When the Center for Responsive Politics reviewed contributions to Section 527 political organizations during the 2nd Quarter of 2010, their headline shouted Big Donors!. The headline was merited by their finding that the top ten donors together gave $6.7 million to political groups during the period. If we’re looking for a headline for the 3rd Quarter of 2010, the headline should read Bigger Donors!, since the top ten donors for July, August and September of this year have together given $11.4 million to 527 groups. That’s a 70% increase in just one fundraising period.
The 3rd quarter fundraising reports for 527 organizations have just been posted by the IRS this weekend, and you can check through them yourselves, although I suggest using a computer with large stores of memory; the sheer volume of contributions make data files big enough to confound all but the latest generation of computers. Below is a list of the top ten donations to 527 groups in the third quarter of 2010:
1. A $1,853,250 donation by Pharmaceutical Product Development, Inc. CEO Fred Eshelman to RightChange.com Inc., a group to which Fred Eshelman is the only donor. RightChange.com specializes in the production of video advertisements that depict the “little people” (often drawn as literally small) standing up to liberal politicians.
2. A $1,500,000 donation to the Golden State Voter Registration Project by Jerry Perenchio, the billionaire media mogul behind Univision and the National Finance Co-Chair of John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. The Golden State Voter Registration Project’s expenditures are dedicated to Republican “GOTV” (Get Out The Vote) efforts by contractors who have been accused of fraud in the past. In the 3rd quarter of 2010, Perenchio provided 96.5% of Golden State’s funding.
3. $1,150,000 in a bundle of three donations by Peter Ackerman to Americans Elect, a shadowy political corporation that it is current incarnation of the old Unity08. As of today, Americans Elect remains a group operating in the shadows in private meetings with political insiders, but in its only public statement to date has declared the intention to field its own ticket for President of the United States in the year 2012. Ackerman lists himself as the Chairman of Americans Elect; in his other work he is an executive at a private wealth management firm for high-income clients. With another gift of $400,000.00 to Americans Elect in the 2nd quarter of 2010, Peter Ackerman is the 527 group’s sole funder for its political activity, which includes polling, corporate registration in all 50 states, ballot access work, a stable of consultants and as-of-yet unsuccessful fundraising ventures.
4-5 (tie). A $1,500,000 donation written out in two very large checks by Bob Perry to the Republican Governors Association. Bob Perry is the CEO of Perry Homes, a major real estate developer in the state of Texas.
4-5 (tie). A $1,500,000 donation written out in two checks by Paul Singer to the Republican Governors Association. Paul Singer is a corporate leader of Elliott Management, a New York hedge fund.
6-8 (tie). A donation of $1,000,000 by Jerry Perenchio (also the source of the 3rd Quarter’s single biggest donation) to American Crossroads. American Crossroads is a corporation dedicated to electing Republican politicians to office, founded by Karl Rove and two former chairs of the Republican National Committee.
6-8 (tie). A $1,000,000 donation by Sheldon Adelson to the Republican Governors Association. Adelson is the CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which owns three luxury casinos in Las Vegas, three more luxury casinos in Macau, a new casino on the former site of Bethlehem Steel in Pennsylvania, and a brand-new luxury casino in Singapore.
6-8 (tie). A $1,000,000 donation to the Republican Governors Association, $500,000 each from Anne and Kenneth Griffin, a billionaire couple of hedge fund managers.
9. A $500,000 donation by Steve Cohen, the founder of the hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors, to the Republican Governors Association.
10. A $449,500 donation by John M. Templeton, inheritor of a hedge fund fortune, to the College Republican National Committee.
As late reports regarding the 3rd quarter of 2010 trickle in past the October 15 deadline, even these big donations to 527 groups might be surpassed. But even in preliminary assessment, the amount of spending is huge.
Also notable is the lopsided nature of the big spenders’ politics. Not one of these top ten donations went to either a liberal or a Democratic Party group. 9 donations went to the Republican Party and its associated front groups; the 1 remaining donation went to Americans Elect, a group whose essential nature is obscured to the public. All are white. All but one (acting jointly with her spouse) is male.
How long will it be before you (and by “you” I mean a billionaire casino operator or hedge fund manager) have to give a million in a quarter to rank on the Top Ten list?