Democrats spent much of the 2014 campaign castigating Republican big money, but, it turns out, their side actually finished ahead among the biggest donors of 2014 – at least among those whose contributions were disclosed.
The 100 biggest donors of 2014 gave nearly $174 million to Democrats, compared to more than $140 million to Republicans, according to a POLITICO analysis of reports filed with the Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service.
Donors who gave mostly or exclusively to Democrats held down 52 of the top 100 spots, including that of the biggest by far – retired San Francisco hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, who spent $74 million helping Democratic candidates and groups.
Of course, that edge doesn’t take into account contributions to deep-pocketed non-profit groups that don’t disclose their donors. They heavily favored Republicans, with reports showing conservative secret money non-profits outspending liberal ones $127 million to $33 million. While that’s just a fraction of the overall undisclosed money spent in 2014, it’s indicative of a dramatic imbalance in a type of big money spending that likely would close the gap between Democratic and Republican top donors, if not put Republicans ahead.
For instance, the network of mostly secret-money non-profit groups helmed by the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers was on pace to spend $290 million in 2014. Yet David and Charles Koch, who Democrats worked to vilifyas the very personifications of the corrupting effect of big money in politics, ranked as only the 10th and 29th biggest givers of disclosed cash in POLITICO’s analysis.
Nonetheless, the analysis suggests that rich liberals have gotten over any lingering qualms about writing huge checks to unlimited-money groups like those made legal under a pair of 2010 federal court decisions – including Citizens United vs. FEC – that liberals including President Barack Obama had blasted as undermining American democracy.