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Ultra-Rich Fund Huge Surge in Midterm Spending

By Alan Zibel

Just days before the before the 2018 midterm election, 56 ultra-wealthy individuals have contributed at least $2 million each to Super PACs – political action groups that can take unlimited donations and make unlimited election expenditures, a Public Citizen analysis finds.

Read the full report (PDF)

These contributions add up to nearly $481 million, more than double the level seen in the 2014 midterms., and represent 37 percent of Super PAC contributions this election cycle. Of these contributions, $253 million, or 53 percent, benefits Republicans and $210 million, or 44 percent, benefits Democrats.

The biggest individual contributor is Republican casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who has provided more than $112 million to super PACs so far this cycle, followed far behind by Democratic donor Tom Steyer at about $50 million and Republican donor Richard Uihlein at nearly $37 million. The data is current as of Nov. 1.

The analysis demonstrates the extraordinary influence of mega-donors 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.

“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.”

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, outside spending on the 2018 race from Super PACs and other outside groups has now exceeded the billion-dollar threshold, shattering the previous record for a midterm race and tilting in favor of Democratic candidates for the first time since 2008. Until this year, the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections were the only races to exceed $1 billion in outside spending.

By far the largest Super PAC contributor is Republican casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who has donated $112 million to Super PACs in 2018 and more than $287 million since 2012. The top five Super PAC contributors have spent more than $700 million to influence elections since 2012 and represent 19 percent of the $1.3 billion in super PAC contributions so far in 2018, Public Citizen found.

To compile this analysis, Public Citizen analyzed data from the Center for Responsive Politics on outside spending donors since 2012. This tally likely understates the influence of unlimited, outside donors , as many outside groups structured as nonprofit organizations do not typically disclose their donors. The data is current as of Nov. 1.

So far outside spending groups have poured $963 million into the 2018 midterms, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Of that money, the vast majority is is going to the most competitive House and Senate races, Public Citizen has found. Outside spending now exceeds candidates’ own spending, including some party spending, in 35 races, the highest number for a midterm election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Nineteen states have passed a resolution or an equivalent calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. The ever-escalating spending by billionaires should not be an accepted fact of our politics. We should all be outraged. By overwhelming margins, the American people want to end big money domination of our elections and politics.