The Biggest Donors in Campaign Finance

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The top five industries of the largest donors were hedge funds, private equity, and venture capital; other securities and investment; energy and natural resources; real estate and construction; and media and entertainment (Parlapiano & Willis, 2014). Other industries that have spawned high donations include health care, insurance, technology, retail and manufacturing, and transportation. The McCain-Feingold Act of 2002 was intended to close loopholes in campaign finance laws, and at first it was successful. However, big donors, especially individuals, soon found new loopholes and increasingly took advantage of them. For example, donors began to give large sums of money to two types of groups designated by the IRS. One was the 527 group, a political non-profit and tax exempt organization designed to influence election of one or more candidates. The other type of organization is designated a “501c4” because its description is found in the 501c4 section of the U.S. tax code.

These organizations are not allowed to directly advocate for candidates, but they can produce “issue ads” as long as they don’t spend more than a certain amount of their money on them From the donor’s point of view, the best quality of a 501c4 is that disclosure of donation is not required. As a result, money given to 501c4s is often termed “dark money.” Donating to these groups allows individuals to leverage their power much more efficiently and to bypass campaign finance limits. Another kind of organization that has become popular is the SuperPAC. It does not have the limitations on amounts which PACs have, but it is required to disclose its donors. Some individuals prefer to give money to a 501c4 group (who do not disclose) which, in turn, contributes to a SuperPAC. Donors who support Democrats often back issues such as regulation of oil and gas industries, legalization of same-sex marriage and marijuana use, and clean energy. Donors supporting Republicans typically fund issues such as reduction of government regulation in favor of free market principles and faith-related programs such as fighting same sex marriage and abortion or promoting Jewish causes.

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The Libre Initiative is an organization dedicated to winning Latino voters over to conservative candidates and policies. It is funded by the Koch brothers, who are strongly conservative billionaires. They began Libre because they felt the Republican party was not doing enough outreach to Latino voters. In November of 2015, Libre held free health clinics, including flu shots, and Thanksgiving turkey giveaways at primarily Hispanic churches. The only requirement was that participants answer questions about topics such as their preference for Republicans or Democrats, their beliefs about federal spending, and similar political issues. Libre has stated that its mission is to empower Latinos to achieve their dreams without relying on government aid. As part of its mission, the group works to inform voters about the Koch brothers’ conservative ideals – “economic freedom and smaller-government principles will yield opportunity and prosperity” (Parker, 2015). The organization also supports changes in immigration laws and a method by which current illegal aliens can become citizens. However, Libre opposes the Affordable Care Act as well as some of President Obama’s executive orders regarding immigration. These issues, as well as Libre’s use of Koch money to prevent the re-election of two Latino members of Congress, has caused the Hispanic community to have mixed feelings about the organization and the Kochs. Democratic leaders have also pointed out that Libre’s true goal is to induce Hispanics to vote for Republicans even when it is not in their best interest (Parker, 2015).

I believe that policies which are truly in the voters’ interest, rather than in the interest of billionaires, are worth the money that is used to promote them. For example, Tom Steyer, a Democrat from California, gave $5 million to defeat a measure that would decrease limits on carbon emissions (Parlapiano & Willis, 2014). Stephen Bing gave $50 million in an attempt to pass an initiative to tax drilling by oil companies. Both of these issues related to the environment, and good environmental policies are typically good for the public and bad for corporations and the rich.

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