This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
As has become increasingly apparent over the past two election cycles, wealthy Americans have become big players in American political theatre, especially after the July 2010 federal court SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission "gave birth" to Super PACs. Super PACs, aka independent expenditure-only committees, are allowed to raise unlimited funds from corporations (and their employees and executive teams), unions and other associations and are allowed to spend unlimited sums of money to either promote or advocate against political candidates. They are to operate independently of a candidate (i.e. their spending must not be coordinated with any candidate) and, unlike the traditional PACs, they are not allowed to donate directly to any candidate.
Super PACs have become big business. According to Open Secrets, so far in the 2016 election cycle, Super PACs have raised a total of $936,510.815 and spent $442,431,629. Here is a listing showing the Super PACs that have raised more than $1 million in the current cycle:
Here is a listing showing the Super PACs that have spent more than $1 million in the current cycle:
In terms of fundraising, Right to Rise which supported Jeb Bush raised the most money, hitting $121.146 million and spending $86.817 million. This goes to prove that big money doesn't always guarantee political success. In second place (and by a wide margin), we find Priorities USA Action, a pro-Hillary Clinton Super PAC that has raised $100.041 million and spent $36.297 million. To give you a sense of the size of these donations and keeping in mind that we are still more than three months away from election day, in the last presidential election cycle, Restore Our Future, a pro-Romney Super PAC raised $153.742 million and spend $142.097 million, putting it into first place among all Super PACs in 2012. American Crossroads, a conservative Super PAC funded mainly by Sheldon Adelson and Harold Simmons came in second place with revenues of $117.472 million and expenditures of $104.747 million and Priorities USA Action, a pro-Obama Super PAC raised $79.050 million and spend $65.167 million.
Let's look at the biggest funders (i.e. more than $1 million donated) of the number one fundraiser in the 2016 cycle, Right to Rise USA pro-Bush Super PAC:
I always find it interesting to see "homemakers" among the million dollar plus donors. Unfortunately, those homemakers wasted seven figures on a candidate that didn't even make it into the top five when it came to the popular vote.
Now let's look at the biggest funders (i.e. more than $1 million donated) of the number two fundraiser so far in the 2016 cycle, the Priorities USA Action pro-Clinton Super PAC:
No homemakers listed there! Among the names you see on the list is George Soros who has donated $7 million to Priorities USA Action alone, Cheryl and Haim Saban, the strongly pro-Israel couple, who have donated $10 million to Priorities USA Action alone and James Simons who has donated $7 million to Priorities USA Action.
Looking back in time, we can see how much the Super PAC movement has grown:
Raised – $89,179,293
Spent – $62,641,448
Raised – $828,224,700
Spent – $609.417,654
Raised – $696.011.919
Spent – $345,163,595
The 2016 cycle is already setting Super PAC records for both receipts and expenditures and, given that we are now down to two tightly ranked mainstream candidates in the final three months of the 2016 election cycle, you can bet that Super PACs will pass the one billion dollar mark in revenues for the first time.
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