Big-spending Democratic donors take the gold, silver and bronze when it comes to contributions to super PACs so far this election cycle.
Liberal billionaires Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg lead the way, having given nearly $30 million to super PACs during the current cycle, according to a new analysis of political spending by the Sunlight Foundation, which tracks money in politics. In third place is Fred Eychaner, a reclusive Chicago businessman who gave $14 million to Democratic super PACs in the 2012 cycle and has already spent $5.7 million this time around.
Whether the trend of big-spending Democratic donors will continue through Election Day isn’t clear, wrote Jacob Fenton and Stan Oklobdzija, researchers for the Sunlight Foundation.
“With five months left before the election, torrents of cash will continue to flow into campaigns, and a few donors dropping $5 million apiece could upend this calculus,” they said in their analysis of super PAC spending, which is based on reports filed Sunday by most of the groups.
The numbers were based on individual contributions to super PACs since January 1, 2013 — leaving out contributions from corporations, unions and other political entities.
The list is partially incomplete because some super PACs, including those run by the billionaire Koch Brothers, do not report their fundraising totals.
Steyer is a clear frontrunner during the current cycle, having spent more than $20 million. He’s promised to spend between $50 million and $100 million this election cycle, largely on U.S. Senate races in swing states and a few key gubernatorial battles.
Most of that money (more than $13 million of it) has gone to the NextGen Climate Action Committee, which is dedicated to electing public officials who will support legislation to combat climate change.
The group told the New York Times it plans to target swing Senate battles in Colorado, Iowa, Michigan and New Hampshire, along with gubernatorial races in Florida, Pennsylvania and Maine — three races with vulnerable GOP incumbents.
One of the ads paid for by NextGen now airing in Pennsylvania targets Gov. Tom Corbett for accepting millions of dollars in campaign cash from oil and gas companies during his first term, apparently without irony.
“Oil and gas companies gave Corbett $1.7 million in political contributions and he gave them a sweetheart deal on taxes that’s costing Pennsylvania billions,” the voiceover says, subtly pushing for higher taxes on energy companies and mimicking a major Democratic talking point in the state.
Bloomberg, in second place and having spent $9.4 million this cycle, is a registered independent who runs the Independent USA super PAC. But nearly all of his group’s spending has been in favor of Democratic candidates and causes, including gun control.
Eychaner has donated $5.6 million this cycle, mostly supporting super PACs focused on protecting vulnerable Democratic-held seats in the U.S. Senate.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are pushing a constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens’ United ruling from the Supreme Court that paved the way for super PACs to be created. The 2011 ruling struck down limits on campaign contributions at the federal level on First Amendment grounds.
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By Eric Boehm | Watchdog.org
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