It took Texas Senator Ted Cruz of the Republican Party three months to raise US$10 million for his campaign for president, through dinners, hundreds of handshakes and a stream of e-mails to supporters.
One check, from one donor, topped those results.
New York hedge fund magnate Robert Mercer’s US$11 million gift to a group backing Cruz put him atop a tiny group of millionaires and billionaires giving major money for next year’s presidential election.
An analysis of fundraising reports filed with US federal regulators through Friday last week found that nearly 60 donations of a million US dollars or more accounted for about one-third of the more than US$380 million brought in so far. Donors who gave at least US$100,000 account for about half of all donations so far to candidates’ presidential committees and the super political action committees (PACs) that support them.
The review covered contributions to outside groups that can accept checks of any size, known as “super PACs,” and to the formal campaigns, which are limited to accepting no more than US$2,700 per donor. The tally includes donations from individuals, corporations and other organizations reflected in data filed with the US Federal Election Commission as of Friday, the deadline for super PACs to report for the first six months of the year.
That concentration of money from a small group of wealthy donors builds on a trend that began in 2012, the first presidential contest after a series of court rulings and regulatory steps that created the super PAC. They can openly support candidates, but might not directly coordinate their actions with their campaigns.
“We have never seen an election like this, in which the wealthiest people in America are dominating the financing of the presidential election, creating enormous debts and obligations from the candidates who are receiving this financial support,” said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a Washington-based group that wants to limit money in politics.
“Big money gives us more competitive elections by helping many more candidates spread their message,” Center for Competitive Politics director David Keating said. The center wants to remove limits on campaign donations.
Many said their contributions, which the US Supreme Court has recognized as equivalent to free speech, merely reflect their intense belief in a particular candidate — and in the political system in general.
“The voters still, at the end of the day, make the decision,” said Scott Banister, a Silicon Valley investor who gave US$1.2 million to a super PAC helping Kentucky Senator Rand Paul in the Republican presidential race.
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