Hedge fund managers and investors, together worth billions of dollars, are bankrolling a little-known super PAC that on Tuesday unleashed attack ads against Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
“Hundreds of thousands dead. Terrorists on the march,” the ad’s narrator says. “Where did it go wrong?”
The group, calling itself Future45, uses the television ad to paint Clinton as responsible for Islamic State’s rapid growth in Syria. It also slams her performance as secretary of state.
This is not its first time Future45 has launched an offensive against Clinton. In October, the super PAC ran ads blasting her for her foreign policy work in Libya.
The ad’s sponsor
Future45 and sister nonprofit 45Committee are “focused on holding Secretary Clinton accountable by making certain that the American public has the full breadth of information on Secretary Clinton’s failures,” Ron Weiser, chairman of Future45, told the Wall Street Journal in October.
Officially — as per its website — Future45 says it will fight to ensure the next president will possess “the character and trustworthiness necessary to restore leadership to the White House.”
Being a super PAC enables Future45 to accept unlimited contributions, although it must disclose its donors. 45Committee, a purported issue advocacy organization prohibited from making politics its primary purpose, doesn’t have to disclose its donors.
Those behind the group plan to “complement” work already done by Republican-backing billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, Future45 operatives told the Wall Street Journal.
The formation of the Future45 and 45Committee groups also suggests a conservative donor web with Koch-like aspirations is entering the political fray.
Who’s behind it?
Running the operations is Brian O. Walsh, president of Future45. In 2010, Walsh directed a $26 million campaign at “dark money” nonprofit American Action Network — an effort that succeeded in helping Republicans gain control of the House. Walsh left the American Action Network in January.
Weiser, former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, is chairman of Future45.
Officials at Future45 did not immediately return requests for comment.
The group is backed by three known donors, according to federal records: Kenneth Griffin, president of Citadel; William C. Powers, an investor; and Paul Singer, founder of hedge fund Elliot Management.
Singer has personally endorsed Republican Marco Rubio for president.
Meanwhile, Griffin — a big-time donor to candidates and committees in state and federal races — donated $100,000 in June to Right to Rise USA, a super PAC supporting Republican Jeb Bush for president. Powers, while not as politically active as the others, did donate $100,000 to Right to Rise USA in April.
The family of Joe Ricketts, founder of TD Ameritrade, is also supporting Future45’s effort, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Ricketts family has donated to several super PACs supporting presidential candidates, including more than $5 million to Unintimidated PAC, the group that supported Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s now-defunct presidential bid.
Future45 formed in March. It raised $600,000 through June 30, according to the Federal Election Commission. But it’s likely added significant money to its war chest: federal rules don’t require it to again disclose its finances until January. And being a super PAC allows Future45, unlike presidential campaign committees themselves, to collect contributions in unlimited amounts.
While the nonprofit 45Committee isn’t required to reveal its donors, it cannot spend the majority of its money on politics. Other politically active nonprofit groups have, however, pushed boundaries for how political they may get.
Future45 spent about $115,000 on the ad production and placement for its first ad that criticized Clinton’s foreign policy chops in Libya.
The latest ad — this time focused on Syria — will run nationally on television and is part of a “six-figure digital ad campaign reaching independents in Colorado, Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire,” according to a press release issued Tuesday by the super PAC.
Future45’s first anti-Clinton ad aired on television 25 times during October in New Hampshire, Iowa and Massachusetts markets, as well as on national cable networks, according to data collected by media monitoring firm Kantar Media/CMAG.
Both ads are the group’s only known expenditures. A full accounting of the group’s 2015 expenditures will be revealed when Future45 files disclosure documents with the FEC in January.
Why to watch this group
Future45 and the 45Committee are likely to invest heavily in the 2016 presidential race, and they’ve attracted donors who are no strangers to making seven-figure donations.
This isn’t their first time working in concert either.
Since 2014, Griffin, Singer, Powers and Ricketts (with his wife Marlene) have cumulatively contributed $12.8 million to the super PAC End Spending Action Fund, according to FEC filings. Ricketts founded the Ending Spending super PAC and its sister nonprofit with the same name in 2010.
Those associated with Future45 also attended an October fundraiser held by Singer.
This story was co-published with Al Jazeera America.
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