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The 50 Richest People in America and Their Political Contributions

By JLP | March 8, 2011

I went through the 50 richest people in the Forbes 400 Richest People in America list and tracked their political donations just to see how they stack up. Here is what I found out:

NOTE: Some political contributions spanned several years. I used the total amounts given and ignored the years in which they were given.

• Of the 50 people I tracked, 26 of them made contributions to both Democrats and Republicans.

• 7 of them only made contributions to Democrats.

• 9 of them only made contributions to Republicans.

• 17 of them gave more to Democrats than Republicans.

• 24 of them gave more to Republicans than Democrats.

• 8 of them showed no contributions at all (Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Jeff Bezos, Forrest Mars, Mark Zuckerberg, Blair Parry-Okeden, Steve Jobs, and Donald Newhouse).

• Total contributions to Republicans totaled $1,874,574.

• Total contributions to Democrats totaled $1,400,936.

• $473,638 more was given to Republicans than to Democrats.

• The largest Republican contributor was Jim Walton at $181,300 (he also gave $4,700 to Democrats).

• The largest Democrat contributor was George Soros at $236,250 (he gave nothing to Republicans).

• The average contribution to Republicans was $37,491.48.

• The average contribution to Democrats was $28,018.72

There was no mention of other political contributions to Libertarians or the Green Party.

Topics: Politics | 25 Comments »


25 Responses to “The 50 Richest People in America and Their Political Contributions”

  1. Leland Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    In the post Citizens United era, I think we all get to look forward to a future of all our politicians being bought by Corporations. They will dwarf all other contributors.

  2. Ron Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    @ Leland.
    All corporations are owned by people. We need to quit assigning Boogey-Man status to an entity that’s owned by our pension funds, our unions, our mutual funds, our ETF’s, our 401(k)’s, our neighbors and ourselves.

    There’s no such thing as “them.” “Them” is US.

  3. Leland Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    @ Ron.
    If they are just “us”, why aren’t our contributions enough?
    Are all owners of a corporation “us”?
    What about foreign owners of Corporations? Are they “us” as well?
    How much power as a stockholder do we really have? If a majority of stockholders tried to dictate management of the corporation would they be heeded?(This one we already know the answer to, its No).
    Do individual stockholders have the resources to make sure all the stocks included in a mutual fund act in their best interest?

    You’re right about one thing, there is no boogey-man. Just a group of people, working for the singular goal of short term profit.

  4. BG Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    Ron) Sure, corporations are owned by millions of people (via stocks investments) — but the decisions made by those corporations are made by a very small handful.

    Corporations should have absolutely ZERO influence in politics. Corporations have nearly unlimited funds, and can’t die. Corporations are not people, and hence shouldn’t be given the ‘rights’ of the people.

    What next? Are we going to allow corporations run for office? I yield my time to the good Senator from Exxon…

  5. Ron Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    You have more power than you realize if you’re loud enough at a shareholder’s meeting.

    The point I was trying to make is that corporations, though they are individual entities on their own, are nothing more than pieces of paper. People run them. People make all their decisions. People decide what happens. I hear the term “they” when describing a corporation (and cringe) but the “they” is a person or group of people.

    I don’t like what’s happening on the political landscape any more than you do where it concerns overly influenced politicians, but it isn’t the corporation that’s at fault — it’s the people running them and the politicians who allow themselves to be influenced. And ironically, if you own an index fund, you benefit from their short-term decisions.

    We the people have more power than we realize but we have to, again, be the loudest voice at the shareholder’s meetings … and the ballot boxes.

  6. BG Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Ron) If you have your money in index funds, then it is the fund company (another corporation) that controls the votes for those shares — not you as an individual.

    You can’t even get into the door of a shareholder meeting because you don’t own a single share.

    Corporations are just an entity, allowed to exist in our system of laws. They are not ‘natural’, and have NO inherent rights, at all. When the Supreme Court decided otherwise (last year), that’s when real people/citizens lost control of our government.

    Corporations can now dump limitless funds into federal/state/local elections, and it is the politicians that the _corporations_ want elected, that will be elected.

  7. Beeg Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    Who says that big corps and big banks haven’t been running the country for at least 80 – 100 yrs!

  8. Ron Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    I know how all that works (I have an MBA) but my premise still holds. You benefit personally from those corporations (and I didn’t say you get to vote by owning an index fund). No matter how you slice it, corporations are run by people and it’s those people who make the decisions. If an unincorporated association of people were to band together to elect a politician you didn’t like, who would you blame?

    All this corporation bashing cracks me up. Google is the big bad bulldog of the Interwebs but everyone wants to work there. Exxon is the prolific polluter of the planet but everyone buys the products they make available by refining oil. Starbucks is the scourge of the suburbs but everyone wants a latte. It goes on and on and on and on …

    Blah, blah, blah, what you’re doing speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.

  9. Ron Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Personally, I’ve never seen a bank or another corporation vote at a ballot box.

  10. BG Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    “I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”

    – Pres. Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864 (letter to Col. William F. Elkins)

  11. BG Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    actually, that quote is not from Abraham Lincoln (snopes.com confirms) — my bad.

