As Congressional Republicans headed into the last few weeks before Election Day, they opened a special joint fundraising committee to collect large checks from corporate CEOs in an effort to pick up as many Democratic seats as possible.
The result was phenomenal: Not since the 2002 ban on soft money have so few outside donors given so much money to a candidate-based fund.
This two-and-half-week experiment, called the Founders Joint Candidate Committee, collected nearly $1.2 million from about 30 families, according to a CQ MoneyLine study of campaign finance records. These receipts translate to an astounding average of $31,170 per donor — the most to any such organization in history.
The only exception to the Founders committee top per-check average is the Vitter Majority Committee, which was a joint fundraising committee created between Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and the National Republican Senatorial Committee more than three years ago. But it only collected one donation of $33,100 from Gary Mockler, chairman of the Mockler Beverage Co., in October 2007.
Federal campaign finance law limits the amount any individual can give to a single campaign committee — the Federal Election Commission last week reset these thresholds for the 2012 election cycle to $2,500 per election. Because the primary and the general are separate elections, the most an individual can give to a candidate is $5,000. Individuals are limited to giving $30,800 to a national party committee.
But joint fundraising committees allow donors to pool all their donations to the participating committees in a single check.
This allowed the Founders Joint Candidate Committee to take in large donations, including a check from Pacific General Ventures President Nersi Nazari that exceeded $80,000.
This was the largest individual contribution during the 2010 election cycle to a campaign-based committee — other than transfers that candidates made to self-finance their campaigns.
The CEO of Roundtable Investment Partners, Geoffrey Boisi, chipped in $75,000 to the Founders committee, while a dozen others gave $50,000 or more each.
In all, almost 70 percent of the organization’s $1.2 million haul money came from a small number of business executives and their spouses.
“In our view, these joint fundraising committees should be barred,” said Fred Wertheimer, President of Democracy 21. “It creates an appearance that donors are able to give contributions to benefit a party or a candidate those go way beyond the amount that limits are.”
While the Founders Joint Candidate Committee fundraising was innovative, the disbursements of the organization were both strategic and effective — and legal.
Almost $545,000 of this money was later divvied up among 16 challengers who won in 2010, while an additional $147,000 went to four newly elected Senate candidates who unseated Democrats. In all, the committee helped fund 20 close races where the Republican candidates won their seats by an average of just 52.9 percent of the vote.