The 2016 presidential contenders are stretching the latitude they have to work with their independent allies more than candidates in recent elections ever dared, taking advantage of a narrowly drawn rule that separates campaigns from outside groups. For the first time, nearly every top presidential hopeful has a personalized super PAC that can raise unlimited sums and is run by close associates or former aides. Many also are being boosted by nonprofits, which do not have to disclose their donors. The boldness of the candidates has elevated the importance of wealthy donors to even greater heights than in the last White House contest, when super PACs and nonprofits reported spending more than $1 billion on federal races. Although they are not supposed to coordinate directly with their independent allies, candidates are finding creative ways to work in concert with them.
Before former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R) announced his bid in mid-June, the Right to Rise super PAC filmed footage of him that the group plans to use in ads. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign is collaborating directly with Correct the Record, a super PAC providing the Democratic hopeful’s team with opposition research.
Top advisers to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) have been positioned at two big-money groups as they await his presidential announcement next week. GOP candidate Carly Fiorina has gone even further, outsourcing core functions such as rapid response and event preparation to her allied super PAC, the aptly named CARLY for America.