Early Presidential Fundraising Dominated by Outside Groups

Fundraising in the 2016 presidential race is unlike anything seen before. With the election still 15 months away, outside groups supporting specific candidates have raised hundreds of millions of dollars, greatly outpacing the candidates themselves.

August 1, 2015

View the full analysis, Shadow Campaigns: The Shift in Presidential Campaign Funding to Outside Groups.

Fundraising in the 2016 presidential race is unlike anything seen before. With Election Day still fifteen months away, outside groups supporting specific candidates have raised hundreds of millions of dollars, greatly outpacing the candidates themselves. The vast majority of the money raised so far has been collected by outside groups not subject to contribution limits. Although these groups are purportedly independent of the campaign, the reality is that most of them, do, in fact, have ties to the candidate. In the Citizens United era, the lines between candidates’ campaigns and the unlimited-contribution groups supporting them are blurred. With flawed coordination rules that go almost entirely unenforced, the path is open for candidates to work closely with, and even exert control over supportive outside groups that can take unlimited money.

The Brennan Center has conducted an analysis of fundraising through the end of the second quarter by presidential campaigns and the groups supporting specific candidates: super PACs, 527s, traditional PACs, and leadership PACs. The totals we report necessarily underestimate the money raised by outside groups, since “dark money” groups only report their revenue annually, and we do not yet know how much they have raised. 

Early Presidential Fundraising Dominated by Outside Groups