    Ron) The point is: yes I know corporations are run by people. The part I have issue with is that a handful of people in said corporation have consolidated the power of all the shareholders, and can supply limitless amounts of money to sway elections.

    I am a part owner of every publicly traded corporation in the US — and I do NOT give my consent to use these funds for political purposes.

  12. Ron Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    I believe we’re reaching a consensus here. I just prefer to blame a real person rather than a something so faceless and nebulous as a “corporation.”

    Do I like it when Jeff Immelt (CEO of GE) says, “Hey Barry, scratch my back with a bunch of no-bid GREEN contracts for some pseudo-science global warming crap and I’ll get GE and NBC/MSNBC and others to scratch yours.” ? No, I don’t like it one bit.

  13. Jack Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    I have elsewhere put forth the idea that only VOTERS — registered to vote in a particular election — should be allowed to contribute to candidates for that election. No corporations, no PACs, no unions, no illegal aliens, no foreigners, no outsiders. If you cannot vote in the election, you cannot contribute to the candidates.

    If that requires a change in the Constitution, then let us get to it.

  14. thomas Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    Odd that those 8 didn’t show contributions. My guess is that most of them gave to democrats.

    How is a corporate donation any different than one from a union? Answer – it isn’t. In neither case does a member/owner really control the flow of cash to a politician or idea. ultimately it is up to the voter to decide.

    If we are going to restrict voters, how about we limit it to those who actually earn money? Considering how Government simply moves money from here to there, does it seem fair to let people who don’t chip in vote? Maybe we should have a weighted system. I get one vote, but Bill Gates gets 10,000. More of his money is being used recklessly by Washington, why shouldn’t he have more of a say?

  15. Ron Says:
    March 8th, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    @thomas
    I could get behind that idea. I’d get 36,048 votes this year alone!

  16. BG Says:
    March 9th, 2011 at 8:55 am

    thomas) Wow — Bill Gates getting a 10,000x stronger vote (for elections) than the engineers who work at Microsoft.

    Why even beat around the bush and just give the corporations checkbooks with the seal of the United States on it and tell them to spend however they please.

  17. Jack Says:
    March 9th, 2011 at 10:47 am

    The biggest problem is the government’s doing things that it has no authority to do. If it were still bound by the Constitution, there would be far fewer lobbyists, because there would be very little for them to lobby FOR.

  18. Evan Says:
    March 9th, 2011 at 10:47 am

    I think the real test of Citizens United will be comparing this post to the largest donors in 2021

  19. Leland Says:
    March 9th, 2011 at 11:24 am

    @Jack post#13: Amen!

    @Evan: I don’t think we will need to wait that long. If it’s not completely evident in 2012 it will be in 2014. Even George Soros won’t be able to have his voice heard when the executives of corporations decide what they want. Just look at the vote to continue tax subsidies for oil companies. Now look at the polls for citizens desire for keeping the subsidies. Very few of these guys actually represent their constituents. They have a different boss.

  20. Jack Says:
    March 10th, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Well, Leland, they sure weren’t listening to the voters when they passed 0bamacare.

  21. Leland Says:
    March 10th, 2011 at 10:48 am

    @Jack: Exactly! The people who elected him were promised a single payer system. But what did they get when the voting was over? A big fat giveaway to insurance providers and drug manufacturers.

  22. BG Says:
    March 10th, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Leland) BTW, the “personal insurance mandate” that is soon to be found unconstitutional was a Republican idea:

    “The concept of the individual health insurance mandate originated in 1989 at the conservative Heritage Foundation. In 1993, Republicans twice introduced health care bills that contained an individual health insurance mandate. Advocates for those bills included prominent Republicans who today oppose the mandate including Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Robert Bennett (R-UT), and Christopher Bond (R-MO) among others. In 2007, Democrats and Republicans introduced a bi-partisan bill containing the mandate.”

    Also, Mitt Romney, who criticizes the ‘personal insurance mandate’ signed the exact same thing into law when he was Governor of Massachusetts (in 2006). The Mitt Romney plan — which “ObamaCare” was modeled after — was taken up by democrats when they abandoned the single-payer idea.

  23. Jack Says:
    March 11th, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    BG, are you trying to say that all Republican ideas are, by default, Constitutional?

    As for Mitt Romney and Massachusetts, even you must know that what is within the States’ authority is not automatically within the feral government’s authority.

  24. BG Says:
    March 11th, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Jack said: “BG, are you trying to say that all Republican ideas are, by default, Constitutional?”

    Heck No! — I hope this thing goes to the Supreme Court and it is given a quick death.

    The democrats do a very poor job of pointing out these little factoids that would correct a lot of misappropriate public opinion.

    ObamaCare is more of a Republican creation that an Obama one. And I just find it hilarious that people don’t know this. When Democrats finally embrace a Republican idea and run with it — the Republicans flip-flop and are against what was original their own ideas/plans/bills.

    “They were for it, before they were against it.” <– that should be the slogan of the Republican part.

  25. JEB Says:
    July 30th, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Political contributions are BRIBES and should be illegal.

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