Billionaires spent lavishly on the 2022 elections
When it comes to mega-donor giving and the 2022 election, Republican billionaires have a clear advantage.
According to data collected by Opensecrets.orgseven of the top 10 federal campaign donors are Republicans, giving somewhere around a quarter of a billion dollars to GOP causes.
And the influence of the ultra-rich is felt even more. A recent report by a group called Americans for Tax Fairness finds it a total of 465 billionaires from both parties contributed about $881 million to the federal election this campaign.
But perhaps most importantly, these billionaires on both sides are signaling big plans for 2023 and beyond. They’re already taking sides in major conflicts to come to grips with issues like regulation of big tech and cryptocurrencies, the GOP’s relationship with corporate America and — of course — the 2024 presidential campaign.
Here’s a look at some of the biggest donors and their causes:
George Soros appears to be the biggest donor to the 2022 election. He has given over $128 million to Democratic candidates and causes.
The Hungarian-American businessman made his money in hedge funds and has already donated most of his fortune to his civil society group Open Society Foundationwhich sends grants around the world.
But the billionaire made his presence felt in the 2022 elections. He gave over a hundred contributions, spreading his money far and wide from the Democratic National Committee to individual candidates. But his biggest donation is to a fund that won’t be fully felt for years.
Soros, who has become a prominent boogeyman for Republicans and is often subjected to anti-Semitic attacks, wrote a huge check for $125 million (over 97% of his giving) to his own political action committee, Democracy PAC. According to the FECthe group only handed out a fraction of that money, but will clearly have enough money to campaign in 2024 and beyond.
Richard & Elizabeth Uihlein
The Uihleins, a longtime power couple when it comes to giving to Republican causes, are the second largest donors in this election. New York Times 2018 called them “The most powerful conservative couple you’ve never heard of”, although that has obviously changed in recent years.
They made their fortune in a cardboard and paper company called Uline that he says he is “North America’s largest distributor of transportation, packaging and industrial supplies.” The pair have funneled millions to Republican candidates, with much of the money going to far-right Republicans who, like former President Donald Trump, are in denial about the results of the 2020 election.
A a recent investigation of the couple by ProPublica revealed that they have spent at least $121 million in total on these elections, for both state and federal candidates in recent years.
Targets of their largesse include Doug Mastrian, the Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate who attended the Jan. 6 rally that turned into a riot, and other figures who are still opposed to certifying Joe Biden’s 2020 victory, citing baseless claims of fraud.
Third on the donor list is well-known hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, who has donated nearly $50 million to Republican causes. The founder and CEO of Citadel LLC has already signaled that he wants to move even higher in the megadonor ranks.
“Do I get a bronze medal?” he recently he joked in an interview with Politico, adding that he has already chosen his 2024 running mate: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Billionaire has already given millions to DeSantis for his likely re-election this year and seems poised to deliver more in the years ahead.
And in a comment that is sure not to sit well with Trump’s former political advisers, Griffin told Politico that “for a number of reasons, I think it’s time to move on to the next generation” as he discusses the Republican presidential field.
Fourth on the list is a new figure in the mega-donor game: Samuel Bankman-Fried, who has given about $37 million primarily to Democratic causes this election cycle.
The billionaire founder and CEO of FTX, a cryptocurrency exchange, has given the lion’s share of his money to his own PAC, which in turn has backed a number of lesser-known Democratic candidates such as Carrick Flynn in Oregon and Jasmine Crockett in Texas who, if they win, they could be players in a debate close to Bankman-Fried’s heart: cryptocurrency regulation.
He also gave millions to groups supporting Democratic candidates overall, while also cutting checks to several Republican causes, notably a PAC called America United headed by outgoing Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. Some are considering Hogan as a possible challenger to Trump and DeSantis in 2024.
Rounding out the top five is Peter Thiel. The billionaire venture capitalist and co-founder of PayPal has put almost all of his 2022 contributions and influence behind just two candidates. He is endorsing Blake Masters and JD Vance – his former staffers who are running for US Senate seats in Arizona and Ohio, respectively.
Both candidates have been growing in Republican support in recent weeks, and victories for one or both candidates would give Thiel new leverage in Washington. next year on one particular issue: Big Tech.
Thiel has also become a lightning rod for many on the left, especially for past comments that have even questioned democracy, once writing“I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.”
It’s an open question how Thiel might decide to use his influence in the coming years. The unpredictable billionaire was a key supporter of Trump in 2016, but then dropped him during the 2020 campaign before returning to the political fray this year.
Other major donors
Other top donors include Susquehanna International Group co-founder Jeff Yass (about $28 million), Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman (about $22 million), former Oracle CEO Larry Ellison (about $21 million) and co-CEO FTX Digital Markets Ryan Salame (about $17 million) – Key Republican contributors with a range of interests.
Yass has ProPublica investigated for questionable tax avoidance strategies and contributions to pro-choice deniers. Salame is focused on cryptocurrency issues, while Schwarzman and Ellison have been close to Trump in the past but have yet to announce their plans for 2024.
The only other Democratic-focused mega-donor in the top 10 is Fred Eychaner, chairman of Newsweb Corporation, who has given over $20 million to Democratic causes.
In total, the 2022 campaign will remain the most expensive mid-term campaign in history. OpenSecrets.org was recently evaluated state and federal election costs this cycle will be a whopping $16.7 billion (at least).
Ben Werschkul is a Washington correspondent for Yahoo Finance.
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