Who Owns Your Candidate?

October 2, 2015   |   Jake Anderson

Jake Anderson
October 2, 2015

(ANTIMEDIA) – It’s a new era of American politics. With regard to campaign finance, the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling — and the arguably worse McCutcheon v. FEC ruling opened the doors to unrestricted corporate funding of our national elections.

The primary mechanism in place facilitating this flood of private money is the super PAC. You’ve probably heard of super PACs and how they’ve essentially taken over the role traditionally filled by individual campaign donors in Political Action Committees (PACs). But super PACs aren’t the end of it. There are puppet political non-profits, business associations, and now, single-candidate “dark money” outfits that, as of September 21, have already raised $25.1 million —  five times the amount spent by this time in the 2012 election cycle.

Small, private donors still exist, of course. Their campaign contributions are still capped at about $5,000 per individual, making them the tip of the iceberg in political campaign spending. Enter super PACs and single-candidate committees, who, because of the aforementioned SCOTUS rulings, have the ability to slither in between campaign finance laws and flood our elections with unlimited corporate money. The “dark money” 501(c) groups, sometimes known as “social welfare” organizations, are particularly insidious because, unlike super PACs, they are not required to disclose their donors to the public. Since they are legally viewed as a type of business, they don’t have to disclose disbursements until the IRS requires it. This means there is essentially a network of politically advantageous winks and nods, whereby candidates receive unlimited parallel spending from an interconnected syndicate of super PACs, non-profits, and business associations.

Of the 20 biggest spenders, only one is openly committed to a liberal viewpoint, which gives conservatives an advantage. That said, while Democrats have questioned the legality of “dark money” groups, they have not discounted the possibility of utilizing this tactic in addition to super PACs, which must legally disclose the source of their funds within a few weeks (though several groups have found loopholes allowing them to wait up to 7 weeks).  

Needless to say, this is an election in which most of the candidates are seeking support from wealthy donors instead of the citizens they are supposed to be representing.

Despite the arguably undemocratic, obfuscating nature of our nation’s campaign finance laws and the blatant corporatist agenda mandated by the Supreme Court, let’s attempt to break down the major sources of political spending so far in the 2016 presidential election. You may be surprised to find out who is donating money to your candidate — and how that contribution may affect future policy positions.

JEB BUSH

The one-time prospective GOP front-runner has taken a beating in recent polls, with many politicos saying extreme factions of the conservative party aren’t happy with his more centrist attitudes toward gay marriage, immigration, and abortion rights. But the big establishment money still has his back.

Corporate and other Special Interest donors (top 5):

  • Goldman Sachs ($161,100)
  • Neuberger Berman LLC ($65,800)
  • Bank of America ($43,750
  • Citigroup Inc ($41,500)
  • Tenet Healthcare ($35,900)

Super PAC/“Dark Money”:

The Right to Rise super PAC supports Jeb Bush and has raised over $100 million. As of mid-September, the group planned to spend $24 million on television ads in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. According to the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, the primary donor list for Jeb Bush’s super PAC includes various spheres of influence:

“Texas oil men, New York investment bankers, Miami healthcare company owners, and three former ambassadors — two of whom served under Bush’s brother, former President George W. Bush — gave 25 contributions of $1 million each. Mike Fernandez, the Cuban-American billionaire founder of Coral Gables-based MBF Healthcare Partners, gave $3 million, the largest contribution to Right to Rise.”

Other wealthy members of the PAC include:

  • Hushang Ansary, Iran’s ambassador to the United States from 1967 to 1969. He serves as a trustee of the George W. Bush Library. Ansary and his wife Shahla became U.S. citizens in the 1980s.
  • Richard Kinder, chairman and chief executive of oil and gas pipeline company Kinder Morgan. His net worth is $10 billion. Kinder’s wife Nancy also contributed $1 million to Right to Rise.
  • Alfred Hoffman, U.S. ambassador to Portugal from 2005 to 2007. He founded Florida-based real estate company WCI Communities.
  • Nextera Energy, the publicly traded parent company of Florida Power & Light, which provides electrical service to nearly half of the state. Last year, Nextera reported more than $15 billion in revenue.
  • Julian Robertson Jr., New York hedge fund manager whose net worth is $3.4 billion. He made his fortune investing in golf resorts and vineyards in New Zealand.”

