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Guns, gays, Hillary Clinton and Ben Carson: political fundraising reflects polarized USA

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Picture of smiling man in front of blue and white CNBC back drop. He is balding with white beard and glasses,
A Republican gay rights group is one of the super PACs that raised the most money during the first quarter of this year thanks to Republican financier Paul Singer. (Photo credit: Wikimedia)

An anti-gun PAC, a GOP gay rights PAC and rival committees touting the 2016 presidential campaigns of conservative Ben Carson and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are among the top fundraising super PACs during the first quarter of this election year, an analysis by Sunlight's Real-Time FEC tracker shows.

The tracker, which makes it possible to quickly aggregate and sort campaign finance reports that come into the Federal Election Commission, shows that among the committees that file on a quarterly schedule — whose reports were due at midnight Tuesday — the Democratic Senate Majority PAC was by far the biggest money magnet, raking in more than $11 million between Jan. 1 and March 31. The next closest was American Unity PAC, a Republican pro-gay rights group. It picked up more than $2.7 million, almost entirely from two backers who made fortunes in investing: Paul Singer, the group's founder, and Seth Klarman, a hedge-fund manager and author.

The 10 super PACs that raised $1 million or more during the first three months of the year are notable for the extreme polarization they reflect among donors. Though the super PAC behind the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign-in-waiting made the list, it was bested in the fundraising sweepstakes by a group backing conservative physician Ben Carson. Other big money raisers included a Tea Party group, the gun control super PAC founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and two super PACs largely underwritten by Chicago-based conservatives: Ending Spending, backed by Cubs owner Joe Ricketts, and Liberty Principles Action Fund, which was founded by a Windy City talk show host and backed by Dick Uihlein, a packaging magnate with Tea Party leanings.

The quarterly filings present only a partial picture of the fundraising landscape. Many political action committees file on a monthly basis and their next reports are due at the Federal Election Commission on Sunday.

Below is a list of the top 10 fundraisers among super PACs that made their first quarterly filings as of last night. The complete list of top fundraisers for the first quarter is available here.