One of the most striking characteristics of the 2012 election is the role that a small number of relatively unknown megadonors, via new Super PAC groups, are playing in determining the outcome of the presidential, Senate, and House races.
These organisations — funded by an exclusive group of entrepreneurs, industrialists, and heiresses — have thrown the Moneyball of elections out the window. Super PACs are unaffiliated with any candidate and may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money in federal elections. The only caveat is that they cannot under any circumstances (wink, nudge, et al.) coordinate with a campaign.
We looked through the centre for Responsive Politics‘ database to find the heaviest hitters, and figure out which candidates they support.
American Crossroads, the brainchild of George W. Bush's strategy guru Karl Rove, is probably the biggest threat to Democrats this year. The Super PAC has spent $18.6 million already, and has more cash on hand for this election than almost any other Super PAC out there, with $29.5 million ready to go before November 6th.
They've hit Barack Obama with $15.9 million worth of negative advertising. Other targets include Democrat Tim Kaine, running for Senate in Virginia, Republican Jack Davis, who ran in a complicated election in New York's 26th District, and Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley who is running for Senate in Nevada.
Top donors to American Crossroads include:
- $13 million from Harold Simmons, the inventor of the leveraged buyout.
- $4.5 million form Bob Perry, Republican mega donor and owner of Perry Homes.
- $2 million from Jerry Perenchio, the billionaire former CEO of Univision.
- $1.25 million from Joe Craft, a Kentucky businessman who obviously authored his own wikipedia entry.
Restore Our Future has spent a whopping $82 million to support Mitt Romney's presidential campaign this cycle, and played a crucial role in helping Romney take out his primary rivals.
Here's the breakdown of the group's spending so far:
- $18.7 million against Newt Gingrich
- $21.3 million against Rick Santorum
- $28.5 million against Barack Obama
- $14 million in support of Mitt Romney
Significantly, Restore Our Future has $20.5 million in the bank at this point. Expect every dime to be spent against Obama.
Here are the biggest donors to the PAC:
- $10 million from Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, the Casino magnate and his wife.
- $7 million from Bob Perry, the Texas Real Estate developer behind Perry Homes
- $1 million each from:
- Oxbow Carbon LLC, owned by the Koch Brothers
- John W. Childs, the buyout investor
- Huron Carbon LLC, owned by the Koch Brothers
- John Kleinheinz, a hedge fund manager
- The Renco Group, a holding group controlled by Ira Rennert
- Paul Singer of Elliot Management Corp, a hedge fund
- Robert Mercer of Renaissance Technologies, a hedge fund
- Julian Robertson of Tiger Management, a hedge fund
- Edward Conard, a former Managing Director at Bain Capital
- ELI Publishing, which is somewhat unknown
- F8 LLC, which is likewise unknown
- John Paulson of Paulson & Co
The only major pro-Obama Super PAC, Priorities USA Action, has taken the lead in attacking the Romney campaign. The only expenditures Priorities USA Action has made are $27.1 million against the Republican presidential candidate, and the organisation hasn't spent anything to promote Obama.
Here are the donors who have given more than $1 million to the PAC
- $2 million from Irwin Mark Jacobs, the co-founder of Qualcomm
- $2 million from Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of Dreamworks Animation
- $1.5 million from Jon Stryker, the billionaire heir to the medical supply Stryker Corporation
- $1.5 million from Fred Eychaner, the founder of Newsweb and an LGBT donor
- $1 million each from the following donors:
- Mel Heifetz, an LGBT activist and entrepreneur
- Morgan Freeman, the actor
- The National Air Traffic Controllers Association
- Kareem Ahmed, CEO of Landmark Medical Management
- The Service Employee International Union Committee on Political Education
- Steve Mostyn, a Houston Lawyer
- Franklin Haney, owner of the Franklin L. Haney Company, a real estate group
- Barbara Stiefel, a Democratic fundraiser
- Bill Maher, comedian
- Amy Goldman, a gardener and real estate heiress
Despite these big-dollar donations, however, Priorities USA Action only has $4.2 million in the bank.
The conservative Club for Growth is going to be a huge player in this election.
So far, they've spent $12.2 million dollars. $9.2 million was against Republicans, $803,000 was against Democrats, and a mere $2.1 million was in support of Republicans.
The Club seeks to move the Republican party to the right, and is willing to take out some of their own to do that.
The Club nearly single-handedly killed the Senate bids of these candidates:
- $5 million against Republican David Dewhurst's failed Texas Senate bid
- $948,991 against Republican Sen. Richard Lugar's failed Indiana re-election bid.
- $792,313 against Democrat Rep. Joe Donnelly's Indiana Senate bid.
- $714,743 against Republican Jon Bruning's failed Nebraska Senate bid
- $658,764 against Republican Eric Hovde's failed Wisconsin Senate bid.
Needless to say, the Club is really good at what they do.
Three donors have given in excess of $1,000,000 -- Peter Thiel, the Facebook investor, investor Virginia James, and John Childs of the leveraged-buyout firm J.W. Childs Associates.
FreedomWorks burst onto the political scene in the 2010 midterm elections, when it supported Tea Party candidates trying to oust Establishment Republicans from office through primary challenges.
In 2012, the Super PAC has bolstered the campaigns of conservative stars Ted Cruz in Texas, Richard Mourdock in Indiana, Josh Mandel in Ohio and Rep. Connie Mack in Florida, with a combined $1.2 million worth of positive advertising.
