A few days ago, I posted an article outlining the financial backers behind the Restoring Our Future Super PAC backing Mitt Romney and how the average donation was well beyond the ability of average Americans households. In the interest of balance, here is a look at one of the Super PACs backing President Obama, the Priorities USA Action Super Political Action Committee. This Super PAC was recently in the news because, despite his repeated criticisms of the use of outside funding in politics, Mr. Obama has given his blessing to Priorities USA Action. Here's a quote from Jim Messina, Obama's re-election campaign manager:
"With so much at stake, we can't allow for two sets of rules in this election whereby the Republican nominee is the beneficiary of unlimited spending and Democrats unilaterally disarm."
So much for the populist movement that elected Obama in 2008.
Let's open by taking a look at an anti-Romney video produced by Priorities USA Action so that we can get a clear sense of where their political viewpoint:
From the Federal Election website, here is a screen capture showing how much Priorities USA Action raised in the 2011 - 2012 cycle to the end of December 2011:
You can see that this is a far cry from what was raised by Mitt Romney's Restore Our Future Super PAC as shown here:
...as well as his American Crossroads Super PAC as shown here:
Now, let's go see who has the Obama campaign's best interest at heart. Here is a chart showing the major donors who have donated more than $50,000 to the Priorities USA Action Super PAC for the current election cycle:
You'll notice one name that sticks out right away. While the name Jeffrey Katzenberg may not ring any bells, his donation of $2,000,000 certainly does. Mr. Katzenberg is the CEO of DreamWorks Animation, producer of such moves as Shrek, The Prince of Egypt and Madagascar among many others. He was also chairman of The Walt Disney Company's film division. When Michael Eisner refused to promote Katzenberg to the position of President of the entire Walt Disney Company and was forced to resign, he sued Disney and settled out of court for a reported $250,000,000. In the mid-1990s, Mr. Katzenberg co-founded Dreamworks SKG with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen, producer of such films as Saving Private Ryan, American Beauty and Meet the Parents among many others. In the fall of 2004, DreamWorks Animation was spun off from its parent company. To put Mr. Katzenberg's net worth into perspective, the latest data that I could find on him was from Forbes back in 2005 when his net worth was listed as $1 billion, putting him at Number 620 in the world.
Just in case you have a few million hanging around doing nothing, Mr. Katzenberg's tiny 9173 square foot house in Beverly Hills is for sale. Here are the details.
One of Mr. Katzenberg's partners also makes the list. Mr. Steven Spielberg who lists himself as Co-Principal at DreamWorks Animation donated $100,000 to the Priorities USA Action Super PAC. According to Forbes, Mr. Spielberg's net worth was listed as $3 billion in 2011, putting him at Number 376 among Forbes billionaires and Number 126 in the United States.
Fred Eychaner is a rather reclusive media mogul out of Chicago. He is the founder and Chief Executive Officer and President of Newsweb Corporation, a publisher of newspapers and owner of several radio stations. He is an avid financial supporter of political causes and has given millions of dollars to the Democratic Party, including $791,800 in total during this election cycle. Back in 2002, he sold Newsweb's Chicago television station to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp for $425 million in cash.
Let's look at one last donor. SEIU COPE donated a rather hefty million dollars to Priorities USA Action during the last year, a rather outstanding amount from a non-individual. SEIU is the Service Employees International Union, the nation's largest healthcare union and the second largest public services union. COPE stands for Committee on Political Education, a group of 300,000 SEIU members, staff and retirees who contribute an average of $7 per month to give their members a voice in the political arena. For your illumination, here is one of their online ads that pretty much tells you where SEIU COPE stands on the issues of job creation and tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy.
Looking at the eight individual donors (excluding SEIU) that donated over $50,000 each to this Democratic Super PAC, we find that they donated a total of $3,000,000 for an average of $375,000 each. Granted, Mr. Klatzenberg's over-the-top donation of $2 million drags the average way up, but if we exclude his donation, that of the SEIU and Mr. Eychaner, the average is still over $83,000 or 1.6 times the average annual income of an American family.
In large part, we have the Supreme Court's 2010 decision on the Citizen's United vs. the Federal Election Committee to thank for this mess. This ruling made it legal for corporations and unions to finance independent expenditures without making direct contributions to federal campaigns. The decision allows special interest groups, corporations, unions and lobbyists to have unfettered power in Washington since there are no controls on how much they can donate to the party or candidate of their choice. This removes any remnant of influence that "Mom and Pop America" had on the political process because their tiny donations no longer matter. Certainly, every American does have a vote that is equal in power to everyone else's since the nation's political system is still one person, one vote but that's pretty much where equality in the eyes of Washington ends.