Since it's New Year's Eve, I thought we should honor those billionaires who had so much money they knew they could afford to step up and toss it away on wingnuts and Mitt Romney.
To their credit, these are the billionaires who put a lot of money up under the Klieg lights, rather than snuffling around the dark money labyrinth, though it is entirely possible they tossed at least as much out on the dark money trail as they did in the light.
To arrive at these numbers, I went through the top 50 Federal SuperPACs, downloaded the data, and captured anyone who gave $100,000 or more to right wing SuperPACs, whether for the primary or general election. These numbers would include only giving to federally disclosed SuperPACs, and not 501(c)(4) organizations or state contributions to specific candidates. While I'm certain we would discover many more dollars flowing through into state elections, that's a job that would take more hands than I have.
You can see the entire list here, but I'll list the top ten for your enjoyment. Some names you will know; others you won't. A couple came as a surprise to me.
- $43,325,000: Sheldon Adelson. Yes, our favorite Las Vegas billionaire wins the prize for the most generous buyouts in federal politics from primary through the general election. His name appeared at the top of nearly every conservative SuperPAC I reviewed. He was at every damn table in the election. What a guy.
- $41,825,000: Dr. Miriam Adelson. Sliding in just a couple of million under Sheldon, Mrs. Adelson was equally generous and to the same groups, for the most part. The Adelson daughters also did their part with a million or so each, but since we're looking on a per person, rather than per family basis, the Adelsons capture the Number One and Two spots on the hit parade.
- $29,200,000: Harold Simmons and Contran. Some checks came from Contran; others from Simmons. Since Simmons is the guy controlling Contran, he got credit for their contributions and his own, bringing him into the number three position. Simmons, you may recall, spent $4 million for the SwiftBoat operation against John Kerry in 2004. Back then, we thought that was an obscene amount of money. Now he doesn't even get the number one or two spot for nearly $30 million. Simmons wins the top Texas donor slot, though he's not the only Texan in our Top Ten.
Annette Simmons kicked in $1.2 million to Rick Santorum, but doesn't make the top ten list for that, just a mere mention next to her husband's $29.2 million.
- $22,100,000: Bob Perry. Coming in fourth is our other favorite Texan, Bob Perry, builder, swiftboater and Texas billionaire, who would have you believe he's just a good ole boy who grew up and started building houses one day. Now Bob Perry is well known for his giving largesse to the Republican Governors' Association and state races, too. It's possible that if we were to tally those in, he'd lead the pack. But for this contest, he comes in at number 4.
- $13,090,000: J. Joe Ricketts. Yes, our favorite bigot, Romney pal, and TD Ameritrade founder takes the number 5 slot. Ricketts, you may recall, thought it would be really cool to revive the Reverend Wright smear in the 2012 elections. There was a proposal written up and everything, but then it came out in public and he abandoned that idea. He did, however, give a lot of money toward Dinesh D'Souza's hate flick. That isn't reflected here, since I'm sure it went through Americans for Prosperity or Citizens United.
Ricketts is also the last of the eight-figure public billionaires on the list. Beginning with number six, there's a sharp decline in totals. I'm certain if we ever get any sunlight on 501(c)(4) organizations, we'd learn about lots more gifts from the same people to those organizations, but again...we're just looking at SuperPACs with federal disclosure now.
- $6,035,000 - Robert Rowling. Rowling is a hotelier who inherited the Omni Hotel chain, among others, from his father. Between his personal contributions and the $2.5 million from TRT Holdings, Rowling earns the number six slot. Rowling honors his Texas roots by being a big Karl Rove guy, exclusively giving to American Crossroads but for one token contribution to the Texas Conservatives fund.
- $5,550,000: Robert Mercer. Robert Mercer is a name I hadn't seen on the top lists of right wing donors before now, though he has cropped up from time to time. Mercer spent a lot of money to defeat Pete DeFazio in 2012 just like he did in 2011. I didn't even capture that in my totals, since that PAC wasn't in the top 50. Mercer is a big Club for Growth guy (which I consider the equivalent of the John Birch Society), and also gave to the Rove and Romney SuperPACs. For that, he receives the distinction of being 7th in our top ten.
Mercer's company is Renaissance Technologies, a hedge fund management company. I'm sure he would have loved to join his pal Romney in a celebration over the repeal of Dodd-Frank. Too bad for him.
- $5,675,000: John Childs. Mr. Childs is a buddy of Mitt Romney's. Formerly Senior Managing Director of JW Lee & Co, Childs now runs his own private equity firm in Boston. Childs donated nearly $4 million under his own name, and another $1.2 million from a personal trust, giving him a solid position in 8th place.
- $4,735,000: Peter Thiel. Thiel is one of the new crop of right-wing libertarian leaning billionaires. He made his fortune on Paypal, which he founded, and also Facebook. Now he runs a venture capital fund and gives millions to SuperPACs with names like Endorse Liberty, which supported Ron Paul during the primaries. He's also a big Club for Growth Action guy, and wins 9th place on the givers' hit parade.
- $4,100,000: Jerry Perenchio. Univision made Jerry a billionaire, but it didn't win the prize for him this time around. Jerry played things safe, supporting Jon Huntsman first, and then switching to the mainstream Romney/Rove machine. Perenchio isn't new to the megadonor scene, but this may be the first time he's landed on the top ten. Congrats, Jerry, you win 10th place, bumping the "other" Koch brother out of the top ten altogether.
There you go, the top ten that we know about. The ones missing are as significant as those on the list. Bill Koch barely slid off the top ten. He was eleventh. Brothers Charles and David aren't on the list at all, because they do all of their funding in total darkness. I will note, however, that Americans for Prosperity spent $138 million on this election cycle, and that was just one of many c4 organizations which have not and will not be accounted for until long after 2012 is past and we're all thinking about 2014.
One final note. Do not let these numbers so boggle your mind that you start thinking a few million are nothing to be so worried about. That's a danger when looking at so many zeroes. After a while, you think laundering $11 million into one state's initiatives on the ballot is no real big deal, because there's so darn much money floating around.
Keep in mind, these donations are not tax-deductible. Each of these billionaires could have paid this in increased taxes (plus a little more) and we wouldn't be haggling over CPI calculations and retirement ages. If they're making enough surplus dollars that they can toss millions away on political gambits, they can afford to pay millions in higher taxes.
Don't shake your head and assume we're stuck with this. We're not. And it's why tax rates can and must go up without inflicting "pain" on anyone else.