- The Washington Times - Monday, April 25, 2016

The GOP has a money problem — in that too many of its billionaires have remained on the sidelines this election cycle, with no promise of entering the fray once the Republican presidential nominee is named.

To run in the general election, experts predict a candidate and their outside groups will have to spend at least $1 billion. Hillary Clinton has raised more money than any presidential contender so far this cycle, according to tallies by the Campaign Finance Institute. Her main super PAC has been saving its cash and announced last month its plans to spend about $70 million in television ads that will start airing late July and through the fall.

So what about the Republicans? Who knows if they’ll have the money to compete.

And it won’t be because there’s a lack of wealthy GOP donors, but because they’ve thus far remained largely on the sidelines, with no guarantees they’ll pony up for the general. Many loathe businessman Donald Trump, and others were burned early on, betting on the wrong horse in what was once a 17-person race.

In an interview Sunday with ABC News, Charles Koch reiterated his claim he hasn’t and probably won’t back any of the Republican contenders in the coming weeks because of the field’s divisive rhetoric, even saying it is “possible” Hillary Clinton would be better in office than any of the GOP contenders.

“We read — I read, ‘Oh, we’ve given millions to this one, millions to that one, and millions to oppose Trump,’” Mr. Koch told ABC. “We’ve done none of that. We haven’t put a penny in any of these campaigns, pro or con.”

He then suggested he and his brother, David, may turn away from national politics altogether because their return on investments “has been disappointing.”

So that could be nearly $800 million sitting on the sidelines.

Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman, Chicago Cubs owner Todd Ricketts and hedge fund manager Paul Singer have reportedly joined forces in recruiting others to given to an anti-Trump political action committee.

As of Jan. 31, the PAC — dubbed Our Principles PAC — raised more than $3 million from individual donors, with almost all of its funding coming from Marlene Ricketts, wife of billionaire TD Ameritrade founder J. Joe Ricketts and mother of Todd. There’s no indication she’ll give to either Ohio Gov. John Kasich or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz if they win the nomination — but there’s an assumed certainty she won’t be helping Mr. Trump in the general.

Mr. Singer, who backed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, hasn’t committed to Mr. Cruz or Mr. Kasich, either, and there’s no signs he’ll be doing so. Given his involvement in the Our Principles PAC, it’s safe to say Mr. Trump won’t be getting his money.

Minnesota billionaire Stanley Hubbard, who early on gave to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, said many GOP donors are just waiting to see what comes of this election cycle.

“I have been called and asked for money, and I said, ‘Once we pick a nominee, then I will give money again,’” Mr. Hubbard, told The Hill in March. “The problem is that nobody prefers either [Mr. Trump or Mr. Cruz], and the third candidate no one thinks he has a chance, so why waste your money?”

Billionaire Peter Thiel gave to Carly Fiorina’s super PAC early in the race, but hasn’t made a splash anywhere else. And Sheldon Adelson, who was the biggest GOP donor in 2012, has only thrown a couple thousand-dollar donations to several candidates, nowhere near the $100 million he spent in the last presidential contest.

It remains to be seen if these major donors will step up their giving once the GOP names their presidential candidate. However, if they don’t, one thing will be guaranteed: Whomever the Republican nominee is, he will be at a significant competitive disadvantage to Mrs. Clinton right out of the gate.

And if it’s Mr. Trump? Well, he’ll either have to start cozying up to these special interests, cough up $1 billion of his own cash or gamble that money in politics isn’t as influential as it seems.

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