Election 2014  
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How a Few Über-Wealthy Donors Helped Buy Republicans a Presidential Field They Hate

In the era of Citizens United, early money from deep-pocketed donors played a major role in shaping the GOP field.

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Some of Romney’s biggest supporters include executives at Bain Capital, his former firm; bankers at Goldman Sachs; and a hedge fund mogul who made billions betting on the housing crash.

Ten donors to Restore Our Future gave $1 million to the group last year and another gave $2 million, accounting for 40 percent of the group’s $30 million in donations. The group’s treasurer declined to comment.

Of course, Gingrich wouldn't be in this race – ridiculously claiming to be the candidate of the people – if not for a huge infusion of cash from a right-wing billionaire with some peculiar views of the world, views Gingrich has eagerly embraced. After lackluster performances in Iowa and New Hampshire, Sheldon Adelson, a Vegas casino magnate, forked over $5 million to Gingrich's Winning Our Future super-PAC to fund his victorious campaign in South Carolina, bringing his total this year to $10 million, according to the Washington Post. Adelson's family donated half of the fund's take last year.

Adelson's two passions are breaking unions and pushing a hard-line, fringe view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Adelson, who has said he regrets serving in the U.S. military rather than the Israeli Defense Force, opposes a two-state solution to the conflict. According to the  Atlantic, he “donated a posh new headquarters to AIPAC, the Israel lobby in Washington, though he reportedly feuded with the organization over activities he saw as unduly pro-Palestinian,” and started a free daily newspaper known for its relentless drumbeat of support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other right-wing politicians. The paper, Israel Hayom, has been called "the Fox News of Israel."

As a result of Adelson's largesse, Gingrich has radically re-jiggered his own views. Gingrich long supported a two-state solution, but as the New York Times reported in December, he “suggested that he might break with it, calling Palestinians an “invented” people and the current stalled peace process “delusional.” During a fiery non-concession speech following his loss in the Florida primary in which Gingrich threw all manner of red meat to his supporters – talking about teleprompters and White House czars – Gingrich added another promise: on the first day in office, he said, he'd issue an executive order establishing a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. It was hardly a populist message; most voters probably don't have a clue that hard-right Israel-firsters like Adelson have long harbored a desire for such a move.

Ron Paul remains in the race for one reason: his devoted followers continue to provide him cash in small increments that allows him to continue in the race despite the fact that the deep-pockets in the GOP want nothing to do with him. While that's good news for his fans, it doesn't serve the GOP base very well. In a December Gallup poll, 62 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents said Paul wasn't an “acceptable” nominee – a number topping all of the other candidates, including Cain, Bachmann and Huntsman, who were then still in the race.

Santorum came into this weel's primaries clinging to life thanks in part to two donors who gave a combined $600,000 to his super-PAC -- just a little less than his campaign  raised in the second half of last year.   The New York Times noted that "his PAC's leading benefactor, the mutual fund executive  Foster Friess, was standing directly behind Mr. Santorum as he gave his victory speech" on Tuesday. Santorum's official campaign war-chest had only $190,000 cash on hand at the end of 2011. 

In all likelihood, after much grumbling from the right, and perhaps some protest votes that will get the media excited for a spell, Mitt Romney will be the nominee this November. The next round of primaries, culminating on March 6 with11 contests on Super-Tuesday, will be more of a national campaign, and his cash and organizational advantages should serve him well.

 
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