As the second-quarter fundraising deadline looms midnight Tuesday, it’s important to consider not just how much money presidential candidates are raising but what kind.
Every 2016 candidate is collecting contributions up to $2,700 — that’s the legal limit for what they can raise, per individual donor, and spend during the primaries. But some politicians are soliciting cash above that level, building up a general-election bankroll that they can’t touch during the primary and can use only if they become the nominee.
It’s a critical distinction. Deep into the 2008 primaries, Hillary Clinton at one point reported $32 million in cash, but only $9 million in primary funds and $10 million in debt. Her campaign was essentially broke, even as it was cash flush.
Only one candidate for president so far — Sen. Ted Cruz — has filed a quarterly report with the Federal Election Commission, and an estimated 15 percent of his $4 million haul was in general-election funds he can’t use until (and if) he’s the nominee.
Reports for the rest of the field will become public in mid-July. Those choosing to raise general-election money can boost their cash figures at first blush. But any money left over if they lose the nomination — and all but one from each party will — must be refunded. If the politician has another open federal committee (say, Cruz’s 2018 Senate account, or Rand Paul’s 2016 Senate committee), they can ask donors to “redesignate” the money there.
National Journal surveyed the 2016 field to ask what type of money they are raising in 2016. For those who did not answer, we looked at their online donation forms to see if they were soliciting $2,700 or $5,400. The responses and findings are below:
Between his super PAC, leadership PAC, and campaign committee, Bush is expected to set the early fundraising bar when reports go public in July. “We are focused on raising primary dollars for Governor Bush’s campaign,” said Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell. She did not answer a follow-up about whether they are refunding donors who give above the $2,700 level anyway. His website’s donation form tops out at $2,700.
The senator from Florida is seeking contributions only for the primaries, but will accept general-election funds if given. “We’re not actively soliciting general-election funds, but we’ll accept them if people want to contribute,” said spokesman Alex Conant. The campaign website’s donation form tops out at $2,700.
Walker’s campaign-in-waiting did not respond to requests for comment. The Wisconsin governor has not announced his candidacy yet but is actively raising money for his “testing the water” federal committee in $2,700 increments.
Cruz is actively raising money for both the primary and general, up to $5,400 per donor, as his first-quarter report shows.
The former Hewlett-Packard chief executive is raising and accepting primary funds only up to $2,700, deputy campaign manager Sarah Isgur Flores said.
“Mr. Trump is basically self-financing the campaign, for all intents and purposes,” said campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Trump’s website suggests contributions up to $2,700 but Lewandowski said they would “accept up to the legal limit,” including general-election funds. “I know of nobody who has done that,” he added.
The senator from South Carolina is raising money for the primary and general, up to $5,400 per donor, his campaign said.
Santorum is currently raising funds only for the primary, according to his campaign. “However, he only actively started raising money the last week of May, so that could change moving forward,” spokesman Matt Beynon said.
The former Arkansas governor and 2008 candidate for president is “raising for primary only,” according to spokeswoman Alice Stewart. His website’s donation form tops out at $2,700.
Paul’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment. The donation form on his website has up to a $5,400 option, suggesting he is actively raising general-election funds.
The Jindal campaign is only actively raising primary funds, and the donation form on his website has only up to a $2,700 button. Still, Jindal strategist Curt Anderson said that they are not turning away those who give general-election money. “If someone gives them, we will keep them,” he said.
Perry’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment. The donation form on his website has up to a $5,400 option, suggesting he is actively raising general-election funds.
Carson’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment. The donation form on his website has up to a $5,400 option, suggesting he also is actively raising general-election funds.
The New Jersey governor formally announces his presidential bid on Tuesday. The donation form on his website has only up to a $2,700 button, suggesting he is actively raising only primary funds. His campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
The Ohio governor is expected to announce his candidacy on July 21. He is already raising money for “Kasich for America” in $2,700 increments, according to johnkasich.com, though the fine print adds that, “The maximum an individual may contribute is $2,700 per election.” A spokesman for Kasich’s PAC did not respond to a request for comment.
Pataki’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment. The donation form on his website has only up to a $2,700 button, suggesting he is actively only raising primary funds.
The Clinton campaign said that it is only actively raising money for the primaries in $2,700 increments (and that’s the largest donation option on its website). “In the rare occasion somebody does give a donation more than the primary amount, we’re not returning it,” said Clinton spokesman Josh Schwerin.
Michael Briggs, a Sanders spokesman, said Sanders is raising funds up to $2,700 for the primary. The donation form on his website has a button only up to $1,000.
O’Malley’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment. The donation form on his website has up to a $2,700 option, but the fine print below says: “By submitting your contribution, you agree that the first $2,700 of a contribution will be designated for the 2016 primary election, and any additional amount up to $2,700 will be designated for the 2016 general election.”