On Saturday, even as political reporters put the finishing touches on their Jeb Bush postmortems—do: “Fall of the house of Bush: how Jeb fell victim to hype, hysteria...and himself”; don’t: “Fall of the House of Bush: How last name and Donald Trump doomed Jeb”—the candidate and his super PAC gave us one more morbid look at the finances of a failing political dynasty.
Last year, Right to Rise USA, the super PAC supporting Bush’s erstwhile candidacy, raised $118 million. According to Saturday’s monthly FEC filing, however, it only took in $379,000 in January. Most of that, the Associated Press reports, was from Richard DeVos, owner of the Orlando Magic, who gave $250,000 on January 19. (He gave the same amount, on the same day, to a super PAC supporting Marco Rubio.)
Bush’s official campaign, meanwhile, didn’t do much better, raising just $1.6 million last month. It had less than $3 million cash on hand at the beginning of February. Meanwhile, Right to Rise (which, incidentally, is run by Charles Spies: the guy who ran Mitt Romney’s super PAC), still had quite a bit of money in its coffers at the end of last month—$24.4 million, actually.
What happens to the official campaign contributions is strictly regulated—candidates can’t put that money towards personal expenses. What happens to a defunct candidate’s super PAC funding is less clear, however, as this is only the second election in which such groups have figured. From CBS News, after Rick Perry and Scott Walker dropped out of the Republican race last fall:
“There are no constraints beyond the ban on giving to candidates and political parties,” said Paul Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center. “A single individual could set up a super PAC and use every penny she raises to pay herself a salary.”
That means the leaders of the organization could legally cash out, buy a yacht, name it The SS Thank You FEC and sail off into the political sunset. Really. The only federal entity that might possibly come after them, Ryan says, is the IRS.
So why aren’t multiple FEC-themed yachts aren’t sailing around the Caribbean? It has very little do to do with regulation and a lot to do with reputation.
“You have serious political professionals who are closely associated with serious candidate’s campaigns, and they have a real profession incentive to not abuse the good will of their donors,” Ryan said.
Come to think of it, $24.4 million—or even a fraction of that, really—would buy an awful lot of MacBook Pros.