Pro-Ted Cruz forces raised nearly $23 million in March and spent almost as much, showing a presidential effort in full swing as the U.S. senator from Texas navigated the thick of the primary season, according to reports filed Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission.
Cruz's campaign reported raising $12.5 million from March 1 to March 31, its biggest fundraising month yet. But it unloaded $11.8 million at the same time, giving it a relatively high burn rate — a measure of how quickly it cycles through cash — of 94 percent. The spending left the campaign with $8.8 million in the bank heading into April.
A large part of the campaign's spending was on media, with $5.2 million alone going to the Memphis-based advertising firm WestRogers LLC. The campaign also continued to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to Cambridge Analytica, a voter targeting firm.
The reporting period covered 29 nominating contests, 11 of which were on March 1, and a stretch of time during which Cruz distinguished himself as the leading alternative to frontrunner Donald Trump. Now Cruz has only two rivals left in the race: Trump, a billionaire who continues to loan his campaign millions of dollars, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, whose campaign reported raising $4.5 million in March, spending $4.6 million and having $1.2 million cash on hand.
Cruz was helped in March by a constellation of seven pro-Cruz super PACs that took in $10.4 million, spent $9.6 million and headed into April with $21.3 million in the bank. In fundraising and spending, the biggest player of the bunch was Trusted Leadership PAC, which was set up earlier this year as a vehicle to consolidate other pro-Cruz finance efforts outside the campaign.
Sure enough, the reports show more money than usual moving between the super PACs, perhaps a sign of the ongoing reorganization. Trusted Leadership PAC, for example, took in $900,000 from two other pro-Cruz groups, Keep the Promise I ($800,000) and Stand for Truth ($100,000). At the same time, Trusted Leadership PAC sent well over $1 million of its own money to other super PACs supporting Cruz.
The top donors filling the super PAC coffers in March were not unfamiliar. Trusted Leadership PAC received $1 million each from GOP megadonor Dick Uihlein and a company led by Missouri construction executive Stan Herzog, both previous Cruz givers. Keep the Promise I, meanwhile, got another $2 million from New York hedge fund magnate Robert Mercer, who invested $11 million in the super PAC upon its formation.
One pro-Cruz super PAC continued to stand out on the reports: Keep the Promise II, which was started more than a year ago with a $10 million donation from Houston investor Toby Neugebauer. Since then, the group appears to have held on to much of the money, entering April with just under $9 million cash on hand.
Keep the Promise II raised no money in March, and neither did another pro-Cruz super PAC, Keep the Promise to Veterans. That group, which is being led by former Gov. Rick Perry, was started earlier this year to build support for Cruz among veterans.