Politics & Government

NC donors boost GOP super PACs


North Carolina donors have poured $2.2 million into the presidential race, most of it to Republican candidates and the super PACs that support them.

Six GOP super PACs pulled in $1.2 million from Tar Heel donors. That was twice as much as North Carolinians gave the campaigns of candidates who appeared in Thursday night’s debate.

That reflects a national pattern that has seen super PACs and their mostly wealthy donors eclipse the campaigns themselves.

“This presidential cycle it’s a whole new ballgame,” says Viveca Novak, a spokeswoman for the Center for Responsive Politics. “The candidates’ campaigns in most cases are raising much less than the super PACs supporting them.”

Presidential super PACs have exploded.

Nationwide they’ve raised $258 million, according to the center. That’s 16 times more than at the same point in the 2012 campaign.

In North Carolina, no one benefited more than Republican Jeb Bush.

Wealthy donors give to PACs

The former Florida governor’s campaign raised $138,300 in the state, according to the Federal Election Commission. That was more than all but one other Republican.

But Right to Rise, a super PAC that supports him, raised $743,000 from N.C. supporters. Two people accounted for a third of that. Retired Wilmington businessman Neill Currie gave the PAC $155,000. Jim Goodnight, a founder of Cary’s SAS Institute, gave $100,000.

N.C. donors gave U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s campaign $62,000. But they gave Security Is Strength, a super PAC backing him, $158,000.

Two-thirds of that came from a single Charlotte businessman and environmental advocate. Jay Faison, who has launched a campaign to persuade fellow Republicans that man-made climate change poses a threat, gave the PAC $100,000.

“We support strong Republican leaders who are forward-thinking, recognize the risk of climate change, and are working on solutions that will accelerate our clean energy future and economic growth at the same time,” Faison said.

And six donors gave the Unintimidated PAC, which supports Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, $142,000.

Its biggest donor was Raleigh businessman Bob Luddy, who gave more money to federal campaigns than any North Carolinian in the last election cycle. The chairman of the conservative Civitas Institute, he gave the pro-Walker PAC $100,000.

Carson relied on grassroots

One GOP candidate who didn’t need big donors to prosper was Ben Carson.

No Republican has raised more in the state from direct campaign contributions than the retired neurosurgeon from Baltimore, who raised $156,000. Only three states gave his campaign more, according to the FEC.

In his support, two super PACs raised another $133,000 from N.C. donors. Virtually all of the money came from small donors through direct mail and Internet appeals.

“Dr. Carson has raised large amounts of money in North Carolina because he has a message … of healing the country, inspiring Americans and reviving the American Dream,” says Vernon Robinson of Winston-Salem, campaign director for the 2016 Committee, one of the super PACs backing Carson.

Carson appears to be benefiting in part from Robinson’s national network of conservative donors. They helped him raise millions for two congressional runs.

No Republican candidate, meanwhile, has raised more in North Carolina from direct contributions than Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The former secretary of state has raised nearly $200,000 in the state. One opponent, independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is running as a Democrat, raised about $37,000.

One name notably not on the list of N.C. donations: Donald Trump, the New York billionaire leading Republican polls.

Staff writer Gavin Off contributed.

Notable donors

Jeb Bush

Right to Rise PAC

  • Neill Currie , Wilmington businessman: $155,510
  • Jim Goodnight, SAS Institute founder, Cary: $100,000
  • Jay Faison, Charlotte entrepreneur: $50,000

Scott Walker

Unintimidated PAC

  • Bob Luddy, Raleigh businessman: $100,000
  • Jim Goodnight, Cary $25,000

Lindsey Graham

Security is Strength PAC

  • Jay Faison, Charlotte 100,000
  • James Rose Sr. LLC, Shelby: $12,700

Bobby Jindal

Believe Again PAC

  • Dan DiMicco, retired Nucor chairman, Waxhaw: $10,000

Ted Cruz

  • Bob Luddy, Raleigh: $5,400
  • Cliff Benson Jr., Raleigh businessman: $1,000

Mike Huckabee

  • Mark Harris, Charlotte pastor: $2,700
  • Charles Taylor, Brevard, former congressman: $5,400

Hillary Clinton

  • Mark Erwin, former ambassador, Charlotte: $2,700
  • Linda Hudson, Charlotte, CEO Cardea Group: $2,700
  • Mark Calloway, Waxhaw, former U.S. Attorney: $2,700
  • Ann Tompkins, Charlotte, former U.S. Attorney: $2,700
  • Crandall Bowles, Charlotte, former Springs Industries executive: $2,700