We know how the super PACs have come to dominate the presidential campaign, but a closer look at financial-disclosure numbers shows how just a tiny handful of billionaires are dominating those super PACs. An analysis of January’s campaign-disclosure filings reveals that 25 percent of all the money raised for the presidential race that month came from just five donors. That select group gave $19 million to various super PACs, often in support of more than one Republican candidate. Those numbers come from both The Washington Post and USA Today, though neither gives a complete list of those five top donors of 2012.
Ari Berman has us covered. The list includes Harold Simmons, who has given to Perry, Romney and Gingrich this year; Sheldon Adelson and his wife, who are keeping Gingrich on life support; and Santorum pals Foster Freiss and William Dore. Also in the mix is billionaire investor Peter Thiel, a Romney angel.
If you want to extend the circle out to, say, 200 people, a report from Demos shows that about that many have contributed 80% of all SuperPAC money. These are the SuperPACs that have been a major determining factor in the GOP primary, and which swung many Congressional elections in 2010. This equals .000063 of the electorate.
I respect the arguments that Citizens United didn’t cause this all by itself. We had a messed-up election system before that Supreme Court ruling. But there has unquestionably been a cultural shift in recent years, with far more outright purchases of elections, using massive numbers. I would argue that the rise follows the rise in political economy of a select few. As the 1% spends to write the laws, they gain more power and a certain invincibility. So they can use that power on elections with relative impunity. One hand washes the other.