Jeb Bush, total raised so far: over $114 million

HILLARY CLINTON  

In her career as a politician, Hillary Clinton’s top donors have been Citigroup Inc., Goldman Sachs, DLA Piper, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and Morgan Stanley. Many say such alliances irrevocably endear her to said institutions, rendering her incapable of reigning in financial corruption on Wall Street.

Her 2016 donors are slightly different, but really very much the same.

Corporate and other Special Interest donors (top 5):

  • Morgan & Morgan ($274,767)
  • Sullivan & Cromwell ($148,100)
  • Akin, Gump et al ($125,598)
  • Yale University ($95,434)
  • Latham & Watkins ($94,580)

Note: Morgan Stanley, Time Warner, JPMorgan Chase & Co and others are high on the list as well.

It is also important to point out that the lobbying and law firm Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, which employees many of Hillary’s lobbying “bundlers,” took donations from two of the biggest private prison contractors, Corrections Corporation of America and Geo Group, with fees totaling almost $300,000.

Super PAC/”Dark Money”:

Priorities USA Action is the super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. So far, the group has raised $25 million in only three months. Predictably, hardline progressives stringently object to Clinton using the wealthy billionaires of Priorities to raise money, but supporters say there is really no choice if she is to compete with the Republicans in a general election.

The most notable Priorities super PAC donors are George Soros and Steven Spielberg, but the list includes 31 individual donors who contributed over $200k each.

It’s fair to point out that Hillary Clinton recently made headlines by embracing a tactic to publically reveal big corporate donors. Whether this is political posturing or not, I will leave to the reader. According to the Los Angeles Times:

“Companies like Google Inc. — and even Shell Oil — touting environmental awareness have been exposed supporting shadowy organizations skeptical of climate change.”

Hillary Clinton, total raised so far: over $45 million

CHRIS CHRISTIE

Chris Christie, the two-term governor of New Jersey, is currently polling at 1%, but that has not stopped him from garnering the support of super PAC America Leads, which has raised $11 million with the support of 137 contributors, several of them billionaires. The PAC recently released its donor list. Politico describes what is perhaps the most noteworthy entry:

“Winecup-Gamble Inc., a Nevada ranch owned by former Reebok CEO Paul Fireman, gave the group $1 million. Fireman, who lives outside Boston, plans a massive, $4.6 billion casino in Jersey City if state voters approve a constitutional amendment to allow gambling outside of Atlantic City.”

Other America Leads donors include:

  • Las Vegas casino mogul Stephen Wynn
  • Hedge fund manager Steve Cohen and his wife Alexandra, who contributed a combined $2 million
  • Quicken Loans chairman Daniel Gilbert gave $750,000.
  • Home Depot founder Ken Langone gave $250,000
  • Anheuser-Busch heir August Busch ponied up $100,000.
  • Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman donated $100,000.
  • Wrestling mogul Linda McMahon gave $250,000.
  • George Harms Construction gave $25,000 (and it’s worth noting this company acquired more than $100 million in New Jersey state agency contracts in 2014)
  • Ferreira Construction gave $100,000 (also worth pointing out the $34 million this company received from the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, also in 2014)
  • Public Service Enterprise Group gave $250,000.

Chris Christie, total raised so far: over $11 million

BERNIE SANDERS

Bernie Sanders entered the race as a democratic socialist dark horse but has quickly earned the feverish admiration of a wide spectrum of both progressive leftists and centrists, many of whom applaud his stated goal of taking on big banks and crony capitalism to fight for the middle class. Others see him as the unfortunate sequel to Obama, someone with grandiose reformist ideas who lacks the mettle and fearlessness truly necessary to stand up to the military-industrial complex and machinations of the Deep State.

