Billionaires’ Political Spending Grew 37-Fold in 10 Years

July 2, 2020by Ryan Teague Beckwith, Bloomberg News (TNS)
Former Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg addresses his staff and the media after announcing that he will be ending his campaign on March 4, 2020, in New York. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/TNS)

WASHINGTON — Billionaires gave 37 times as much in political contributions in the last election as they did 10 years earlier, according to a new study.

During the 2018 election cycle, billionaires gave $611 million, up from $17 million in 2008, according to the report from Americans for Tax Fairness and The Institute for Policy Studies.

They are now also playing a much bigger role. In 2008, donations from billionaires were less than 1% of all political contributions, but by 2018 they made up nearly 10%, the study found.

“Billionaires have an outsized influence on our economy, politics and society,” said Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness, a liberal advocacy group.

The report cites the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which struck down campaign spending limits on corporations and labor unions, leading to a wave of outside spending in federal elections.

Both parties have benefited from the flood of new contributions from billionaires.

The study showed that billionaires gave more than twice as much to Republicans in the 2012 election, but just 20% more to the GOP in the 2016 election, and slightly more to Democrats in the 2018 midterms.

From 1990 through May of this year, the top billionaire donors included Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, casino magnates who favor Republicans, at $308 million; Tom Steyer, a hedge fund manager who backs Democrats and liberal causes, at $275 million; and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has given to both, at $181 million.

(Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)

The totals do not include Steyer’s and Bloomberg’s unsuccessful campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. In that primary, Steyer spent $340 million and Bloomberg spent more than $1 billion.

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©2020 Bloomberg News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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