Last Wednesday night, as donors milled around the cavernous 3rd St. Market Hall for the official afterparty of the first Republican debate, some guests noticed a surprising interloper. The invitation-only event, hosted by the Milwaukee 2024 Host Committee and sponsored by entities like the American Petroleum Institute, had a V.I.P. section. Spotted pottering around was none other than Vivek Ramaswamy.
Just a few hours earlier, of course, Ramaswamy had been on the debate stage thundering that he was the “only candidate on stage not bought and paid for.” His arrival at a high-roller donor party struck some guests as a bit hypocritical. But it’s politics, and Ramaswamy knows the game: It takes upwards of a billion dollars these days to make it to the White House, more than a fair amount of dough, even for a candidate who today is worth some $800 million. Hence Ramaswamy’s efforts to quietly expand his rolodex of financial support, and why he and his wife were seen briefly working the crowd.
Ramaswamy, whose campaign has claimed that he could spend $100 million on the race, may not be a “super PAC puppet,” as he labeled his rivals during the debate, but he does have a super PAC: American Exceptionalism PAC. The group only had $225,000 on hand as of June 30, but over the last ten days has dropped about $1 million of independent expenditures, including on a television ad in Iowa, suggesting that they now have real money in the tank. Indeed, I am told by a source familiar with the matter that the super PAC has raised or received commitments north of $10 million for its efforts since the end of the second quarter. It’s been quite a six-week run.