Fewer than four hundred families account for nearly half of the money being raised for the 2016 presidential election according to analysis of recent campaign contributions. Most of that money is being directed towards organizations known as SuperPACS, which have no spending limits due to the Citizens United v Federal Election Commission decision in 2010. Nearly $400 million in funding has been raised for presidential candidates so far, which is quite high considering that in the 2012 election just over $600 million was spent by SuperPACs in total. With over one year left before the 2016 election, campaign funds from SuperPACs will likely break the previous record.
For those who don’t belong to the wealthiest one percent, it may be easy to malign the influence of such a small group of well-funded elites on the political system. With the demographics of wealth in the U.S. showing a level of disparity not seen since the height of the roaring ‘20s, the fact that Republican candidates are getting most of their money via these SuperPACs may turn out to hurt them.
Even more troubling than the concentration of donations is instances of corporate entities funding SuperPACs that have no publicly known owner.
One such example is a $1 million donation to a pro-Bush SuperPAC by the corporation Jasper Reserves, an LLC out of West Virginia, which does not require public owner records to be disclosed. On the opposing side, Hillary Clinton’s “Priorities USA” PAC received $15 million from just nine donors who each gave $1 million, yet their name do not appear anywhere.
Jeb Bush is currently winning the SuperPAC race, having raised over $100 million from thousands of donors, with over 20 having donated at least $1 million each.
If you suspected that these campaign funds also led to insider access to the potential candidates, you would be right.
Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign has received funds from companies that previously benefitted from Wisconsin’s economic development agency. In Gov. Chris Christie’s case, the single largest donor to his “America Leads” PAC originated from a Boston investor seeking to build a $4 billion casino in New Jersey.
With 2008 and 2012 the most expensive elections in history, the trend will likely continue for 2016 and beyond, barring a change to the Citizens United ruling.