465 Billionaires Have Pumped an Eye-Popping $881 Million Into the Midterms

A small group of billionaires who come from the top 0.000002 percent of wealthiest people in the U.S. have spent nearly $900 million in the federal midterm runoffs this election cycle, a new report finds, and could reach $1 billion in political spending by the time the cycle is over.

According to a report released Thursday by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), just 465 American billionaires had donated an unprecedented $881 million by the end of September — even before last-minute campaign pushes in the last five weeks before Election Day. This is already more than the amount that billionaires spent in the entirety of the 2018 midterm election.

Further, the vast majority of this spending — $643 million, or 73 percent — comes from just 20 billionaire households, including prominent figures like the Koch family, Peter Thiel, George Soros, Michael and Susan Bloomberg and Jeffrey Yass. Of the top 10 donor families, eight lean Republican while two lean Democrat.

This is a staggering amount of money spent by an astoundingly small number of people in order to influence elections that will affect the entire U.S. population and beyond. The data is a stark illustration of the vast amount of influence that billionaires have over the political system that has been afforded to them by conservative tax cutting and Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, which allows billionaires and corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections.

Indeed, as the report finds, this small group of billionaires has spent 27 times more on this election than they ever spent around 2010, when Citizens United was decided; in the 2010 election cycle, for instance, billionaires spent $32 million.

The majority of the $881 million spent this cycle has gone toward Republicans, by a three to two margin, ATF finds. Democrats have received about 39 percent of the funding, while 59 percent has gone toward Republicans. The rest of the funding, 2 percent, has gone toward causes that most progressives oppose, like supporting Israel or cryptocurrency, ATF finds.

There has also been a massive influx of fundraising for Super PACs that are created for a single candidate. Such donations have risen by 150 percent between 2018 and this election cycle, increasing from $128 million to $323 million as of the beginning of November. About 75 percent of single-candidate Super PAC spending goes toward Republicans, the report finds.

Such massive injections into elections are often more than just a political donation — they can represent huge tax savings for billionaires in the future or win them other political favors.

“They aren’t donating to candidates because they like them. This is a transaction,” wrote former Ohio state senator Nina Turner about the report on Thursday.

Indeed, billionaires have gained trillions of dollars of wealth throughout the past few years. This growth is at least partially due to a tax code that is written to favor the rich — in part because billionaires push candidates to do so. Yass, for instance, has dodged $1 billion in taxes over the past six years, while billionaire donor Ken Griffin spent $54 million to shoot down a tax-raising initiative — a move that is now saving him tens of millions of dollars in taxes each year.