Thursday, July 2, 2015

Who's Buying the 2016 Republican Presidential Candidates?

In a recent posting, I looked at America's political one percent of the one percent, the 0.01 percent of Americans that were the mega-donors during the 2014 election cycle.  These 31,976 donors contributed an amazing (and influential, no doubt) $1.18 billion in disclosed political contributions to federal candidates, accounting for 29 percent of all fundraising that was disclosed to the Federal Election Commission in 2014.  

According to the study by Open Secrets and the Sunlight Foundation, of the U.S. Senators and Representatives that were elected in 2014, 100 percent received contributions from the political one percent of the one percent.  Let's look at this information in a bit more detail and then take a look at the current sitting members who have declared themselves as Republican presidential candidates and see how much they benefited from the "kindness" of the wealthy that live among us.   

Here is a screen capture showing the top 15 members of Congress in order by the portion of their total raised that was sourced from the political one percent of the one percent in decreasing order:

Not surprisingly, we see some pretty high profile characters among this group including Marco Rubio, John Boehner, Joe Kennedy III, Cory Booker, Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton.

Now let's look at the bottom 15 members of Congress in order by the portion of their total raised that was sourced from the political one percent of the one percent in increasing order:

It is interesting to see high profile Senator Dianne Feinstein down there in the bottom of the pack, receiving only 3.18 percent of her total of $2,740,241 in campaign funding from the political one percent of the one percent.

Now, let's switch gears for a moment and look at the currently (and one potential) declared GOP candidates for government who are part of the 114th Congress in alphabetical order:

As we can see and probably suspected, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio have received a very substantial portion of the funds raised for their campaigns from the political one percent of the one percent at 32.02 percent and 54.84 percent respectively.  Ted Cruz follows at 21.06 percent although his campaign received only $151,500 compared to millions for both Mssrs. Rubio and Graham.  Rand Paul's campaign raised just under 10 percent of its total from the political one percent of the one percent even though, in total, he raised more than the other GOP presidential candidates during the 2014 election cycle.

In closing this posting, I want to look at the Freedom Partners Forum held in January 2015 which featured presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio.  This forum was sponsored by the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a non-profit that is connected to well-known brothers, Charles and David Koch.  This was the first of what will be a seemingly never-ending plethora of 2016 presidential forums.  In this edition, ABC News' Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl moderated the wide-ranging debate.  Here is an excerpt starting with Jonathan Karl's question:

"JONATHAN KARL: Not that you're biased or anything. Last question-- you're here at a forum of course-- the Koch brothers have sponsored and invited us all here. I've got a question for you at billionaires and politics, do you think that there is too much influence in our politics by super wealthy political donors on both sides? Again, this is a jump ball--

Here are the responses:

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: --I believe in freedom of speech. I think that political spending and political activism is a form of protected speech. There is a gentleman out there who has radical environmental ideas who has spent tens of millions of dollars, lost most of his races. But spent tens of millions of dollars attacking Republicans that didn't want to impose his radical environmental agenda.

He has a right to do that. This is-- I believe in freedom of speech. And I believe that spending on political campaigns is a form of political speech that is protected under the constitution. And the people who seem to have a problem with it are the ones that only want unions to be able to do it, their friends in Hollywood to be able to do it and their friends in the press to be able to do it.  You know, my kids have the best observation. Why are they so obsessed with the Koch brothers? Why is no one asking what Dr. Pepper's up to?

...And I would just add to that, number one-- and I think I can speak for my colleagues when I say we run for office and people buy into our agenda. And then if-- most of the people that support us support us 'cause they agree to what we're doing, not because we agree with what we're doing.

And the second point is the one Rand made. And at least acr-- I don't know a single person in this room has ever been to my office. And I don't-- haven't seen everybody here today. But a single one that's ever been to my office asking from government any special access. By and large what they want is to be left alone. They just want government to basically do what government should be doing and leave the rest up to men and women like them and countless others around the country who through hard work, perseverance, sacrifice and risk taking are creating opportunities that are providing the American dream for millions of people. That's what they want for government. (my bold)

SENATOR TED CRUZ: I wanna take on your first question because your first question is important. There are a bunch of Democrats who have taken as their talking point that the Koch brothers are the nexus of all evil in the world.

Harry Reid says that every week. Let me be very clear. I think that is grotesque and offensive. There is a reason Harry Reid and the Democrats do that. They cannot defend the record. They can't defend the Obama economy, it's a disaster. They can't defend Obamacare which is a train wreck. And they certainly can't defend the Obama/Clinton foreign policy.

So they wanna scare people by painting a picture of nefarious billionaires. I'll tell you, when Harry Reid's done that in the Senate floor I rose and asked the majority leader who had just attacked two business leaders who, let me be very clear, I admire Charles and David Koch. They are businessmen who've created hundreds of thousands of jobs...and they have stood up for free market principles and endured vilification with equanimity and grace. And I asked the majority leader on the Senate floor, "When the character of a senator's impugned there is a point of personal privilege that you can rise and defend your character. What is the point of personal privilege for a private citizen when the majority leader tries to drag his or her reputation through the mud?" I think-- look, we need more citizens involved in politics, expressing their views.

The men and women are gathered here I believe are patriots who love this country and who fear for the direction for their kids and grandkids and they are fighting for an environment where there is more growth and more opportunity in the future. And I would love to see more and more conferences five times this size, ten times this size of citizens, of small business owners all across the country fighting to change the direction.

SENATOR RAND PAUL: I would add one thing. I would say that special interests can have a bad influence on government. But the special interests that I'm concerned about are those who do business with government, get government contracts, take the government money and then try to get more contracts.

And I am for some limitations. I think there's a possibility of campaign finance reform that would include a contractual clause in government contracts to say that if I'm gonna give you $1 billion to do work for the government you will agree not to do certain things to lobby government for more money. So I think there is the ability to have some campaign finance reform. But I haven't met one person since I've been here or as I travel around the country who's coming up saying, "Oh I want a contract." They're sitting-- they wanna be left alone. So I don't fault anybody for that.

And if we believe that the political one percent of the one percent in America are just contributing millions and billions of dollars to federal and state political campaigns for the fun of it or because they are bored with their lives or because they just want to be left alone, then we are even more naive than at least two of these gentlemen.

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