400 millionaire and billionaire families—America’s new royal bloodlines—are buying the 2016 election for President of the United States.
U.S. Inc. — Free speech is the dominant issue in the 2016 presidential elections—that is, if you subscribe to the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United that ranked political spending on par with your right to speak out against it. According to a report by the New York Times, nearly half of the hundreds of millions raised so far in the elections was donated by less than 400 families—a dubious ratio indicating the greatest concentration of wealth among the fewest people than at any other time in modern history.
Though candidates are ostensibly shackled to a $2,700 per donor limit, Citizens United paved the legal avenue for defiance of that cap in Super PACs, which have no such fetters—allowing corporations, special interests, and billionaires to indirectly flood the campaigns with unlimited cash. And Super PACs are incredibly expeditious as fundraisers, “sometimes bringing in tens of millions of dollars from a few businesses or individuals in a matter of days,” with an aggregate portion leaning Republican.
According to the latest figures in the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, the relatively tiny field donating massive sums to campaigns mirrors the same phenomenal wealth disparity nationwide—the top 10% hold 75% of the wealth in the country and the top 3% possess twice as much wealth as the “bottom” 90% of the entire U.S. population.
Such income and wealth disparity coupled with innumerable revelations of corrupt political and corporate practices in recent times have drawn frequent comparisons to Twain’s Gilded Age description of the latter part of the 19th century. But as the president of the Campaign Finance Institute, Michael Malbin, stated, “The question is whether we are in a new Gilded Age or well beyond it—to a Platinum Age.”
—Statistics from the Super PACs arguably evidence that Platinum Age:
—Of $20 million raised for Scott Walker, $13.5 million came from only four donors.
—Four contributors gave $12.5 million of Marco Rubio’s $16 million total.
—Ted Cruz’ assorted Super PACs raised $37 million, mostly from just three families — and includes the largest single political donor known to date, who gave $11 million.
—Jeb Bush has the largest campaign total at $103 million, with 26 individual donors each giving $1 million or more apiece.
—$15 million amassed for Hillary Clinton was aided by nine contributors giving $1 million or more, each.
“The 2016 presidential candidates and their individual-candidate super PACs are wiping out the nation’s anti-corruption candidate contribution limits,” warned Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21.
Despite the Supreme Court’s majority opinion in Citizens United that unlimited donations can be given to organizations that aren’t working directly in concert with individual campaigns because they “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption,” cronyism plays a sizable role. Several more prominent benefactors are acquaintances seeking big business contracts in candidates’ home states. A fitting example of this “non-corruption” is the $4 billion casino resort that an investor from Boston—who happens to be Chris Christie’s largest single donor—hopes to locate in New Jersey.
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“In the donor world, it is primarily a love of economic freedom,” said a private equity investor from Dallas who has contributed $200,000 to Scott Walker’s Super PAC. “That’s the biggest drive for most donors — more prosperity for the country as a whole, as well as for themselves.”
With such a concentrated influx of cash saturating politics, the veracity of any donor’s claim that motivation to contribute to political campaigns is anything but personal prosperity seems like a glib afterthought.
“Are they going to return people’s phone calls? Yeah, I’m pretty sure they’re going to return people’s phone calls,” said Center for Competitive Politics president David Keating. “But I don’t think it’s going to drive policy.”
Needless to say, the appearance of any bias in future legislation toward the interests of elected officials’ campaign donors is purely coincidental. Really.
This article (2016 Elections: Now You, Too, Can Use Your Millions to Buy a President) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Claire Bernish and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email email@example.com.
Claire Bernish joined Anti-Media as an independent journalist in May of 2015. Her topics of interest include social justice, police brutality, exposing the truth behind propaganda, and general government accountability. Born in North Carolina, she now lives in Ohio. Learn more about Bernish here!
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