One point concerning Bernie Sanders can’t be denied: his campaign financing is leagues above the others in terms of ethical sourcing. Sanders has refused super PAC money and continues to reiterate he will not use a super PAC or any shady billionaire money for the 2016 election. His full list of of regular PAC and individual donors, most of which is labor union money, is listed below, courtesy of OpenSecrets.org:

Machinists/Aerospace Workers Union $105,000
Teamsters Union $93,700
National Education Assn $89,242
United Auto Workers $79,750
United Food & Commercial Workers Union $72,500
Communications Workers of America $68,000
Laborers Union $64,000
Carpenters & Joiners Union $62,000
National Assn of Letter Carriers $61,000
American Assn for Justice $60,500
American Fedn of St/Cnty/Munic Employees $58,198
Intl Brotherhood of Electrical Workers $53,100
United Transportation Union $48,500
Sheet Metal Workers Union $47,000
Operating Engineers Union $46,100
Service Employees International Union $44,014
UNITE HERE $42,875
United Steelworkers $41,750
American Postal Workers Union $37,700
American Federation of Teachers $36,112

A report from October 1st shows that Bernie Sanders has nearly matched Hillary Clinton’s 3rd quarter campaign donations without using a super PAC.

Bernie Sanders, total funds raised so far: $26 million

JOHN KASICH

In a normal election cycle, John Kasich, the Governor of Ohio, might be polling higher than 5%. He is more of a centrist candidate that appeals to the base and has actual experience governing. Rumors persist that he may be tapped for VP on the eventual GOP nominee’s ticket, but so far Kasich maintains he isn’t interested in that.

Corporate and other Special Interest donors:

His donor list has been called a “who’s who of prominent Ohio political donors.” This list includes:

Abigail Wexner, philanthropist and wife to Les Wexner, founder of The Limited; John P. McConnell, the chief executive officer of Worthington Industries and majority owner of the Columbus Blue Jackets; and John and Ann Wolfe, former owner of The Dispatch.”

Another interesting Kasich PAC donor is a Montana company called MMWP12 LLC. This company contributed $500,000 and is connected to Mark Kvamme, who spearheaded JobsOhio, the private, non-profit group whose goal was to create jobs in the Kasich-run state of Ohio.

Super PAC/”Dark Money”:

John Kasich’s super PAC is called New Day For America. The group has drawn contributions from 166 donors, totaling $11 million so far, over half of which is from Ohio.

According to Politico, the major names on this list include:

  • “Wendt Family Trust, Schottenstein Management Company and Tom Rastin, an Ohio-based Republican donor who donated to then-Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett’s re-election campaign in the 2014 cycle.
  • Floyd Kvamme (Mark Kvamme’s father), the retired venture capitalist, who donated $100,000
  • Philip Geier Jr. of the Geier Group, who donated $500,000 and is a member of New Day for America’s board
  • Jim Dicke, a big player in the Ohio Republican Party and the chairman emeritus of the Crown Equipment Corp. Dicke donated $250,000.”

Kasich also has a separate PAC called New Day For America Independent.

John Kasich, total funds raised: over $11,730,730

CARLY FIORINA

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina’s unexpected ascension as a viable GOP candidate was buoyed by three primary factors: her neoconservative war hawk ideology; her vociferous stance against Planned Parenthood, which appeals to the GOP’s dominant right wing base; and her secretary-to-CEO personal life story.