The Super PAC also targeted incumbents like Sen. Dick Lugar in Indiana and Sen. Orrin Hatch in Utah, and also aimed at non-Tea Party candidates like David Dewhurst in Texas. These candidates combined were the victims of around $1.1 million in negative advertising, and all but Hatch lost their primaries.
This PAC is interesting mostly because of its bipartisanship: the idea is to oppose incumbents. The PAC has spent $522,000 against Democrats and $970,000 against Republicans this race so far, to varying degrees of success.
The PAC is the brainchild of Republican construction magnate Leo Linbeck.
Here are the candidates who were targeted hard by the Super PAC so far:
- $240,000 against Democrat Rep. Silvestre Reyes, who lost his Texas primary
- $224,529 against Republican Rep. Don Manzullo, who lost his Illinois primary
- $203,106 against Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus, who won his Alabama primary
- $167,370 against Republican Rep. Ralph Hall, who won his Texas primary
- $132,022 against Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt, who lost her Ohio primary
- $130,875 against Democrat Rep. Tim Holden, who lost his Pennsylvania primary
- $123,676 against Republican Rep. Jo Bonner, who won his Alabama primary
- $121,294 against Democrat Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who won her Ohio primary against Dennis Kucinich
The PAC burned through a lot of money this year, but since the primary season we don't expect to see much of them until the 2014 cycle.
The Florida Freedom Super PAC has spent $1.8 million assisting Democrats in Florida, including Senator Ben Nelson, who is in a tough reelection battle against challenger Rep. Connie Mack.
President Obama has received the bulk of the support from this Super PAC, with Florida Freedom spending $1.5 million for the President.
As it stands, the Super PAC has spent most of what it's raised, with less than $100,000 cash on hand. But there may be another injection of cash from the SEIU soon, if the Florida race remains competitive.
EMILY's List is a group that supports women running for office who support abortion rights. They've set up a Super PAC, Women Vote!, to cover them on that front as well.
The PAC has spent at least $100,000 each supporting the following candidates, all Democrats:
- $318,122 for Elizabeth Esty, running Connecticut's 5th District
- $164,067 for Rep. Tammy Baldwin's Wisconsin Senate bid
- $156,719 for Tarryl Clark, running in Minnesota's 8th District
- $137,720 for Tulsi Gabbard, running in Hawaii's 2nd District
- $104,535 for Michelle Lujan Grisham, running in New Mexico's 1st District
- $102,636 for Grace Meng, running in New York's 6th District
- $100,316 for Julia Brownley, running in California's 26th District
They've also hit these candidates with independent negative ads:
- $791,590 against Tommy Thompson, who is running against Baldwin.
- $194.250 against Robert Cornilles, who ran against Rep. Suzanne Bonamici in a special election earlier this year
- $121,866 against Eric Hovde, who lost the primary election against Thompson in Wisconsin
The Young Guns are the Republican Party's crew of young conservatives, founded by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, and House Budget Chair/Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.
The group's YG Action Super PAC has already spent $2.5 million to help Republican candidates this election cycle.
They've targeted four people so far.
- $556,545 against Rep. Mike McIntyre, is a Democrat in North Carolina's toss-up 7th District
- $557,750 against William Enyart, running in Illinois' toss-up 12th District
- $818,200 against Rep. John Tierney, a Democrat representing Massachusetts' toss-up 6th District
- $448,975 against Rep. Scott Keadle, a Republican running in North Carolina's 8th District
They've also bolstered two campaigns:
- $52,000 for Rep. Adam Kitzninger, from Illinois' safe 16th District
- $75,750 for Richard Hudson, who beat Scott Keadle in North Carolina's 8th District Primary.
At the moment, YG Action has $4.7 million cash on hand, so look forward to them some more in the next few weeks.
The Majority PAC has spent a grand total of $10.7 million this election, and they're essentially doing the dirty work in the Democratic Party's campaign to keep the Senate.
They spent $8.4 million of that against Republicans like George Allen, Rick Berg, Josh Mandel and Tommy Thompson, respectively vying for Senate seats in Virginia, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
They also sank the Senate campaign of John Brunner in Missouri, who lost to Rep. Todd Akin in the primary. Akin's campaign has, needless to say, taken a turn for the worse.
The group has also spent $2.3 million bolstering the campaigns of Democrats, primarily Sen. Ben Nelson in Florida, Sen. Claire McCaskill in Missouri and Tim Kaine in Virginia.
The Democrats have a Super PAC doing the dirty work for House campaigns, the House Majority PAC.
The organisation has only bolstered two candidates, and has spent most of it on a number of Republicans vying for volatile seats. They've spent a total of $3.5 million so far in ads against Republicans. The top Republican subjects of their negative advertising have been Jesse Kelly (who ran for Rep. Gabby Gifford's Arizona seat), Rep. Tom Latham (Iowa), Jane Corwin (New York), Robert Cornilles (Oregon), Joe Coors (Colorado), and Keith Rothfus (Pennsylvania).
House Majority PAC has $4.5 million on hand for the remainder of this race.
Endorse Liberty is the Ron Paul Super PAC. Its donors are a who's who of top libertarians in the country, including Facebook investor Peter Thiel, Stephen Oskoui, founder of the advertising firm Smiley Media, and Gunter Marksteiner, who owns WHDT in Florida.
The PAC spent $4.2 million trying to get Ron Paul elected to the presidency.
They also supported Ted Cruz in the Texas Republican Senate primary, as well as eight other Republican candidates this cycle.
Interestingly, Endorse Liberty hasn't participated in any negative advertising.
But the group is broke. Given that they're the largest Paul PAC on the block, though, Endorse Liberty may be able to generate more support down the line from the Liberty Movement's grassroots fan base.
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