Republican presidential candidate former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, left, has a selfie taken with a supporter while participating in the Fourth of July Parade festivities in Amherst, N.H.,,Saturday, July 4.
Jeb Bush's huge fundraising haul
01:22 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Jeb Bush's Super PAC had over $98 million cash on hand and raked in contributions from 9,900 donors.

Bush's folks said it raised $11.4 million in the 16 days between the launch and the end of the fundraising quarter

Washington CNN  — 

Jeb Bush and his allied super PAC raised $114 million to support his campaign, a massive fundraising haul made possible in part by rewriting the rules of how presidential campaigns raise money.

Bush’s super PAC, Right to Rise USA, said Thursday it collected $103 million since January, money that it must spend independently to back Bush’s presidential bid. Together, Bush’s super PAC and campaign came close to raising as much money in the first half of 2015 – a year before a general election – as American Crossroads, the second biggest super PAC in 2012, did during the entire two-year cycle.

All groups will be required to file detailed reports by the end of the month, but the Bush super PAC raised two and a half times as much as its current closest competitor.

What enabled its size was an innovative strategy that some of Bush’s GOP rivals chose to emulate: By not formally running for President, Bush could keep the independent group close by and help it grow into a political and financial juggernaut.

Fundraisers and strategists had questioned aloud whether or not Bush would succeed in raising the $100 million, a benchmark repeatedly swatted away by campaign aides looking to measure expectations. But it was never in doubt that the former Florida governor would lead the pack by a significant margin.

Though campaign-finance reformers scoffed at what they saw as Bush’s feigned indecision, he was able to hire staff, travel the country and share strategy with advisers who soon would be off limits. And most critically of all, he was able to headline high-dollar fundraisers for the super PAC for six months, delaying his own campaign launch in order to ask donors for unlimited cash that gives him an unparalleled bank account entering the summer.

Bush eventually formally launched his campaign in mid-June, and the campaign itself said it raised $11.4 million in the 16 days between the launch and the end of the fundraising quarter in June. That haul – at a clip of $710,000 a day – is all eligible for spending in the primary, his campaign said.

“Jeb is encouraged and grateful for the tremendous early support and enthusiasm his candidacy has generated since he launched his campaign,” New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, national finance chairman of Bush’s campaign, said in a statement.

Yet it is the Los Angeles-based super PAC that will likely play the heavy in the Bush political shop. The Right to Rise super PAC made its first independent expenditures on Wednesday to bolster the campaign, releasing an advertisement that compared Bush’s record on transparency with Clinton’s.

The group, led by longtime Bush senior aide Mike Murphy, had over $98 million cash on hand and raked in contributions from 9,900 donors. Five hundred of those contributors gave in excess of $25,000.

Some campaign reformers reflected on the past six months by charging that Bush had made a mockery of the super PAC system. David Donnelly, the head of the advocacy organization Every Voice, said in a statement “that Bush attended dozens of fundraisers to help raise that cash while claiming he wasn’t running for president is the political lie of the year so far.”

Super PACs directly linked to candidates are playing a more central part in 2016 than the outside groups ever have before. And Bush’s super PAC in particular is reported to be playing an even greater role than is traditionally done by outside groups, taking on more of the day-to-day functions typically run out of a campaign headquarters.

“We are grateful for the overwhelming response from the thousands of donors who have been drawn to Jeb’s optimistic message of conservative renewal and reform,” said Charlie Spies, the election lawyer who is advising Bush and helped Mitt Romney raise more than $150 million for Romney’s super PAC in 2012.

The cash announced by Bush Thursday also does not include any money raised by an allied nonprofit group, Right to Rise Policy Solutions. That group won’t be required to disclose its contributors.

Drawing on his family’s vast network of experienced bundlers and deep-pocketed donors, the Bush fundraising operation is likely to well outperform its nearest competitors. But despite the campaign’s opening attempt to convince rival Republicans to pass on the race by exclusively securing major donors – a “shock and awe” salvo, as some allies described it – Bush will be joined by 16 other Republicans in the race for the White House.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz posted a greater second-quarter fundraising total than Bush’s campaign did, collecting $14.2 million, though he had much more time to raise the cash and that sum includes a small amount of money earmarked for the general election. His four linked super PACs claim together claim to have raised just under $38 million, putting Cruz likely in second place in the fundraising competition.

And on the Democratic side, a set of groups backing Hillary Clinton say they have raised $24 million and her campaign has raised $45 million.

Other top raisers include Florida senator Marco Rubio, who has a nonprofit group and a super PAC that raised $16 million each. His official campaign has not yet said how much it raised in the second quarter.

Bush is currently in Kennebunkport, Maine, huddling with these top donors and bundlers.