Spending target: Unknown
Conservative Solutions, a super PAC, was formed and registered with the Federal Election Commission in February 2013 by supporters of Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential run.
According to the PAC’s website, J. Warren Tompkins, who was the senior adviser for George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign, is in charge of this organization. Jeff Sadosky, who managed communications for George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign and John McCain’s presidential campaign, is a communications strategist for the PAC. Adam Stoll, former campaign manager for George Pataki’s reelection campaign as governor of New York, oversees media placement and digital strategies.
As a super PAC, Conservative Solutions is required by law to disclose its donors. However, a sister organization, Conservative Solutions Project, is a 501(c)(4), meaning it does not have to share its donors publicly. It was formed in 2014, and its president is Pat Shortridge, former chair of the Minnesota Republican Party.
A 501(c)(4) “social welfare” group must “further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community,” not an individual political candidate, according to IRS tax rules. Conservative Solutions Project claims that it promotes a general conservative agenda, especially with regard to education, but its advertising has featured Rubio and has aired in states important to the presidential nomination.
Conservative Solutions PAC and Conservative Solutions Project share the same leadership team and public spokesman. “Absolutely, the two groups are related,” spokesman Jeff Sadosky told National Journal. “But they are separate and distinct entities. One is focused on supporting Marco Rubio’s potential presidential campaign, and one is focused on issue education.”
The Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, two organizations promoting an overhaul of campaign finance rules, asked the Justice Department to open an investigation into the “social welfare” group on Nov. 5, 2015. In their letter, they pointed to Conservative Solutions Project’s ads for Rubio, despite the organization’s status as a 501(c)(4).
According to the Federal Election Commission, Conservative Solutions PAC raised nearly $30.5 million in 2015. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that as of Feb. 4, 2016, Conservative Solutions PAC had spent nearly $19 million in support of Rubio and $9 million against his opponents. In particular, the PAC spent $4.9 million against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, $4 million against Sen. Ted Cruz and $73,601 against Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Several contributors have donated large amounts to this PAC as of its 2015 year-end report. Billionaire auto dealer and longtime Rubio supporter Norman Braman made four separate donations totaling $6 million; a former CEO of Oracle, Lawrence J. Ellison, contributed $3 million through two donations; Kenneth Griffin, founder of the hedge fund firm Citadel LLC, made two contributions totaling $2.6 million; Paul Singer, founder of Elliott Management (and single greatest contributor of money to Republican candidates and causes in 2014, according to the New York Times), made a single donation of $2.5 million; and Laura Perlmutter (of the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Foundation) contributed $2 million through a single donation.
As for corporate donations, Besilu Stables, owned by businessman Benjamin Leon, contributed $2.5 million, which is the largest single donation from a corporation. Several other organizations have donated more than $200,000 each: IGX donated $500,000; Florida Crystals Corp. gave $350,000; Southern Wine & Spirits of America donated $250,000; and Access Industries contributed $250,000.
Several state-level PACs have also contributed to Conservative Solutions PAC. These include three PACs based in Florida: American Dialogue (donation of $30,000), Citizens First (donation of $40,000) and Free Speech PAC (donation of $30,000). Two Virginia-based PACs have also contributed: Community Leadership PAC (donation of $200,000) and Conservatives for Effective Government (donation of $100,000).
While Conservative Solutions Project is not required to report its donors, the New York Times reported that the organization claimed it had raised $15.8 million from donors between its establishment in 2014 to July 2015. A November 2015 NBC News article said that Conservative Solutions Project had spent nearly $8.5 million on TV ads up to that point, making it “the second-biggest advertiser in the 2016 Republican race so far.”
Fact-checking Conservative Solutions PAC:
Trump vs.Veteran Vendors, Feb. 29, 2016