The 20 Biggest Donors of the 2012 Election (So Far)

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Our friends and colleagues at Mother Jones magazine have been producing some of, if not the best coverage of cash and politics. Their January-February “Dark Money” issue is filled with great reporting on the impact of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and “the shadowy forces warping our democracy.”

They’ve just come out with their list of “The 20 Biggest Donors of the 2012 Election (So Far),” based on data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP).

As the magazine reminds readers, “Wealthy donors who have maxed out on their gifts to candidates or just want a lot more bang for their political buck can write massive checks to any of the new super PACs that are popping up as proxies for politicians and parties,” and many of the top contributors are couples who can double their donations or spread them about even more.

Many of the names will be familiar to connoisseurs of campaign cash and the candidates who lust for it: Hollywood’s Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of Dreamworks Animation (giving to outside-spending groups: $2,000,000; giving to candidates and parties: $173,100); former Univision head and talent agent Jerry Perenchio (outside-spending groups: $2,000,000; candidates and parties: $128,300); hotel tycoon J.W. “Bill” Marriott Jr, and his wife, Donna (outside-spending groups: $510,000; candidates and parties: $147,687); Jim Davis of New Balance shoes (outside-spending groups: $500,000; candidates and parties: $42,300); and homebuilding magnate Bob Perry, no relation to Rick – he’s a Romney man (outside-spending groups: $3,250,000; candidates and parties: $87,600)

Leading the pack, with giving to outside-spending groups at $5,010,000 and donations to candidates and parties at $214,800 is billionaire archconservative casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. As reported by The New York Times, that five million is going to the pro-Newt Gingrich Winning Our Future super PAC. The Times notes that by Monday morning, Winning Our Future “had reserved more than $3.4 million in advertising time in South Carolina, a huge sum in a state where the airwaves come cheap and the primary is 11 days away. The group is planning to air portions of a movie critical of [Mitt] Romney’s time at Bain Capital, the private equity firm he helped found.

“The last-minute injection underscores how the 2010 landmark Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance has made it possible for a wealthy individual to influence an election. Mr. Adelson’s contribution to the super PAC is 1,000 times the $5,000 he could legally give directly to Mr. Gingrich’s campaign this year.”

Read a fascinating 2008 New Yorker portrait of Adelson, written by Connie Bruck.



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