Wealthy Right Wingers Including the Kochs Have Pledged to Raise $1 Billion to Elect Romney and Other Republicans
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"People can invest what they want,” billionaire industrialist David Koch recently told Politico.
Koch wasn't discussing the stock market or oil futures. He was talking money in politics: wealthy donors "investing" in elected officials, apparently with the expectation of getting a return. In total, donors like the Kochs, along with Sheldon Adelson, Harold Simmons, and "outside" groups have pledged to raise a total of $1 billion this election to elect Republicans, particularly President Barack Obama's opponent Mitt Romney.
With support from these deep-pocketed outside donors and organizations, Romney could be the first candidate in modern history to outraise and outspend the incumbent president. Much of that money will be spent funding a flood of ads in the next few weeks in an effort to reverse Romney's poll numbers.
"What I need you to do is to raise millions of dollars."
In the recently-leaked video of Romney speaking at a closed-door, $50,000-per-person fundraising event in Boca Raton, Florida last May, he described in clear terms the way deep-pocketed donors could help his candidacy:
"Frankly, what I need you to do is to raise millions of dollars."
How individuals could "raise millions" is not immediately clear. The Romney campaign itself can only accept direct contributions of $5,000 (though it can fundraise jointly with the Republican Party, which is how it can hold a $50,000 fundraiser -- the invitation explains that $5,000 goes to the candidate, $30,800 to the Republican National Committee, and the remainder to party committees). Donors could potentially "bundle" contributions by tapping their personal and professional networks to raise funds for the campaign (and if they do, their identities would remain secret, since Romney is the first presidential candidate in twelve years to hide the identities of his bundlers).
Almost all of the over $193 million raised by the Romney campaign itself has come from big donors, much of it from the financial sector. The top five companies whose employees and corporate PACs have donated to Romney's campaign (which is distinct from his Super PAC) are all banks: Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, and the Credit Suisse Group. These industries were top donors to Obama in the 2008 campaign but have switched to the Romney camp.
Additionally, political donations from the private equity industry has soared in 2012 and largely gone to benefit Romney. The Boca Raton fundraiser, for example, was held at the home of controversial private equity manager Marc Leder, who made his fortune at Sun Capital Partners, a firm like Romney's Bain Capital. Sun Capital is known for taking over companies and raiding employees' pension funds while leaving workers without jobs or the retirement they had invested in -- about which more information can be found here.
At Leder's fundraiser for Romney, the candidate also decried the millions being raised by the Obama campaign, which so far has outraised Romney's campaign $432 million to $279 million.
But Romney failed to mention that support from nominally independent Super PACs and dark money groups gives him a significant financial edge over President Obama.
The way that donors at that Boca Raton fundraiser could more directly meet Romney's request for "millions of dollars" is to give to his Super PAC, Restore Our Future, which can raise and spend without limits but technically cannot coordinate with the campaign. If the giving habits of the event's host is any indication, this path seems likely. Leder has given $225,000 to Restore Our Future but just $2,500 to Romney's campaign. Leder is not alone. Top donors to Restore Our Future overlap significantly with donors to Romney's official campaign account, although they are giving exponentially more to the Super PAC, which can accept unlimited funds in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and its progeny.