“A couple presidential elections ago, somebody who had raised, say, $100,000 for a candidate was viewed as a fairly valuable asset,” said Washington lobbyist Kenneth Kies. “Today, that looks like peanuts. People like me are probably looking around saying, ‘How can I do anything that even registers on the Richter scale?’ ”
[Why super PACs have moved from sideshow to center stage]
Consider the scene last weekend in South Florida, where top supporters of the Republican National Committee gathered for their spring retreat at a luxury resort in Boca Raton. In the past, members of the RNC’s Regent and Team 100 donor programs attracted the focused attention of presidential aspirants. But this time, there were distractions.
A number of White House contenders in attendance — including former Texas governor Rick Perry and Govs. Scott Walker (Wis.), Chris Christie (N.J.) and Bobby Jindal (La.) — devoted much of their time to private meetings with high rollers, according to people familiar with their schedules. Bush came to Boca Raton after an afternoon super-PAC fundraiser in Miami.
Then on Sunday, the governors made a pilgrimage to Palm Beach for a private Republican Governors Association fundraiser hosted by billionaire industrialist David Koch at his 30,000-square-foot beachfront mansion.
In the words of one veteran GOP fundraiser, traditional bundlers have been sent down to the “minor leagues,” while mega-donors are “the major league players.”
The old-school fundraisers have been temporarily displaced in the early money chase because of the rise of super PACs, which can accept unlimited donations. This year, White House hopefuls are rushing to raise money for the groups before they declare their candidacies and have to keep their distance.