A coalition of super PACs backing Ted Cruz's presidential bid raised nearly $38 million over the course of three months, with nearly all of the cash coming from just six wealthy donors.
Newly filed documents with the Federal Election Commission show that only Right to Rise USA, the primary super PAC supporting Jeb Bush, brought in more money during the first half of the year than a group of four pro-Cruz super PACs, all of which are named some variation of Keep the Promise, out of all the presidential super PACs on the Republican side of the 2016 race.
Robert Mercer, a GOP mega-donor and the co-CEO of the New York-based hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, wrote the largest check to the pro-Cruz operation, giving $11 million to Keep the Promise I. The only other donation to that group from early April through the end of June came from William Hanley Jr., an investor from Palm Beach, who forked over $5,000.
Strangely, the super PAC's largest expenditure during the latest fundraising period was a donation to another super PAC supporting a different presidential candidate, signaling that Mercer has complete control over the group's activities. Keep the Promise I gave $500,000 to CARLY for America, a super PAC backing former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, in June. Mercer also personally wrote checks to Fiorina's campaign for $5,400 in May and to Believe Again, a pro-Bobby Jindal super PAC, for $250,000 in June.
Meanwhile, Houston investor Toby Neugebauer provided the sole donation of $10 million to another group in the Cruz super PAC orbit, Keep the Promise II. And all of the $15 million that Keep the Promise III brought in came from four members of the Wilks family of central Texas. Farris and Dan Wilks, two billionaire brothers who made their fortune during the Texas fracking boom, each cut seven-figure checks, as did both of their wives.
Unlike the others, the fourth super PAC in the apparatus — called Keep the Promise PAC — is not controlled by one donor or family. That arm raised $1.8 million from 35 donors, with the largest contribution coming from Houston Texans owner Robert McNair, who chipped in $500,000. But McNair's support isn't exclusive to Cruz in 2016. McNair also gave $500,000 to super PACs supporting Bush, Scott Walker, and Lindsey Graham. However, McNair, who was one of Rick Perry's top financial backers during his tenure as Texas governor, did not contribute to any of the pro-Perry super PACs during the first six months of the year.
In total, the six big-spending donors accounted for 95.2 percent of the pro-Cruz super PACs' total haul. And the four super PACs spent only $638,000 through the end of June, meaning they will have a stocked war chest at their disposal as the GOP primary battle begins to heat up in earnest in the coming weeks, beginning with the first debate on Aug. 6.
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Adam Wollner is an analyst for National Journal Hotline. Previously, he covered politics as an intern for NPR and the Center for Public Integrity. A native Wisconsinite, Wollner graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2013 with a bachelor degree in journalism and political science.