Bush fundraising machine preparing for campaign's launch

AP News
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Posted: Jun 08, 2015 5:48 PM
Bush fundraising machine preparing for campaign's launch

WASHINGTON (AP) — As Jeb Bush focuses on foreign policy this week during a visit to Europe, his team at home is finalizing a fundraising blitz that will begin as soon as he steps into the 2016 presidential race.

Bush will publicly announce his bid for the Republican presidential nomination on Monday, while privately embarking on what his team has dubbed the "27 in Fifteen" challenge — asking fundraisers to collect at least $27,000 in donations in the 15 remaining days of the month.

Those who do will be awarded certain perks, including an invitation to a two-day July retreat at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. The private gathering features an "evening picnic" with Bush and a morning "political and campaign briefing" with senior campaign staff, according to materials distributed to donors and obtained by The Associated Press.

Bush will also begin an 11-city fundraising tour in Washington on June 19 that will include stops in Florida, New York, Chicago, Texas and Atlanta, according to the materials obtained by the AP. Bush's team filed paperwork last week with the state of Florida to create a formal campaign, "Jeb 2016 Inc." That allowed the campaign to open a bank account and begin courting donors even before the announcement.

The fundraising rollout comes as Bush makes final tweaks to the political structure of his 2016 campaign.

Day-to-day operations will be led by campaign manager Danny Diaz, a longtime Republican operative going back to former President George W. Bush's 2004 re-election campaign.

David Kochel, a veteran of presidential campaigns in Iowa who was expected to serve as campaign manager, will instead serve as a top strategist and oversee early state operations, while longtime adviser Sally Bradshaw will continue to serve as Bush's "right hand."

"Jeb Bush is a leader who has a history of attracting top talent and pushing them beyond what they thought possible," Bradshaw said. "David can best position us for success by playing a key leadership role focusing on how Jeb wins primaries, caucuses, and ultimately the general election, and Danny's skill at rapidly moving content and campaign organization makes him perfectly suited for running the day-to-day operations."

Bush's campaign will also benefit from six months of groundwork laid by a supportive super PAC named Right to Rise. The former Florida governor has toured the country raising money for that group since announcing plans to explore a White House run in December.

As part of the statement outlining the campaign leadership, the campaign confirmed longtime Bush adviser Mike Murphy will lead the Los Angeles-based super PAC, as was widely expected.

Unlike formal campaigns, which are governed by fundraising limits, super PACs can accept unlimited donations from individuals and corporations. But they are not allowed to coordinate their activities with candidates and campaigns for office.

Bush advisers confirmed Monday that an internal firewall was instituted on June 4 blocking any formal communication between campaign staff and the Bush allies who will run the super PAC. The advisers spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to publicly discuss internal campaign operations.

Super PACs will play a crucial role in the 2016 presidential campaign — particularly in the Republican primary.

In 2012, Restore Our Future, a group helping eventual nominee Mitt Romney, spent about $153 million — primarily on televised attack ads. Romney's campaign spent more than three times that amount.

Those proportions may flip for Right to Rise and Bush, with the campaign raising and spending less than its super PAC counterpart. In April, several donors and Bush strategists described to the AP his plan to have the super PAC produce the bulk of television advertising and direct mailers to voters supporting his candidacy.

Yet the formal campaign's first fundraising events show Bush will also aggressively try to build a deep campaign treasury he can directly control.

After beginning in Washington, his post-announcement fundraising tour moves to Florida, where Bush attends four closed-door events in four days. He'll then raise money in Greenwich, Connecticut, and New York City.

The "27 in Fifteen" challenge asks Bush fundraisers to bank at least $27,000 by the end of the month. In practical terms, that means finding 10 people to each write a check for $2,700 — the maximum donors are allowed to give to formal campaigns for the presidential primaries.

"Fifteen" refers to the first 15 days of the campaign, between Bush's announcement and the end of the month, which is also the close of the first fundraising reporting period.

All of the declared presidential candidates must report to the Federal Election Commission by July 15 what their campaigns have raised through the end of June. As the newest entrant to the GOP field, Bush's report will be compared against those of candidates who have been in the race for weeks and months longer.

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AP writer Ronnie Greene contributed to this report.