Forget the five people you meet in heaven, here are the five people running the US election system these days.
We know how the super PACs have come to dominate the presidential campaign, but a closer look at financial-disclosure numbers shows how just a tiny handful of billionaires are dominating those super PACs. An analysis of January’s campaign-disclosure filings reveals that 25 percent of all the money raised for the presidential race that month came from just five donors. That select group gave $19 million to various super PACs, often in support of more than one Republican candidate. Those numbers come from both The Washington Post and USA Today, though neither gives a complete list of those five top donors of 2012.
Ari Berman has us covered. The list includes Harold Simmons, who has given to Perry, Romney and Gingrich this year; Sheldon Adelson and his wife, who are keeping Gingrich on life support; and Santorum pals Foster Freiss and William Dore. Also in the mix is billionaire investor Peter Thiel, a Romney angel.
If you want to extend the circle out to, say, 200 people, a report from Demos shows that about that many have contributed 80% of all SuperPAC money. These are the SuperPACs that have been a major determining factor in the GOP primary, and which swung many Congressional elections in 2010. This equals .000063 of the electorate.
I respect the arguments that Citizens United didn’t cause this all by itself. We had a messed-up election system before that Supreme Court ruling. But there has unquestionably been a cultural shift in recent years, with far more outright purchases of elections, using massive numbers. I would argue that the rise follows the rise in political economy of a select few. As the 1% spends to write the laws, they gain more power and a certain invincibility. So they can use that power on elections with relative impunity. One hand washes the other.