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More than the Kochs: Big donors outside the campaign finance spotlight

Friday, October 9, 2015 12:28
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(Before It's News)

By The Sunlight Foundation

David Koch at the 2015 Defending the American Dream Summit. (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

The CBS Sunday Morning show received the rare opportunity to sit down with the most famous billionaire political donor: Charles Koch.

Charles Koch and his brother David are some of the most active political donors in American politics. Their company, Koch Industries, manufactures a variety of products and the billionaires boosted into the campaign finance spotlight through their super PAC, Americans for Prosperity.

In the 2014 cycle, Koch Industries made $10 million in contributions and spent more than $13 million on lobbying. Individually, during the 2014 cycle, Charles Koch contributed $5.1 million and David Koch contributed $2 million.

The Kochs rarely do television interviews, so this Sunday’s program will provide interesting insight into how these political billionaires are approaching the 2016 election. The intriguing thing is, so far, they have largely sat on the sidelines. Charles Koch talks about that during the interview.

Which got us thinking: Though the Koch name has become synonymous with large political contributions, the Kochs are not the only nor the largest donors in American politics. When we are talking about the billionaires who, through their contributions, attempt to influence politics in the United States, there are many names with whom Americans should be familiar with alongside Koch. Notably, these big donors span both sides of the aisle.

Of course, many of these donors also contribute to super PACs and corporate PACs, not to mention dark money groups. For the purpose of this brief post, we’re going to look at some of the top individual donors.

If we’re looking at just those contributions by individuals during the 2014 cycle, Tom Steyer sits in the top spot. In the 2014 election, he gave $73 million to democratic candidates and causes. Steyer is a hedge fund manager and environmentalist behind the NextGen Climate Action super PAC and its similarly named dark money offshoot. We’ve previously written about his financing of that group, as well as the group’s most recent efforts to run political ads tying into the pope’s visit.

The second largest donor in 2014 was Michael Bloomberg, who gave most of his $28 million in contributions to Democratic candidates/causes, but also spent about half a million on Republican candidates.

So far this season, those names along with Paul Singer, Robert Mercer, Joe Ricketts and Richard Uihlein have been the largest donors in the 2016 cycle. We previously wrote about their multi-million dollar donations as well.

Meanwhile, Charles and David Koch ranked 9th and 25th respectively in individual contributions.

Still, like the Kochs, there are several others who are ranked in the top 10 who appear to be sitting out. Perhaps Sunday’s interview on CBS will give us more insight about why the Kochs and other big money donors are still waiting to get involved.

The Sunlight Foundation is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that uses the power of the Internet to catalyze greater government openness and transparency, and provides new tools and resources for media and citizens, alike.


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