Money talks. It’s an old adage in Washington — and it’s part of why Sunlight follows the political money trail, unearthing the connections between wealthy interests and political debates. Most the attention of late has been focused on the fundraising of candidates for the White House in 2016. News reports on the super PACs raising money for Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush cite fundraising figures that are already cresting the eight-figure mark, though we won’t know the final figures until July 31, when the unlimited-spending vehicles open their books for the first major reporting deadline of the campaign.
In the meantime, we decided to cast the spotlight on the personal giving patterns of the candidates themselves to see which presidential hopeful has been the most financially generous to political allies and party committees.
Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett Packard CEO and 2016 Republican presidential candidate a from California, has doled out a little over $183,000 according to Sunlight’s analysis of data from the Federal Election Commission. (However, that figure pales in comparison what Fiorina had contributed to her own failed Senate campaign: more than $5.7 million.)
Donald Trump, the real estate and reality TV magnate, has contributed almost $1 million in personal contributions to other candidates and committees since 1997, data processed by the Federal Election Commission shows.
All four of the biggest contributors on our lists are Republicans: former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., round out the top three at $37,950 and $35,400, when self contributions are excluded.
The relatively high rate of contributions from Bush, Fiorina and Trump, all of whom are millionaires, is perhaps less surprising than the hefty sum from Graham, whose net worth was estimated to be $834,812 in 2009 by the Center for Responsive Politics. The veteran senator wrote a check for $30,400 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee in June of 2009.
Similarly, many of the candidates on our list contributed to their state or national party committees. Among other donations on our list: Neurosurgeon-turned-Republican-presidential-candidate Ben Carson contributed to the political action committee that furthers the policy goals of his industry, donating $3,000 to the American Neurological Surgery PAC since 1999. Jeb Bush has chipped in $4,000 to the U.S. Cuba Democracy PAC, which has its roots in the Sunshine state.
And like Fiorina, both Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, D, have made massive personal donations to their own political campaigns. Cruz’s Senate campaign recently wrote off $545,000 in 2012 loans he had made to his Senate campaign in March of this year — before he announced his candidacy for president. That’s nothing compared to the $13.17 million Clinton poured in to her failed presidential bid in 2008 — a debt her campaign wrote off after the election.
Three of the individuals on our list have never personally made a federal contribution of more than 200 dollars — the lowest amount itemized on reports to the Federal Election Commission. Our research found no recorded contributions from Democrats Jim Webb, a former senator from Virginia, Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor, or Republican Mike Pence, sitting governor of Indiana.
Some notes: We cast a wide net with our presidential page, including some politicians who may not ultimately throw their hats into the ring. One such example, former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, has already put the kibosh on his presidential bid before it even started.
We erred on the side of caution in including federal contributions from presidential hopefuls in our analysis — if we were not sure a donation came from one of the candidates — say because we lacked the address or employment information that is usually associated with a contribution — we did not include it.
You can see the full list of contributions here.