Outside groups backing Ted Cruz land big checks in January

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The six Republican presidential candidates and two Democratic contenders are due to report on the financial health of their campaigns by midnight Saturday. With Republicans voting in South Carolina and Democrats caucusing in Nevada, the reports on fundraising and spending in January provide a glimpse of who has been thinking ahead in the primary calendar.

Most of the outside groups known as super political action committees also must report to the Federal Election Commission by midnight Saturday.

Here’s what we know:

CRUZ NETWORK GROWS

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has the biggest network of outside groups helping him out — more than half a dozen. A super PAC called Courageous Conservatives has stood out for employing some of the most aggressive tactics, even though it isn’t the best-funded of those pro-Cruz groups.

In the lead-up to the South Carolina vote, Courageous Conservatives made thousands of automated phone calls bashing Donald Trump, who has consistently led polls in the state.

So who’s paying for all this?

The group’s January fundraising report shows it has two donors: Stan Herzog, a Missouri builder, and Christopher Ekstrom, a Dallas investor.

Herzog, who gave $60,000 last month, is a seasoned super PAC donor, having put up more than $1 million to back 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney. Ekstrom has a relatively short history as a political donor: His $34,500 contribution to Courageous Conservatives last month appears to be his biggest ever.

A far better funded pro-Cruz group, Stand for Truth, also filed a January fundraising report. That super PAC raised about $2.5 million in January. Its biggest contributor, Trinity Equity, gave more than $1 million. Corporate records show the Houston company shares an address with Quantum Energy Partners, a private equity firm run by Wil VanLoh, who has given the maximum legal amount to Cruz’s presidential campaign, $5,400.

Stand for Truth’s FEC documents show the super PAC spent much of its money on South Carolina advertisements knocking Cruz rival Marco Rubio, a Florida senator.

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TRUMP TAKEDOWN? NOT SO MUCH

A super PAC claiming it would try to take down Trump has not really gotten off the ground.

Make America Awesome — a riff on Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan — raised just $8,640 in January. That followed a disappointing December, when it raised just $1,711. The super PAC is led by Republican strategist and outspoken Trump antagonist Liz Mair.

Perhaps because of its underwhelming funding, the super PAC has done just a few digital ads knocking the celebrity businessman.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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