The presidential election is 920 days away. No mainstream candidate from either party has officially declared his or her intentions. Even the midterms are still six months away.
But none of that is stopping the Ready for Hillary super PAC from spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on online advertising, direct mailers and postage to reach potential 2016 supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton as she considers a 2016 presidential bid.
Ready for Hillary recently submitted its first quarter income and spending to the Federal Election Commission. More than $375,000 went to online advertising, while $228,000 went to direct mail production, $135,000 to printing, and $46,000 for postage fees. In total, the pro-Hillary group spent $1.6 million through March 31.
That’s a lot to spend on the former secretary of state, who claims she’s only “thinking about” a run for the Oval Office. Clinton has not publicly endorsed the organization's work on her behalf but several advisers to the former first lady and President Bill Clinton are involved in its operations.
Seth Bringman, the communications director for Ready for Hillary, tells msnbc it would be “political malpractice to not mobilize out of the sheer enthusiasm” over the prospect of Clinton running. Bringman said the organization’s goal is to amass a giant supporter list and have it ready for the “moment she makes a decision,” noting grassroots mobilization was a downfall for the Clinton campaign in 2008. So far, he said, about two million Americans are on that list. The average contribution, the group says, was $53, with 98% of donations $100 or less.
Still, there were 10 big-time donors this quarter, each giving $25,000 and 56 people who gave in $5,000 to $15,000 range.
But it's not just about giving. Ready for Hillary is in the selling business, too. On the super PAC’s website, you can buy “raise a toast! Ready for Hillary” champagne flutes and “born ready for Hillary” baby onesies.
The strategy, said Bringman, is to raise money and continue the onslaught of advertising. The super PAC has 22 paid staffers who work out of Rosslyn, Va. In the first quarter, $209,127 went to payroll.
Of course, Ready for Hillary isn’t the only PAC gearing up for 2016. The Washington Post reported over the weekend that six major tea party PACs have spent a combined $37.5 million in 2014. Notably, less than $7 million went toward direct support for candidates. Meanwhile, about $18 million went to pay for fundraising and direct mail.
Independent PACs for specific potential Republican candidates paled in comparison to Ready for Hillary. Draft Ted Cruz for president raised $27,656 and spent $12,928 in the first quarter of 2014. Ready for Christie did not submit a quarterly report for their desired candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. In their year-end 2013 report, they had raised $334 and spent $253.
Current lawmakers with potential 2016 ambitions have been making use of their leadership PACs – suggesting their eyes are set on the not-so-distant future. Much of the funds went to consulting, polling and travel – with just a small amount going towards backing other politicians and win over allies, which is typically what such PACs are for. Sen. Marco Rubio’s Reclaim America PAC raked in $530,967 and spent $375,321 in the first quarter of 2014 and Sen. Rand Paul’s Reinventing a New Direction PAC raised $351,346 and spent $583,707.