Right to Rise PAC raises millions to back Jeb Bush

The outside political group supporting Jeb Bush’s bid for president with tens of millions of dollars in television advertising is considering placing organising staff in Iowa and New Hampshire, a move that would follow the decision of his formal campaign to refocus its efforts on the two early-voting states.

Senior advisers to the group tried to paint an upbeat picture of Bush’s White House prospects at the outset of meetings held for major donors to Bush’s campaign and the group, a super PAC known as Right to Rise USA.

Scheduled months ago as a reward for top money-raisers for the candidate once viewed as having the clearest shot at the GOP nomination, the retreat came as it emerged Bush’s formal campaign cut employee salaries by 40% and said it would move jobs from its Miami headquarters to the leadoff-voting states.

A faithful core of roughly 175 Bush supporters made the trip to Houston for the meeting. Among the invited were people who had raised at least $50,000 for the campaign, and major super PAC donors also had access to some events.

Among them was a session with Mike Murphy, a longtime Bush aide who is leading Right to Rise.

He played five ads for the donors as they fired off questions about when the super PAC, which is not subject to the contribution limits placed on campaigns and pulled in a record haul of $103m in the first six months of the year, would start spending big.

Already, Right to Rise has spent $14.7m on ads through the end of last week, mainly in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the first three states on the 2016 nominating calendar.

The group has reserved another $30m in advertising through the week of February 18.

But Right to Rise officials said options for what else the cash-rich super PAC can do are top of mind among some donors, including whether the group should hire staff to marshal a get-out-the-vote effort on Bush’s behalf in Iowa and New Hampshire.

“We’re looking at some of that. The campaign is front and centre on that,” said a senior Right to Rise official.

“But there are a lot of supporters around the country who might want to be organised to do some stuff like that.”

Bush’s super PAC has from its outset been primed to do more than just run television advertising, the activity of choice for super PACs in the 2012 presidential campaign.

While federal law does not allow formal campaigns and super PACs to coordinate their activities, Bush has planned for Right to Rise to perform functions of a traditional campaign.

“Our primary mission is to tell Jeb’s story through paid advertising, but we’re always exploring other ways we can help ,” said Right to Rise spokesman Paul Lindsey.

Bush was loudly cheered as he took the stage before a group of Right to Rise donors Sunday afternoon at a downtown hotel ballroom.

Bush’s father, former US president George HW Bush, and mother, Barbara, had arrived at the hotel for events scheduled to include a Sunday dinner with the candidate, and with their eldest son, former president George W Bush.

Jay Zeidman, a Houston fundraiser for Bush, said he felt “reassured” after listening to the super PAC leadership.

“They’re going to be the asset that we thought all along,” Zeidman said of Right to Rise, which sketched out a massive advertising plan for Bush.

He said the “capital” and “leadership” that Right to Rise has makes it, and therefore Bush, a formidable competitor in the primary.

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