Nov. 2, 2018

Just 56 Megadonors Funnel Nearly Half a Billion Dollars to Super PACs

A Record Number of Ultra-Rich Donors Are Pouring Millions into the 2018 Midterms, a Direct Result of Citizens United

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Fifty-six rich election donors have poured at least $2 million each into super PAC groups this election season, more than double the level in the 2014 midterms and a record for any midterm election, according to a report (PDF) by Public Citizen. Contributions to super PACs from these 56 individuals add up to nearly $481 million spent by the wealthiest Americans to influence our elections.

The biggest individual contributor is Republican casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who has provided more than $112 million to super PACs so far this year, followed far behind by Democratic donor Tom Steyer at about $50 million and Republican donor Richard Uihlein at nearly $37 million.

Additionally, the top five contributors have spent more than $251 million to influence the 2018 midterms, and since 2012, these billionaires have spent more than $700 million to influence elections.

“Americans know that big money is rotting away the foundation of our democracy and blocking an economic populist agenda that citizens desperately want but the corporate class abhors,” said Public Citizen President Robert Weissman.” This year’s midterms have generated an enormous amount of grassroots energy from voters, but also a shockingly large amount of money from the ultrarich. This is not what democracy should look like. This is what oligarchy looks like; just 56 donors responsible for more than a third of all funding for the leading edge in attack ad spending.”

The analysis demonstrates the extraordinary influence of megadonors on American politics in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, which allowed unlimited contributions from corporations and wealthy individuals to influence elections.

Total outside spending on the 2018 race, including super PACs and other outside groups, now exceeds the billion-dollar threshold, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Until this year, the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections were the only races to exceed $1 billion in outside spending.

“The ever-escalating spending by billionaires should not be an accepted fact of our politics,” said Alan Zibel, research director for Public Citizen’s Corporate Presidency project. “We should all be outraged. By overwhelming margins, the American people want to end big money domination of our elections and politics.” Nineteen states have passed a resolution or an equivalent calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

Read the full report (PDF).

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