Corporate and other Special Interest donors (top 5):

  • LISI Inc – $12,400
  • Renaissance Technologies – $10,800
  • Western Care Construction – $10,800
  • Echo Pacific Construction – $10,400
  • Wilson, Sonsini et al – $8,100

Super PAC/”Dark Money”:

Perhaps as a result of her history as an executive of HP, Carly Fiorina’s super PAC, Carly For America, is full of deep-pocketed Silicon Valley donors. This includes:

  • Venture capitalist Tom Perkins – $25,000
  • Former Intel CEO Paul Otellini – $5,000
  • Former CEO of Univision, Jerry Perenchio, who donated a whopping $1.6 million
  • Former head of World Wrestling Entertainment and Connecticut Senate candidate Linda McMahon – $10,000
  • Palo Alto-based physicist Charles Munger – $100,000
  • Robert Day, who founded the Los Angeles asset management firm TCW – $100,000

The most mysterious donation, one that is actually being investigated by the FEC, concerns a $500,000 contribution from one of Ted Cruz’s super PACs, Keep the Promise 1. It is currently unknown why this donation was made.

Carly Fiorina, total funds raised so far: over $1.6 million

MARCO RUBIO

Marco Rubio, the junior United States senator from Florida, is another potential dark horse in this race because he appeals to the right wing of the Republican base while still striking Reaganesque tones during the debates. In fact, many pundits have noted the eerie similarities between Rubio and 2000 GOP candidate George W. Bush. Others have pointed out that Rubio’s Cuban American ethnicity could help Republicans win much-needed Latino votes.

Corporate and other Special Interest donors (top 5):

  • Goldman Sachs – $65,830
  • Steward Health Care – $49,400
  • Titan Farms – $23,200
  • Florida Crystals – $21,700
  • Oracle Corp – $21,600

Super PAC/”Dark Money”:

According to the latest filings, the Marco Rubio super PAC, Conservative Solutions PAC, has drawn in $16 million, doubling the funds earned from his private donors. Over 75% of this money came from just four donors:

  • Norman Braman, a longtime friend of Rubio who happens to be a billionaire auto dealer and former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles. Braman has been called Rubio’s “secret weapon” because he despises Jeb Bush and says he will spend anywhere from $10 to $25 million on Rubio’s campaign
  • Lawrence J. Ellison, the chairman of Oracle Corp who has donated $3 million
  • Philanthropist Laura Perlmutter (wife to Isaac Perlmutter, the billionaire CEO of Marvel Entertainment) donated $2 million
  • Besilu Stables, a horse racing company in Miami, donated $2.5 million

The Rubio campaign is also the beneficiary of a considerable amount of “dark money.” The source is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit called Conservative Solutions Project, which has raised an additional $15.8 million. The nonprofit, which, of course, is not required to disclose its donors, launched a massive ad campaign attacking President Obama’s Iran deal.

Marco Rubio, total funds raised so far: over $31.9 million

DONALD TRUMP

Donald Trump has stated repeatedly that he will self-finance his campaign and will not accept any special interest donations. His net worth is heavily contested, but Forbes estimates it is approximately $4.5 billion. Trump claims he will spend up to $100 million of his own money on the 2016 presidential election.

While the legacy of Trump as a self-made financial titan has catapulted him to an iconic status, Alternet.org posted an article debunking much of this fictitious fanfare. The article traces the roots of a $40-$200 million inheritance Trump received from his father, money that was bilked from governmental financing programs during the Great Depression; Trump parlayed that money into a series of businesses that went bankrupt, skirting SEC regulations and taking advantage of every tax loophole available in order to build his empire.

Donald Trump, total funds raised so far: $100 million (amount he pledged to his own campaign)

TED CRUZ

Ted Cruz is the junior U.S. Senator from Texas who made a name for himself by reading Green Eggs and Ham on the Senate floor as part of a symbolic filibuster of Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act. He was also one of the 47 signatories of a letter sent to Iran stating that President Obama lacked the authority to negotiate with Ayatollah Khomenei.

More recently, he has led a weak coalition of congressmen aiming to shut down the federal government for the second time in as many years. His objective and one of his major campaign platforms, in addition to repealing Obamacare and the Iran Deal is to defund Planned Parenthood.

