Big Campaign Donors are an Extremely Elite Breed
Thursday, December 15, 2011
There’s the “One Percent,” and then there’s the “One Percent of the One Percent” when talking about campaign fundraising.
American elections these days are funded to a significant degree by a relatively small group of wealthy individuals, according to the Sunlight Foundation. Their research found a total of 26,783 people who, during the 2010 elections, contributed more than $10,000 each to federal political campaigns.
Collectively, this cohort contributed $774 million, which made up nearly 25% of all monies raised by politicians, political parties, PACs, and independent expenditure groups.
“The One Percent of the One Percent are not average Americans,” wrote Lee Drutman and Ethan Phelps-Goodman for the Sunlight Foundation. “Overwhelmingly, they are corporate executives, investors, lobbyists, and lawyers. A good number appear to be highly ideological. They give to multiple candidates and to parties and independent issue groups. They tend to cluster in a limited number of metropolitan zip codes, especially in New York, Washington, Chicago, and Los Angeles.”
“The average One Percent of One Percenter spent $28,913, more than the median individual income of $26,364,” they added.
Who are some of the “one percenters?” There are nine individuals who gave more than a million dollars.
There’s Bob Perry, CEO of Perry Homes, who contributed more than $7 million to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and $4.4 million to Swift Vets and POWs for Truth in 2004.
Public Storage magnate Wayne Hughes gave $3.25 million to American Crossroads in 2010, while Fred Eshelman, the CEO of Pharmaceutical Product Developmen, contributed $3 million to his own group, RightChange.
A major Democratic donor is Donald Sussman, chairman of the holding company Paloma Partners. The husband of U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) gave $1.26 million in 2010 to Democratic candidates. He has also funded United Republic, whose mission is to fight “the corrupting influence of well-financed special interests over American politics and government,” and he’s supported the Super PAC Women Vote! and its parent organization, the pro-choice group Emily’s List.
In 2010, 92 of the super donors were associated with Goldman Sachs, 32 with Citigroup, 29 with Microsoft and 22 with the lobbying legal firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer and Feld.
The Political One Percent of the One Percent (by Lee Drutman and Ethan Phelps-Goodman, Sunlight Foundation)
The Who's Who of Top Political Donors (by Ryan Sibley, Sunlight Foundation)
Citizens United Ruling Opened New Era in Campaign Financing (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
Million-Dollar Donors: Who are They? (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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