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Tag Archive: Super Donors

The Political One Percent of the One Percent

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This piece was prepared in collaboration with Ethan Phelps-Goodman. If you think wealth is concentrated in the United States, just wait till you look at the data on campaign spending. In the 2010 election cycle, 26,783 individuals each contributed more than $10,000 to federal political campaigns. Combined, these donors spent $774 million. That's 24.3% of the total from individuals to politicians, parties, PACs, and independent expenditure groups. Together, they would fill only two-thirds of the 41,222 seats at Nationals Park the baseball field two miles from the U.S. Capitol. When it comes to politics, they are The One Percent of the One Percent. A Sunlight Foundation examination of data from the Federal Election Commission and the Center for Responsive Politics reveals a growing dependence of candidates and political parties on the One Percent of the One Percent, resulting in a political system that could be disproportionately influenced by donors in a handful of wealthy enclaves. Our examination also shows that some of the heaviest hitters in the 2010 cycle were ideological givers, suggesting that the influence of the One Percent of the One Percent on federal elections may be one of the obstacles to compromise in Washington.

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Super Donors

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 Public Campaign's blog highlighted a National Journal cover story about super donors --  lobbyists who max out on personal contributions to political campaigns each year. In this election cycle the aggregate contribution limit is $108,200. 

Most of these K Street "royals" have spouses giving them the opportunity to double that amount (as long as the spouse goes along). Now that adds up to some real money as you will see. National Journal  includes a list of the top 20 individual K Street donors provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, as well as a deeper profile of five of the. Even though the report finds that the top lobbyist donors cite various motivations for giving, "virtually all of them enjoy a level of influence and access that many others on K Street would envy." 

And surprise surprise! K Street work has paid off spectacularly well for these folks.

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