Wednesday, April 27, 2022

How the Billionaire Class is Buying Washington

A recent report from Americans for Tax Fairness goes a long way to explaining why Washington seems to  change very little no matter which party is in power.  Thanks to the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, we can see how a very small fraction of Americans have the ability to translate their wealth into political power by purchasing politicians from both sides of the political spectrum.


The actors of the study looked at the history of political donations from data supplied by Open Secrets by America's wealthiest individuals over the election cycles from 2010, the first election held after the Citizens United decision, to 2020.  According to their data, the authors found that billionaire contributions evolved as follows:


Here is a graphic showing how billionaire political contributions have risen since 1990:



In 2020, billionaire political contributions increased by nearly 50 percent from 2018 (excluding the self-funded campaigns by Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer) and again, nearly double the billionaires' contributions in the 2016 presidential election.  Since 2010, billionaire contributions to elections has increased by just under 40-fold, rising from $31 million in 2010 to $1.201 billion in 2020.


As background, according to Forbes, in 2010, there were 401 billionaires in the United States; this rose to 661 in 2020.  In the 2010 election cycle, billionaires donated 0.9 percent of all donations.  This rose as follows:


2012 cycle - 3.7 percent


2014 cycle - 5.7 percent


2016 cycle - 9.4 percent


2018 cycle - 9.6 percent


2020 cycle - 9.3 percent excluding Bloomberg and Steyer


2020 cycle - 46.1 percent including Bloomberg and Steyer


Excluding the Bloomberg/Steyer self-contributions, 21 percent of all billionaire political contributions since 1990 were made in the 2020 election cycle (rises to 46.1 percent if Bloomberg/Steyer are included) where one in ten dollars donated was sourced from the billionaire class even though they make up only 0.01 percent of all donors who contributed more than $200.


As you can see on this graphic, both parties were targeted by the most wealthy Americans:


Since 1990, billionaires have contributed $235.1 million to Democratic candidates and $330.2 million to Republican candidates.  Over the same timeframe, contributions to Democrats, their party committees and leadership PACs totalled $1.405 billion and contributions to Republicans, their party committees and leadership PACs totalled $1.628 billion.

Let's look at some of the top ten billionaire contributors and their percentage of the total billionaire contributions between 1990 and 2020:


Sheldon and Miriam Adelson - $524.2 million (17 percent)


Mike Bloomberg - $314 million (10 percent) exclude self-funding in 2020


Tom and Kathryn Steyer - $311.2 million (10 percent)


Ken Griffin - $107.4 million (3 percent)


James and Marilyn Simons - $92.5 million (3 percent)


Dustin and Cari Moskovitz - $83.3 million (3 percent)


Paul and Linda Singer - $63.3 million (2 percent)


George Soros - $57.1 million (2 percent)


Stephen and Christine Schwarzman - $54.5 million (2 percent)


Joe and Marlene Ricketts - $51.2 million (2 percent)


The top three donors have donated a total of $1.149 billion over the ten year period for a total of 37 percent of all donations over that same period of time. 


Despite the fact that the total billionaire political donations of $1.2 billion seems like a great deal of money, it is a tiny fraction of their collective net worth which rose substantially during the pandemic.  It is a pretty meagre investment by the billionaire class, an investment which can be used to influence tax laws and impact business laws which benefit the already wealthy billionaire.


Washington is for sale and the billionaire class is buying.

1 comment:

  1. Washington is for sale and the billionaire class is buying.

    It would he interesting to see what the poor millionaires (say those between 200 & 1 billion) do.

    We keep hearing about those evil Russian oligarchs. My guess is that the USA has and more powerful oligarchs than Russia.

    Still, when you look at the figures, politicians look fairly inexpensive on a per capita basis.