Ted Cruz’s coterie of supportive super PACs are crawling with cash—but it’s not doing him much good at the moment.
The Republican presidential contender, a first-term senator from Texas, has an unusual network of super PACs in place to boost his White House prospects. Instead of giving his imprimatur to one main super PAC, which is the norm, Cruz has four officially sanctioned super PACs: Keep the Promise PAC, Keep the Promise I, Keep the Promise II, and Keep the Promise III. National Review reported that this set-up is designed to give individual billionaires and their families maximal control over how their cash gets spent.
And there’s the rub. FEC filings show that those four PACs, combined, have taken in a healthy $39 million—but only spent a teeny tiny little fraction of that on the senator’s presidential efforts. And one of the PACs actually donated to one of Cruz’s 2016 rivals.
This news comes as Cruz faces lackluster poll numbers and less than a week before the first GOP debate. RealClearPolitics’ average gives him just 5.2 percent of the vote, lagging behind fellow conservative firebrands Rand Paul and Ben Carson. And a recent Fox News poll showed his support among likely Republican primary voters got cut in half since mid-March—from 10 percent to just 4 percent.
And while Cruz’s PACs have kept their powder dry, other 2016 contenders’ backers are spending big. The Conservative Solutions Project spent seven figures on TV ads touting Sen. Marco Rubio’s record on Iran, per the Tampa Bay Times. And, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the John Kasich-backing New Day for America has already spent $1.7 million blanketing New Hampshire televisions with ads touting the Ohio governor’s record.
Candidates who aren’t running for president are getting similar boosts; Pat Toomey, a vulnerable Republican senator in Pennsylvania, is benefitting from a $1.5 million TV, direct mail, and digital video ad campaign from Concerned Veterans for America.
But Ted Cruz doesn’t seem to be getting that kind of love. And in his home state, it’s raised a few eyebrows.
“Are these people really planning to spend this money?” queried one Texas Republican insider, adding that he thought the super PACs’ gun-shy approach to spending was “bizarre.”
So while Cruz has made a host of positive headlines for the cash that his supporting super PACs have raked in, he doesn’t actually seem to have benefitted much from their largesse.
First off, there’s Keep the Promise I, a PAC that gets the bulk of its cash from billionaire investor Robert Mercer. In this quarter of the year, the PAC took in more than $11 million and spent only $536,169.90. The kicker? Of that $536,169.90, a sweet five hundred grand went to a super PAC backing Carly Fiorina—who, of course, is also running for president. Against Cruz.
CNN, which first reported on Carly’s PAC’s money, called the contribution “unusual,” which is certainly a nice way to put it. Of the remaining $36,000 that the PAC spent, $20,000 went to a D.C.-based polling company. The remaining $16,169.90 went to Bracewell and Giuliani LLP for legal consulting. So from April through July of this year, the biggest benefactor of a putatively pro-Cruz super PAC was Carly Fiorina.
“It’s Cruz’s own super PAC hedging against him before the first debate,” said the Republican insider.
Then there’s Keep the Promise II—funded solely by a $10 million donation from Toby Neugebauer, son of Rep. Randy Neugebauer—and Keep the Promise III, funded by the fracking-enriched Wilks family. Those two PACs, combined, raised $25 million this quarter. Keep the Promise II didn’t spend anything, and Keep the Promise III spent just $5,025.
Finally, there’s the Keep the Promise PAC, which doesn’t appear to be dominated by one major donor or donor family. It brought in a comparatively modest $1.8 million this quarter and spent about $97,000. Most of that went to covering legal fees, software, and media production. The PAC also spent $1,698.39 at an Austin Apple Store on a computer. This all means that while this PAC looks like it’s been busier than the other three, it’s still not doing a whole lot.
Cruz’s atypical super PAC situation was designed to give donors more control over how their money got spent. But no one anticipated that these donors would be so stingy—except when it comes to boosting a Cruz competitor.