It's been three weeks since the Supreme Court stripped away the overall limits on how much money top political donors can give, and this much is clear: Republicans are moving more swiftly than Democrats to take advantage of the new rules.
Republicans have already rolled out two new supersized vehicles to collect bigger-than-ever checks from their top contributors since the Court allowed donors to make contributions to an unlimited number of politicians and party committees.
The most notable of these, the Republican Victory Fund, allows a wealthy Republican to write a single $97,200 check every year that can then be divided between the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and the National Republican Congressional Committee. Republicans filed the paperwork for their jumbo joint fundraising account exactly one week after the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in McCutcheon v. FEC.
Under the old rules, those three arms of the Republican Party were in almost direct competition for the biggest donors, who could only give $74,600 every two years to the party committees. Now they are working hand-in-hand.
"We are moving forward on a joint fundraising agreement with the NRSC and NRCC so we can maximize our donations to help candidates win in November," said Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the RNC.
Democrats have created no such vehicle to coordinate between the party's three key committees yet, and there are no imminent plans to do so.
Last week, a group of Senate Republicans and Senate GOP candidates created another jumbo joint fundraising account, called the 2014 Senators Classic Committee. This allows a top donor to write a check for nearly $100,000, which is then distributed to as many as 19 Republicans.
Under the old rules, one donor could give no more than $48,600 every two years to federal candidates. With that limit gone, Republicans are soliciting more than twice that much money for almost twice as many candidates as they did using the 2012 Senators Classic Committee.
Democrats have created only one sizable joint fundraising committee since McCutcheon, the Secure our Senate 2014 account, which features five Democratic Senate candidates: incumbent Cory Booker, Rep. Bruce Braley, Alison Lundergan Grimes, Michelle Nunn, and Natalie Tennant. But a joint committee of that size could have existed pre-McCutcheon, as well.
The day after McCutcheon, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi declared that Democrats were "not going to unilaterally disarm," even as they objected to the decision. But the party generally has been far more reticent about embracing the loosened campaign finance rules imposed by the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts.
When the Court loosened the rules for outside groups' spending through Citizens United and other decisions, Republicans quickly mobilized to take advantage, spending tens of millions of dollars through outside groups on the 2010 midterm elections.
It wasn't until February 2012 that President Obama signaled to top Democratic donors that he would want them to give to Democratic super PACs. "We're not going to fight this fight with one hand tied behind our back," Jim Messina, Obama's campaign manager, told The New York Times. "With so much at stake, we can't allow for two sets of rules. Democrats can't be unilaterally disarmed."
Notably, that tactical decision came two years after Citizens United.
This article appears in the April 23, 2014 edition of NJ Daily as Republicans Have Gotten Into the Post-McCutcheon Money Game Faster Than Democrats.