The grassroots political action committee hoping to push conservative activist Dr. Ben Carson to run for president in 2016 said Wednesday it has raised nearly $10 million, claiming that puts it ahead of the Ready for Hillary group that’s testing the presidential waters for former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
In an email to supporters, the National Draft Ben Carson for President PAC said it is trying to set up an organization in early GOP primary states for Mr. Carson, and said it wants to raise enough to top the $10 million mark by the end of the month, saying that would be a signal to Mr. Carson to jump into the race.
“Presidential campaigns are more costly than ever before. Reaching this goal will send a bold message to Dr. Carson that his candidacy as the Republican nominee is what Americans throughout this nation want him to do,” the PAC said in the email.
Mr. Carson, who is not affiliated with the draft PAC and earlier this month announced his own PAC to support candidates, said Monday that “the likelihood is strong” that he would run for president. He told the “Hugh Hewitt Show” that he would make a final decision next year.
The Draft Carson committee is organized as a super PAC. It said it raised more than $9.8 million from its formation in August 2013 until now.
The Ready For Hillary PAC had raised $8.2 million as of June 30, split between a regular PAC and the Ready For Hillary super PAC.
Ready For Hillary has been heavily fueled by investors from California and New York cutting checks for $25,000, but Draft Carson has some high-dollar donors too. Its biggest donor is Ruth Buck, a Pennsylvania doctor who has given $50,000 to the PAC. Another top contributor, giving $12,000 to the cause, is Idaho Rancher Harry Bettis.
The Draft Carson PAC said it’s spending its money on radio ads trying to boost minority voter turnout in Senate races this year in Louisiana and North Carolina, as well as building a network of operatives in states that play an outsized role in the 2016 GOP primary process.
According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the bulk of Ready For Hillary PAC’s money is spent on media buys and worker salaries. The campaign has spent over $1 million on web advertising alone and another $1 million to pay scores of workers across the country who are laying the groundwork for a potential Clinton run for the Democratic nomination.
Other draft PACs lag behind.
The Draft Ted Cruz for President PAC was formed in January 2014 and has received $198,052 in donations as of June 30. Unlike the draft groups for Mr. Carson and Mrs. Clinton, the Draft Ted Cruz for President PAC spends a majority of its money on mail-outs trying to get supporters to sign a petition urging Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to seek the GOP’s nomination.
According to the group’s website, organizers hope to gain 1 million signed petitions by the end of the year. So far the draft effort has received 17,465 signatures.
The Ready for Warren PAC, formed to try to recruit Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to seek the Democratic Party’s 2016 nomination, formed in August and its first financial report is due to the Federal Election Commission next month.
Ms. Warren has insisted several times that she will not seek the 2016 Democratic nomination and sent a letter through her election lawyer disavowing the PAC.
And the PAC’s name is also facing scrutiny.
The Washington Times reported in August that FEC rules prohibit a draft committee from using the name of a candidate that is currently running for federal office. As Ms. Warren is up for re-election to her Senate seat, the name “Ready for Warren” would be in violation of this rule.
On Sept. 7, the FEC sent a letter to the PAC ordering the group to omit Ms. Warren’s name. The group has not yet responded to the letter but has until Oct. 14 to do so or face an audit or enforcement action.