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The Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for transparency in politics and government, found that fewer than 27,000 individuals (out of a population of 307 million) each gave at least $10,000 to federal political campaigns in 2010.
"The Political One Percent of the One Percent," said these donors combined spent $774 million — 24.3 percent of all money from individuals that went to candidates, PACS, political parties and independent expenditure groups in the 2010 midterms, which swept Republicans into control of the House.
Looking at the absolute top tier, Drutman says just 17 individuals gave more than $500,000 each.
The Sunlight Foundation's analysis also shows that the donor elite of both parties tend to live in big cities — especially New York, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles. And they break down into three categories of donors.
The One Percent of the One Percent are not average Americans.
Overwhelmingly, they are corporate executives, investors, lobbyists, and lawyers. A good number appear to be highly ideological.
In the 2010 election cycle, the average One Percent of One Percenter spent $28,913
There are almost 27,000 people—or 1/100th of one percent of the United States population—who spent more than $10,000 to influence elections during the 2010 election cycle.
The top 10 people from this elite class of donors together spent more than $23 million on the last election. The majority of that money went to Super PACs used for independent expenditures. Eight contributed their money exclusively to Republican groups and candidates; two contributed exclusively to Democratic groups and candidates
Here’s a look at who’s who among America’s top 10 most influential givers:
1. Bob Perry
is the CEO of Perry Homes. Perry has been influential in politics and a prominent donor for a number of years. In 2004, he gave $8 million to a number of nonprofit political groups known as 527 committees. Most notably, $4.4 million of that money went to the political group Swift Vets and POWs for Truth, which opposed Sen. John Kerry’s presidential bid. During the 2010 election cycle, Perry donated $7.3 million to political efforts. All but a small portion of his money for the 2010 election went to American Crossroads, a group cofounded by former George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie.
2. Wayne Hughes,
owner and chairman of Public Storage, Inc. According to disclosures, Hughes gave a total of $3.28 million to conservative candidates and committees, with $3.25 million going to American Crossroads. Hughes also gave $4,800 to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.
3. Fred Eshelman
is the CEO of Pharmaceutical Product Development. Eshelman spent $3 million in 2010 funding his own group, RightChange. RightChange registered with the FEC as a Super PAC and spent those millions of dollars to defeat Democratic candidates including Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado and Sen. Patty Murray of Washington.
4. Robert Rowling,
CEO and Chairman of TRT Holdings, a holding company that owns Golds Gyms and Omni Hotels as well as oil and gas interests. Rowling spent $2.59 million during the last election on conservative efforts. He gave $2.5 million of that money to American Crossroads.
5. Donald Sussman
is the Chairman of the holding company Paloma Partners. Sussman, who earlier this year married Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, gave $1.26 million in 2010 to Democratic candidates. He also funds the newly formed group United Republic, a group whose mission is to end huge spending by special interests to influence politics. Sussman gave a little more than $750,000 to the Super PAC Women Vote! and its parent organization Emily’s List. Those two organizations support pro-choice female political candidates.
6. John Ricketts
is the founder of TD Ameritrade and still a board member there. In 2010, his total political contributions were $1.25 million. He gave to a variety of Republican candidates, including House Speaker John Boehner.
7. Jerry Perenchio
is the CEO of the investment firm Chartwell Partners and former owner of the Spanish-speaking television network Univision. In 2010, he gave $1.12 million to conservative candidates and groups, including $1 million to American Crossroads.
8. Rachel Hunter
is the Treasurer for the organization Media Matters and an heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune. She’s related to Penny Pritzker who was the national finance chairwoman of the Obama campaign in 2008. In 2010, Hunter gave more than $1 million to democratic groups and candidates. The bulk of that money went to the 527 organization, Bring Ohio Back.
9. John Childs
is on the Board of Directors for Club for Growth and is the founder of JW Childs Assoc., a private equity firm. In 2010, he gave a total $923,000 to Super PACs supporting Republicans and to Republican candidates directly. He gave $100,000 of that money to American Crossroads and $650,000 to his own group, Club for Growth.