The failure of the Scott Walker and Rick Perry presidential campaigns might be a sign that super PAC money isn’t worth the paper its printed on. Super PACs backing the two candidates fleeced mega donors out of 43 million dollars, while the two GOP hopefuls couldn’t even muster enough political strength to make it to the nation’s first primary contests.
Governor Walker and Governor Perry turned out to be worthless investments, leaving their millionaire donors high and dry. The collapse of the two candidates reveals that even in a post-Citizens United world, no amount of money can salvage the political fortunes of a lousy candidate.
Some of the unspent money may end up getting returned to donors, but the demise of the Walker and Perry campaigns underscores some of the weaknesses of being too beholden to super PAC support. Super PACs aren’t allowed to coordinate with the actual campaigns. The campaigns need to pay for their own travel and staff expenses. Those are costs that cannot be passed on to super PACs.
Rick Perry was overly dependent on pro-Perry super PACs. The former Texas Governor’s campaign barely raised over a million dollars, while two wealthy donors funneled 11 million dollars into his Opportunity and Freedom Super PAC. In total, pro-Perry super PACs raised 17 million. That money however, could not be used to pay staff salaries, and the cash strapped Perry campaign eventually became unable to sustain a payroll for even a skeleton crew.
Super PACs supporting Scott Walker raked in 26 million dollars, but were unable to keep the hapless Wisconsin Governor afloat. No amount of marketing was able to salvage a product that voters didn’t want to buy. Walker exited the race on Monday.
The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling opened the flood gates to mega donors contributing piles of cash to dark money super PACs, in order to prop up obsequious candidates who do the bidding of the uber-wealthy. Yet, the 2016 election cycle reveals that millionaires who bankroll super PACs might want to reconsider their strategy. Super PAC spending is proving to be a colossal failure in the early stages of the 2016 race.