David Bossie, Charlie SpiesDavid Bossie
(Politico) – When super PACs backing 2016 presidential candidates announced their hauls this summer, it was hardly surprising that the 67 biggest donors who gave $1 million or more together accounted for more than three times as much money as the 508,000 smallest donors combined. Even some candidates with poll numbers then down in the single digits—Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry—were getting more than three-quarters of their outside funding from donations of $1 million or more. Welcome to the campaign new normal, where a handful of wealthy donors can be the ticket to the debate stage, or a retired neurosurgeon could outspend sitting and former governors and senators.
There are any number of reasons for this cycle’s unwieldy and dynamic GOP field of 17 candidates and the primary circus they are only just embarking on, but David Bossie and Charlie Spies are certainly one.
As president of Citizens United, Bossie guided the conservative advocacy group through the controversial 2010 Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court ruling, which opened the floodgates for nonprofits, corporations, unions and other outside groups to spend unlimited, often undisclosed sums in elections. All along, Bossie, who insists he would “love it if there was no such thing as a super PAC,” has argued that keeping campaign spending rules loose is a matter of free speech. (This cycle, he is exercising that very right, overseeing the production of a documentary about Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state.)
Spies, meanwhile, has mastered the art of helping candidates benefit from super PACs—outside groups that can accept unlimited donations as long as they don’t give to, or strategize spending with, campaigns. The head of the national political law practice at firm Clark Hill—who once said, “As long as we have a Constitution, outside money’s not going anyplace”—Spies served as the Mitt Romney campaign’s chief financial officer and counsel in the 2008 presidential race. In 2010, he co-founded a super PAC to boost Romney, Restore Our Future, helping it to raise $153 million in the 2012 presidential campaign. It was a fine line to walk, since super PACs and campaigns cannot legally coordinate their spending, but Spies was savvy enough to walk right up to that line and help others do so too.
His work created a playbook that allows candidates to maximize the new flood of money into politics—and nearly every contender on both sides of the aisle is using his tricks. This cycle, Spies advised Jeb Bush to launch a super PAC and leadership PAC, both called Right to Rise, that, unlike a traditional exploratory committee, allowed the former Florida governor to raise vast sums of money before he officially entered the campaign in June. Spies is now general counsel and treasurer for the Right to Rise USA super PAC, which, no surprise, raised $103 million in the first half of the year—far more than any other candidate.