A USA TODAY analysis finds that five wealthy people, led by Dallas industrialist Harold Simmons and Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, have contributed nearly 25% of all money donated to the super PACs raising unlimited money to back candidates in this year’s presidential race.
Those donations have helped new Republican-leaning outside groups out-fundraise Democratic-friendly super PACs by a large margin.
“Without the flow of super PAC money, the Republican race would be over,” said Anthony Corrado, a campaign-finance expert at Colby College in Maine. “Super PACs have become a vehicle for a very small number of millionaires and billionaires who are willing to spend large sums in pursuit of their political agenda.”
The largest super PAC donor of the 2012 election is Harold Simmons. He and his holding company, Contran, gave $12 million to Karl Rove affiliated super PAC American Crossroads, as well as $2.2 million to three super PACs supporting Republican presidential candidates. Simmons also contributed $3 million dollars to “Swift Boat” ads in 2004, challenging then presidential candidate John Kerry’s Vietnam War record.
Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, gave $10 million to Winning Our Future, a super PAC aiding former House speaker Newt Gingrich.
In a Forbes magazine article, Adelson said he is willing to donate an additional “$10 million or $100 million” to aid Gingrich.
“I’m against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections, but as along as it’s doable, I’m going to do it,” Adelson said.
Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, donated $2.6 million to Endorse Liberty, a super PAC helping Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. Thiel, a libertarian, gave $70,000 to a 2010 ballot initiative in California to legalize marijuana.
Thiel is the single largest donor to Endorse Liberty, which has spent more than $3 million, mostly on Internet ads, to advance Paul’s candidacy.
“Men and women who want freedom and growth should take action,” he said. “A good place to start is voting for Ron Paul.”
Since January 1st, Houston home builder Bob Perry has donated $3.6 million to super PACs, including $2.5 million to American Crossroads.
He has supported Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty in the past, but last year donated $1 million to a pro-Romney super PAC.
No Democratic donors rank as high as the top donors to Republican super PACs.
Priorities USA Action, the main super PAC backing Obama’s re-election, collected $2 million last year from Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. However, the super PAC raised just shy of $59,000 in January, a fraction of the $27.2 million raised last month alone by five leading GOP super PACs. The biggest donation to Priorities USA Action last month was $50,000 from John Rogers, CEO of Ariel Investments and one of Obama’s closest friends.