WASHINGTON — Some of the country’s Democrats with the deepest pockets are outspending their conservative counterparts in the race to exploit a complex campaign finance loophole.
In an April 15 analysis, Will Tucker, the money-in-politics reporter for Open Secrets, a project of the Center For Responsive Politics, reported that top “mega-donors” to the Democratic Party have given $12.3 million via joint fundraising committees this election cycle, compared to $10.3 million on the Republican side, based on Federal Election Committee data released on Feb. 22.
Of the top 20 political donors to joint fundraising committees, only three gave to conservative causes. The top single donor from the list was Sean Parker, one of the co-founders of the pioneering music sharing service Napster, who gave $725,200 to joint fundraising committees, with just $42,400 of that landing in Republican pockets. The second largest donors were James R. and Mary K. Pritzker, one of America’s wealthiest couples, who jointly donated $706,800. Rounding out the top three was Haim Saban, the billionaire casino magnate known for his support of Israel, who doled out $696,800.
By comparison, the top conservative donors were Jed and Yawl Manocherian, New York-based siblings who made their wealth in real estate. They jointly gave $455,600 to Republican committees and $60,000 to Democratic committees.
Joint fundraising committees allow candidates and political parties to raise money together, fueling funds and sending it where it is most needed. “Donors can give to a number of participating groups by writing one check, and the groups get to connect with donors they might not have reached otherwise,” explained Bob Biersack, a political analyst and statistician, in a Feb. 19 report for Open Secrets. One of the purposes of these organizations is to help siphon donations to state and local candidates who might otherwise lack in funds.
But their use has grown dramatically since 2014, when the Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon v. FEC obliterated any limits on how the donations were distributed, allowing donors to use joint fundraising committees as a loophole to circumvent campaign finance restrictions.
“As a result, individuals theoretically now can give the maximum permitted to every state party in the U.S., in addition to maxing out to the national party and to as many candidate campaigns as they’d like,” Biersack wrote. In other words, donors can give multiple times in different states and to multiple campaigns, knowing that many of their funds will end up back in the hands of the national party and their candidate of choice.
Hillary Clinton’s major joint fundraising committee, the Hillary Victory Fund, is notable not just for raising more than $60 million in the current election cycle, but also because past candidates have waited until their received the nomination to join or form committees.
By February, Clinton had netted about $26.9 million through joint fundraising committees, according to Bloomberg Politics’ Bill Allison, while Bernie Sanders brought in just $1,000.
Tucker wrote that his analysis of Clinton’s use of joint fundraising committees reveals her close ties to big business and the global 1%.
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