As a quick glance at January's presidential fundraising numbers confirms, the unlimited cash flowing into SuperPACs is fundamentally distorting the 2012 election. The millions flowing into conservative SuperPAC coffers are not only far outpacing the GOP candidates' own campaigns, but continuing to overwhelm their Democratic counterparts. But for the likes of Charles and David Koch, the Walton family, Foster Friess, Sheldon Adelson, Meg Whitman, the Marriotts and the rest of the SuperPAC-Men, a multimillion dollar contribution isn't an eccentric hobby, but a wise investment. After all, if Republicans win in November, their plan to eliminate the estate and capital gains taxes would divert billions of dollars from the United States Treasury to the accounts of nation's richest families. Of course, that gaping hole would have to be filled by all other American taxpayers.
As Mother Jones reported last month, as of December 31, 2011 conservative SuperPACs reaped $60 million of now-unlimited contributions, compared to just $8 million for liberal groups. That tidal wave of corporate cash and play money from the wealthy has filled the coffers of Karl Rove's American Crossroads, Mitt Romney's Restore the Future, Rick Santorum's Red, White and Blue Fund, Newt Gingrich's Winning the Future and a litany of other right-wing SuperPACs. Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul worth an estimated $25 billion, said, "I might give $10 million or $100 million to Gingrich." And as Amanda Terkel detailed, the Koch brothers and their allies pledged to raise much more to defeat President Obama:
At a private three-day retreat in California last weekend, conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch and about 250 to 300 other individuals pledged approximately $100 million to defeat President Obama in the 2012 elections.
A source who was in the room when the pledges were made told The Huffington Post that, specifically, Charles Koch pledged $40 million and David pledged $20 million.
But that figure is chump change compared to the eye-popping return on investment the Kochs can expect if their side wins in November. Ending the estate tax, a policy endorsed by Mitt Romney and every other Republican presidential candidate, would literally be worth billions of dollars to the heirs of Charles and David Koch. As ThinkProgress explained last year:
According to a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation, the Koch brothers' heirs' would save a combined $17.4 billion in estate taxes thanks to Romney's plan.
Each of the Koch brothers -- Charles and David -- is worth about $25 billion. They are each married, so they would receive an exemption on the first $10 million that they pass down, and then theirs heirs would pay a 35 percent tax, or $8.7 billion, on the rest of their vast fortunes.
Now, this is an exceedingly rough calculation, as it's almost certain that the Koch's have engaged in extensive estate planning and would pay nowhere near that amount. But 35 percent is the rate on the books, and Romney's plan to eliminate the estate tax entirely would undeniably save the Kochs a boatload of money.
Here's why. Despite Republican mythology about family farms and businesses being lost to the so-called "death tax," by 2009 only 0.24 percent of estates even paid the levy. And that was before the December 2010 compromise President Obama inked with Congressional Republicans extending the Bush tax cuts further slashed the estate tax. The reduced 35 percent tax is now applied only to couples with estates greater than $10 million, a change which will cost Uncle Sam roughly $15 billion a year. Now, the Tax Policy Center calculated, only 0.1 percent of estates are impacted. Only 50 family farms and small businesses will be affected, and they contribute "less than one tenth of 1 percent point of the total revenue the tax will collect." Who pays the estate tax?
TPC estimates that 8,600 individuals dying in 2011 will leave estates large enough to require filing an estate tax return (estates with a gross value under $5 million need not file a return in 2011). After allowing for deductions and credits, an estimated 3,270 estates will owe tax. Roughly 90 percent of these taxable estates will come from the top ten percent of income earners and nearly half will come from the top one percent alone.
Estate tax liability will total an estimated $10.6 billion in 2011. The top ten percent of income earners will pay 98 percent of this total. The richest 1 in 1,000 will pay $5.4 billion or 51 percent of the total.
Among that richest 1 in 1,000 are the Koch brothers and the family behind Walmart, the Walton clan.