along with a few less-notable candidates, make up the Democratic field. Meanwhile, the quest for the Republican nomination is still split largely between more than a dozen hopefuls. Here is a breakdown of how each party fares in raising funds early in the cycle and what they need to remember about compliance as their fundraising efforts really start to gain momentum.
RNC outspends Democrats
The Republican National Committee filed its June Monthly Federal Election Commission report which showed that in May, the group raised more than $10 million and spent slightly less than $9 million.
The group noted that more than $150,000 of this money was spent directly attacking Democratic candidate and fundraising expert Hillary Clinton. This included $10,000 spent on Twitter ads, $20,000 for radio ads on Pandora and $100,000 in paid Facebook advertising.
Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee took in $4.5 million in May and reported $5.4 million in disbursements.
Individual PACs ramp up fundraising
The heaviest-hitting Super PAC in May was the NextGen Climate Action PAC, which advocates for climate change and candidates who will support it. The group took in $5 million in May and most of it came from a single donation by Tom Steyer, a hedge fund manager who also founded the nonprofit NextGen Climate.
And no Super PAC update is complete without mentioning Jeb Bush's war chest. News affiliates in Florida say his supporting PAC, Right to Rise, is expected to begin a TV ad campaign soon. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the group recently looked into advertising rates on WFTX-TV, which covers the Naples and Fort Myers areas. The news outlet also stated that Florida junior Senator Marco Rubio is also expected to start running ads in the state.
With activity picking up, compliance must remain top of mind
It is easy for these fundraising groups to get caught up in the 2016 election fever, but considering that the FEC and Department of Justice recently handed out their first ever prison sentence for FEC reporting compliance issues, compliance should be at the heart of every decision related to PAC fundraising and spending.
"Compliance should still be at the heart of every decision."
According to Campaigns and Elections, one of the most important compliance measures Super PACs need to keep in mind lies in maintaining complete independence from the hard money that is raised by campaigns, PACs and the Party itself. If the FEC finds that any contribution is made "in cooperation, consultation or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, any candidate, or his or her authorized committees or agents, or a political party committee or its agents," then it could conduct a deeper investigation.
The reasoning behind this is simple: Super PACs, unlike other groups, can accept an unlimited number of contributions from a very wide range of sources, including corporations and labor unions. This important stipulation makes what would normally have been an excessive contribution a completely legal contribution. However, if the Super PAC is found to have been coordinating with the official campaign, it could mean jail time for the PAC manager – as was the result of the recent case against Virginia political operative Tyler Harber.
Focus on transparency
With such large amounts of money changing hands, it's no wonder there are Federal Election Commission reporting guidelines designed strictly for Super PACs. Transparency is a large factor and all Super PACs are required to file special reports with the FEC, called Independent Expenditure reports.
According to the media outlet, these reports are required anytime a Super PAC makes independent expenditures that combine to be more than $10,000 and these must be filed within 2 days of the expenditure. In the 20 days before the election, this reporting threshold is lowered to $1,000 in the aggregate that must be reported within 24 hours.
As fundraising picks up for all candidates involved in the 2016 race – on both sides of the aisle – it will be critical to make sure to have the appropriate PAC compliance help that will guide you throughout the reporting process and keep your PAC and your organization compliant.