Politics & Policy

Meet Ted Cruz’s Billionaire Donors

He'll have $31 million in the bank soon, they say.

Dathan Voelter isn’t a well-known name among Republican political operatives. But Voelter, an Austin-based attorney at Freescale Semiconductor, is the only person publicly associated with the cluster of four super PACs that he says is about to raise $31 million to support Ted Cruz’s presidential candidacy. The PACs can raise unlimited sums, and do not have to disclose their donors, so Voelter is the front man for the billionaires putting their money behind Cruz. 

Well, except for one family: Robert Mercer and wife Diana and their daughter, Rebekah. Securing the backing of the Mercers is huge for Cruz: Robert Mercer alone was the fourth largest individual donor in the 2014 cycle, according to Open Secrets. Over the past six years, Mercer, the CEO of the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, has poured $37 million into various political causes. A Bloomberg profile published in October called him “the man who out-Koched the Kochs.” Rebekah Mercer, who owns the upscale New York City bakery Ruby et Violette and who runs the $37 million Mercer Family Foundation, will also play a key role in the political giving.  

Each of the four PACs, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, represent a particular donor or donor family, and the Mercers control one.

“Donors have very specific things they want done with their money,” the source says, and separating the PACs, which are all operating under a version of the name Keep the Promise, will ensure that the money contributed by each donor is funneled to that donor’s cause of choice, whether it’s competing in the early primary states, putting ads on the air, or investing in data and analytics. 

Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin broke the news about the PACs on Wednesday, and he notes that “there are no known cases in which an operation backing a White House hopeful has collected this much money in less than a week.” 

Since he surprise victory in 2012, Cruz has been a robust grassroots fundraiser, particularly online, but his team has long known that if he is going to be a competitive candidate in 2016, he is going to have to raise the sort of serious, eye-popping money that establishment candidates like Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton are already hauling in. The formation of the various PACs has been in the works for months, and their public announcement on the day after Rand Paul launched his presidential campaign is no accident. 

“Our goal is to guarantee Senator Cruz can compete against any candidate,” Voelter said in a statement. “Supporters of the Senator now have a powerful vehicle with the resources necessary to aid in his effort to secure the Republican nomination and win back the White House.”

#related#Cruz, however, already had a super PAC devoted to boosting his candidacy. That PAC, Stand for Principle, was founded last year. Though it was loosely directed by Cruz’s longtime friend and former debate partner David Panton, it was officially led by former Newt Gingrich fundraiser Maria Strollo Zack. The PAC had pulled in a paltry $300,000 by the beginning of 2015, and, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, the senator’s would-be backers didn’t like what they saw, at least not enough to put their millions there. 

So now, there is another group of PACs under different direction. Keep the Promise, Voelter said in his statement, “can provide the ‘appropriate air cover’ in the battle against Senator Cruz’s opponents in the Washington establishment and on the political left.”

“We plan to support the effort of millions of courageous conservatives who believe 2016 is our last opportunity to ‘keep the promise’ of America for future generations,” he said.

— Eliana Johnson is Washington editor of National Review.

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