A dozen megadonors and their spouses have collectively donated $ 3.4 billion to federal candidates and factions since 2009, which is nearly one in every $ 13 raised. according to a new report.
The report by Issue One, a non-partisan group that seeks to reduce the influence of money on politics, shows that the top twelve donors are split evenly between six Democrats and six Republicans. The list includes several Wall Street billionaires and investors, a Facebook co-founder, a shipping tycoon, and the heir to a family fortune from the gilding era.
The study quantifies the increasing concentration and role of the super-rich in American politics after the US Supreme Court eased restrictions on political spending more than a decade ago.
“This is a strong example of our broken campaign funding system,” said Nick Penniman, founder and chief executive officer of Issue One. “Today a handful of mega-donors exert an overwhelming influence on our politics.” Mr Penniman called on Congress to “adopt major reforms to create a democracy that works for all”.
The growing influence of multimillion-dollar mega-donors has been accompanied by another competing trend: an increase in small online donations to politicians from both parties. These contributions – in increments of $ 5, $ 10, and $ 25 – have given Democrats and Republicans an alternative source of money beyond the super-rich.
Still, the study found that the top 100 zip codes for political donations in the U.S., which make up less than 1 percent of the total population, account for around 20 percent of the $ 45 billion federal candidates and factions raised between January 2009 and December 2020 The study used data from the Center for Responsive Politics, which compiles figures from the Federal Election Commission.
Some of the top zip codes for giving have not been populated by people at all. Instead, they were primarily associated with skyscrapers and mailboxes used as business addresses by the wealthy.
The largest single donor to federal campaigns from 2009 to 2020 was Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, who spent $ 1.4 billion. Of that, $ 1 billion went to his failed presidential campaign in 2020 and $ 314 million to other federal candidates, super-PACs, and political groups.
He is the only donor who has spent more than $ 1 billion. The second largest contributor is another Democrat, Tom Steyer, who, like Mr Bloomberg, lost his offer for president in 2020. Mr. Steyer and his wife Kat Taylor have spent $ 653 million, more than half of which is for their own presidential campaign and $ 311 million to other federal candidates and committees.
The report does not include donations to government campaigns or politically related nonprofit groups, which often cannot be disclosed.
The largest Republican contributor was Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate, and his wife, Miriam Adelson, a medical doctor. The Adelsons have donated $ 523 million to Republican candidates and committees since 2009.
Mr Adelson’s death in January 2021 at the age of 87 leaves a potentially huge shortage for Republicans who rely on his generosity. Republican activists have been annoyed in private that Ms. Adelson may have been politically active but may not have the same appetite for political giving as her late husband.
The report said that all 12 top donors were white and that the top 100 zip codes for donations “were typically both whiter and wealthier” than the entire nation.
The other main culprits among Republicans were Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein ($ 138 million), founders of Uline shipping; Ken Griffin ($ 107 million), the investor and founder of Citadel LLC; Patricia and Timothy Mellon ($ 70 million), heirs to the Mellon fortune and chairmen of Pan Am Systems; Marlene and Joe Ricketts ($ 66 million), founders of T.D. Ameritrade and his family own the Chicago Cubs; and Paul Singer ($ 63 million), an investor and founder of Elliott Management.
Among the Democrats, the other largest donors were Donald Sussman ($ 98 million), the founder of Paloma Funds; Jim Simons ($ 93 million), founder of Renaissance Technologies, and his wife, Marilyn; Fred Eychaner ($ 92 million), a media mogul; and Dustin Moskovitz ($ 83 million), co-founder of Facebook, and his wife, Cari Tuna.