It’s not exactly news that Jeb Bush’s super PAC was a colossal failure, but campaign finance filings put a fine point on it: Despite spending more that $100 million, Right to Rise USA attracted more election-law complaints that primary victories.

Right to Rise quickly amassed a large campaign war chest in 2015 and established the former Florida governor as the early front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. But then came the tornado known as Donald Trump, who thrashed Bush relentlessly as Right to Rise head honcho Mike Murphy looked on helplessly.

“So much for the idea that super PACs are a way of buying votes. It’s kind of reassuring, isn’t it?”

Right to Rise ended April having raised $121.1 million and spent $104.1 million, including $86.8 million on direct expenditures in support of Bush and against his opponents. Yet Bush won no primaries or caucuses — and finished no better than fourth place. The super PAC ended the month with $17.1 million. Rarely has such a well-funded political operation spent so much to achieve so little.

“So much for the idea that super PACs are a way of buying votes,” said Christopher Devine, a political science professor at the University of Dayton in Ohio. “It’s kind of reassuring, isn’t it?”

Officials with Right to Rise could not be reached for comment.

Bush is not the first well-funded candidate to bellyflop so spectacularly. Then-Sen. Phil Gramm, of Texas, spent $20 million — an obscene amount of money — and was viewed as an early front-runner for the 1996 GOP nomination for president. But he dropped out after finishing fifth in the Iowa caucuses.

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In the super PAC era, though, Bush is easily the poster child for failure. An analysis last week by the Center for Responsive Politics concludes that there are too many moving parts in a campaign to affix blame for Bush’s defeat on Right to Rise. But it lays out in devastating detail that the super PAC was, at best, ineffectual.

“At the end of the January, Right to Rise had spent $80.2 million in independent expenditures, with little to show for it,” the analysis states.

[lz_table title=”Rise to Rise?” source=”Center for Responsive Politics”]Jeb Bush’s Super PAC
Total receipts,$121.1M
Total spent,$104.1M
Independent expenditures,$17.1M
Leftover cash,$17.1M

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The super PAC still had $41 million and spent another $6.6 million in February, including funding phone banks to contact voters directly. By the end of the month, however, Bush was out of the race.

“And that may be the ultimate lesson of the Right to Rise debacle,” the analysis states. “Soft money from super PACs and 501(c)s can help swing a race, but without hard money in a campaign’s coffers, a candidate won’t be able to hang on for long.”

The center’s analysis found one strategic decision at odds with most other campaigns: Right to Rise spent little on digital advertising, just 1.4 percent of the independent expenditures — and all of it through Murphy’s Revolution Media Group and Revolution Agency.

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With the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary looming in February, Right to Rise upped it spending in January — to no avail.

“And indeed, Murphy and others steering the Right to Rise behemoth seemed to panic in January: The super PAC spent $32.7 million that month, more than it spent in any other month,” the analysis states. “The group even sent out a mailer containing a video player preloaded with a Bush documentary.”

Right to Rise’s legacy, other than Bush’s failure, will be defending itself against allegations of wrongdoing. The Federal Election Commission confirmed at least two complaints accusing the super PAC of skirting campaign finance law.

  • The American Democracy Legal Fund accused Bush of improperly raising money for Right to Rise after he had decided to run for president but before he formally declared his candidacy.
  • The left-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint accusing Right to Rise of of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal contributions.

In addition, the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 said they filed FEC complaints against Bush and other candidates, accusing them of illegally raising money for their super PACs during the period when they supposedly were not candidates — but actually were.