As we rapidly approach the country’s November midterm elections, corporate media seems uninterested in one of the biggest threats to democracy: Billionaires and Big Business using huge sums of money to try to secretly buy elections on both sides of the aisle.
Increasingly, a small handful of donors hold outsized influence in American elections, thanks in large part to the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which gave wealthy donors and special interest groups license to spend unlimited cash on elections. This year is no exception.
We know little to nothing about some of the biggest donors this cycle — and that is by design. These political advocacy nonprofits, as The Lever has extensively reported, are 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations, named after the corresponding tax code section that deems them tax-exempt. More commonly, they are known as dark money groups, because they are not required to publicly disclose their donors.
In this first edition of Election Insider, exclusively for supporting subscribers, we break down the biggest spenders in the 2022 election cycle, from dark money groups to billionaire chief executives.
So far in the 2021-2022 midterm election cycle, billions of dollars have been funneled from dark money groups and other interests into super PACs, which can spend unlimited sums of money to influence elections. Republican super PAC donations have so far totaled $865 million, while donations to Democratic super PACs have hit $2.7 billion. Below, we highlight the top donors fueling each party, according to data from Political MoneyLine.
TOP FIVE 2022 CYCLE DONORS TO REPUBLICAN SUPER PACS:
1. Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein, founders of shipping supply giant Uline, have donated $50.5 million to conservative outside groups. The donor couple has spent big money over the last several years funding the GOP in Wisconsin and nationwide, going so far as to feed the coffers of the most extreme right-members of Congress, including QAnon conspiracy theory supporter Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia.
2. Ken Griffin, founder and head of Chicago-based hedge fund behemoth Citadel, along with his ex-wife Anne Dias, have donated $48 million to Republican groups. In total, hedge funds have spent more than $10 million on federal candidates during the current cycle, according to OpenSecrets. This part of the finance industry has an interest in policy decisions on tax issues like the carried interest loophole, which allows private equity and some hedge fund managers to enjoy much lower taxes on some of their income.