Corporate and other Special Interest donors (top 5):

Woodforest National Bank $75,200
Morgan Lewis LLP $68,850
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher $52,950
Pachulski, Stang et al $41,000
Jennmar Corp $40,850

Super PAC/”Dark Money”:

Ted Cruz’s campaign actually has four super PACs, all funded by Robert Mercer, a Long Island hedge fund magnate and climate change denier. Combined, they raised $31 million in the first four weeks of his campaign. Contributors to these super PACs include:

Ted Cruz, total funds raised so far: over $31 million

BEN CARSON

Ben Carson, the retired John Hopkins neurosurgeon, was dead in the water a few weeks ago, but his numbers saw an unlikely bounce after the second debate. While Carson put his foot in his mouth when he suggested the U.S. marines were unprepared for combat, he startled many by suggesting that had George W. Bush sworn off petroleum in the wake of 9/11, taking bold diplomatic action over military strikes, the nation may have averted the incredibly costly war on terror. With his poll numbers rising, many pundits now wonder whether he could be tapped as VP.

Corporate and other Special Interest donors (top 5):

Coca-Cola Co $21,850
West Coast Venture Capital $21,600
Trailiner Corp $10,800
Ankom Technology $10,400
Jea Senior Living $10,000

Super PAC/”Dark Money”:

Like Ted Cruz, Ben Carson has more than one super PAC. One Vote, a super PAC led by Republican strategist Andy Yates, and Run Ben Run. Even before Carson decided to run, the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee raised $13.5 million. Reports have surfaced that there is tumult and discord between the two primary super PACs, but as long as the money keeps pouring in, Carson doesn’t seem to be phased. Recently, he doubled down on anti-Muslim rhetoric, which seems to have bumped his fundraising figures even higher, bringing him to $20 million this quarter.

Very little information has been released about the bigger disbursements stemming from Carson’s super PACs. But interestingly, despite the big money pouring in, Carson has flourished with small donors. In fact, eighty-four percent [of Carson’s donors] wrote checks for less than $500.”

Ben Carson, total funds raised so far: over $20 million

MIKE HUCKABEE

The former governor of Arkansas’ private donors are relatively small and unremarkable. His super PAC, Pursuing America’s Greatness, has received only two primary donations. In fact, almost all the money contributed to the super PAC came from one man: Ronald Cameron of Little Rock, Arkansas, the poultry magnate who donated $3 million. Notably, Cameron, who runs agribusiness giant Mountaire Corporation, which earned $1.22 billion in 2009, has been listed as a major contributor to the Koch Brothers political network.

Other contributions include $500,000 from Sharon Herschend of Herschend Family Entertainment and $50,000 each from real estate investor Jon K. Gibson and Cary Maguire, president of Maguire Oil.

Mike Huckabee, total funds raised so far: over $3 million

RAND PAUL

According to one insider, libertarian-leaning, low-polling Rand Paul could soon be dropping out of the race. Paul’s super PAC America’s Liberty PAC has received most of its money from only two donors:

  • George Macricostas, CEO of RagingWire, a data center operator – $1.1 million
  • Libertarian donor Jeffrey Yass, leader of trading firm Susquehanna International Group – $1 million

Rand Paul, total funds raised so far: $3.1 million

As you can see, the 2016 presidential election is, for the most part, an all-out corporate donor war. It’s important to remember that many of these totals are likely not current, as campaigns strategically withhold donation amounts. We also don’t know the full extent of “dark money” stemming from nonprofits and business associations. What we do know is that this will be the most expensive election in history. The Koch brothers alone have a budget of $889 million. When added to the spending expected from the Democrats and Republicans, we’re looking at a possible price tag of $5 billion.

If you have information on any significant campaign funds not included in this article, please email us or leave a comment.


This article (Who Owns Your Candidate?) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Jake Anderson and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email edits@theantimedia.org.

Author: Jake Anderson

Jake Anderson joined Anti-Media as an independent journalist in April of 2015. His topics of interest include social justice, science, corporatocracy, and dystopian science fiction. He currently resides in Escondido, California.

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