Ending Spending Action Fund

The Ending Spending group of organizations is composed of two partners: The Ending Spending, Inc. tax-exempt nonprofit and the Ending Spending Action Fund Super PAC (commonly referred to as ESA Fund).[1] Both are almost entirely subsidized by the Ricketts family. Patriarch Joe Ricketts is the founder of the TD Ameritrade online stock brokerage. His son, Todd, serves as the CEO of ESA Fund.[2] ESA Fund describes itself as “an independent organization that proudly supports candidates regardless of party affiliation who favor enhancing free enterprise, reducing the size of government, and balancing our nation’s budget.”[3] In reality, its spending is virtually all for Republicans – with the exception of one expenditure of $29,900 on behalf of Rep. Walt Minnick in 2010, ESA has never spent money on behalf of a Democrat.[4][5][6]

ESA Fund gained notoriety in early 2012 when a leaked memo showed that some of the Super PAC’s strategists had advocated that the group attack President Barack Obama for “presenting himself as what the proposal called a ‘metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln.’”[7] The Super PAC ultimately spent $10 million in a failed attempt to defeat the President, as well as $4 million in Congressional races.[8]

In 2014, ESA Fund emerged as a major player in the battle for the Senate, spending over $21 million on targeted races.[9] The group also spent money to influence the outcome of several Republican primaries. As in 2012, the group’s record was mixed. In August 2014, the group was forced to pull ads criticizing New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen off the air after its claims were proven false.[10]

As of May 23, 2016, it had already spent over $2 million supporting Republicans and opposing Democrats in 2016 races.[11] Notably, the group has spent over $1 million supporting Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and another $230,000 against her opponent, Gov. Maggie Hassan.[12]

As of March 31, 2016, ESA Fund had $300,000 on hand.[13] Major donors to the group in the 2016 cycle include hedge fund manager Paul Singer ($1 million), Marlene Ricketts ($850,000), and hedge fund manager Ken Griffin ($500,000).

[1]Meet the Super PAC both Republicans and Democrats should fear.” Sean Sullivan, The Washington Post, 04/10/14

[2]Meet the Super PAC both Republicans and Democrats should fear.” Sean Sullivan, The Washington Post, 04/10/14

[3]ESA Fund.” Accessed 05/23/16

[4]ESA Fund – Targeted Spending, 2010 Cycle.” The Center for Responsive Politics, accessed 09/30/15

[5]ESA Fund – Targeted Spending, 2012 Cycle.” The Center for Responsive Politics, accessed 09/30/15

[6]ESA Fund – Targeted Spending, 2014 Cycle.” The Center for Responsive Politics, accessed 09/30/15

[7]G.O.P. ‘Super PAC’ Weighs Hard-Line Attack on Obama.” Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg, The New York Times, 5/17/12

[8] ““Meet the Super PAC both Republicans and Democrats should fear.” Sean Sullivan, The Washington Post, 04/10/14

[9]ESA Fund – Targeted Candidates, 2014 Cycle.” The Center for Responsive Politics, accessed 09/30/15

[10]TV station pulls anti-Shaheen ads off air.” Philip Elliott, The Associated Press, 08/27/14

[11]ESA Fund – Targeted Spending, 2016 Cycle.” The Center for Responsive Politics, accessed 05/23/16

[12]ESA Fund – Outside Spending, 2016 Cycle.” The Center for Responsive Politics, accessed 05/23/16

[13]ESA Fund – FEC Form 3X.” Federal Election Commission, 03/31/16, p. 2