Forget Big Donors, 2016 Is Going To Be the Election of Mega-Donors

Posted by Jay Riestenberg on August 4, 2015

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Most of the 2016 presidential candidates and their Super PACs filed campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) late last week. These documents give a sneak-peek of how the 2016 election is shaping up to be the election of mega-donors.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Right to Rise, the Super PAC supporting Jeb Bush’s candidacy, raised an unprecedented $103 million. If that doesn’t unsettle you, the fact that nearly 25% of the group's’ funding came from just 24 donors who gave $1 million or more should.

  • The Super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton, Priorities USA Action, took in $15 million from just 37 donors. 60% of the Super PAC’s funding came from just nine donors who gave $1 million each.

  • The four Super PACs supporting Senator Ted Cruz (yes, Cruz has four Super PACs) raised a total of $37.8 million. One of Cruz’s Super PACs – Keep the Promise III – raised $15 million from fracking billionaire brothers Daniel and Farris Wilks and their wives alone. Another Cruz Super PAC – Keep The Promise II – raised $10,000,000 from just one donor: Texas energy investor Toby Neugebauer.

  • Senator Marco Rubio’s Super PAC – Conservative Solutions PAC – raised just over $16 million from 76 donors. But what’s more interesting is that 78% of the $16 million came from just four donors who contributed between $2-5 million each.

  • The Super PAC supporting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Unintimidated PAC, raised just over $20 million, 87% of which came from donors who gave between $100,000 and $5 million each.

The amount of big money being poured into the 2016 election from mega-donors is unprecedented, and with Election Day still 16 months away, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The facts are shocking, as The New York Times reports that fewer than just four hundred families are responsible for half of the money raised for the 2016 presidential campaign so far.

These figures don’t even include the secret money being channeled through nonprofits that aren’t required to disclose their donors.

In our post-Citizens United politics, everyday people who can’t afford to write a six-or-seven-figure check to a Super PAC are being shut out of the process. Our democracy is at great risk when concentrated wealth can buy concentrated political power.

We need a bold plan for reform that includes overturning Citizens United, disclosure of all secret money in elections, and public financing to empower small donors. Many states have enacted similar proposals to help curb money’s influence in politics and expose who is funding secret political groups -- and they work.

That’s why Common Cause has joined with other citizen advocacy and public interest groups to call on presidential candidates to endorse our Fighting Big Money, Empowering People plan, an agenda that lifts up the voices of everyday Americans, not just millionaires and billionaires.

Add your name as a citizen endorser and call on 2016 presidential hopefuls to do the same!

Office: Common Cause National

Issues: Money in Politics

Tags: Fighting Big Money

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