Over a decade after Citizens United and as the rich grow ever richer, billionaires are rapidly taking over Capitol Hill with political donations — and, as a new report shows, the Republican Party is a major beneficiary of this supposed generosity.
This election cycle, nearly half of the funding (47 percent) raised by the two major Republican congressional super PACs came from just 27 billionaires, a new report from Americans for Tax Fairness revealed on Wednesday. That’s $89.4 million, straight from the pockets of over two dozen of America’s richest people.
The vast majority of those billionaires — 86 percent — gleaned their fortunes from Wall Street; in turn, the finance sector benefits the most from GOP tax cuts and corporate handouts. These donors include Rupert Murdoch, founder of Fox News; Charles and Helen Schwab, the former of whom founded finance giant Charles Schwab; Ross Perot Jr., a Texas real estate magnate; and Trevor and Jan Rees-Jones, whose wealth comes from Chief Oil & Gas, which is credited as a pioneer of fracking.
The report says that these figures still don’t capture the full extent to which billionaires influence politics, as the rich are also able to donate through corporations and organizations without the donations bearing their names.
Billionaires have been able to accumulate enough money to donate in such huge amounts due to the U.S tax system, which — thanks largely to Republicans but also in part to Democrats — overwhelmingly favors the rich. These tax breaks include measures like the carried interest loophole, which allows the private equity managers and venture capitalists to pay only 20 percent in taxes on their incomes rather than the top income tax rate of 37 percent.
Over the first two years of the pandemic, the 27 billionaire GOP donors collectively added a towering $82 billion to their wealth of $227 billion — an increase of 57 percent.
“The nation’s roughly 750 billionaires are increasingly using their personal fortunes and the profits of connected corporations to drown out regular voters’ voices and elect hand-picked candidates who further rig the nation’s economy,” the report says.
Billionaires have been donating in large amounts to Republicans for years. They gave $240 million in total to Donald Trump, for instance, during his 2016 and 2020 presidential runs. And, because Citizens United v. FEC opened the door for super PACs to spend unlimited amounts on campaigns with very little strings attached, this problem has only worsened over the past decade.
Another Americans for Tax Fairness report earlier this year found that, since the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling came down in 2010, billionaires have been spending nearly $1 billion more on elections than they were before the decision. As a result, billionaires contributed almost $1 out of every $10 donated in the entire 2020 election cycle, which was the most expensive election cycle ever.
Democrats have also benefited from billionaire donations, but to a lesser extent, Americans for Tax Fairness found. The Democrats’ Senate and House super PACs have received $26 million from billionaires, or about 17 percent of the $154 million that the groups have raised over the first 16 months of this midterm cycle. Only about a third of the billionaire donors were from Wall Street.
Still, the Democratic donors also gained a significant amount of money during the first two years of the pandemic — about $88 billion, or a 70 percent increase.