That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.
The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.
– Commentary by Baltimore Orioles COO, John Angelos, on the root causes of the unrest
Earlier this week, I published a post titled, Charting the American Oligarchy – How 0.01% of the Population Contributes 42% of All Campaign Cash, which I think is one of the most important articles I’ve written all year. The key point of the piece is that demonizing the 1%, or 3.2 million American citizens, is divisive and counterproductive. Strategically it’s stupid because there will be many decent, intelligent, motivated people within this class who should be recruited as allies rather than demonized with superficial slogans. Moreover, you should never judge anyone based on their wealth and status alone, you should judge each person by their individual actions.
In that post, I highlighted the fact that 25,000 American adults are essentially calling all the public policy shots in the U.S. I went on to argue that the real players are probably the 0.001%, or the 2,500 wealthiest American adults. Even within this extraordinarily wealthy data pool, we still must be careful not to judge them together. Just think about the enlightened commentary made by John Angelos, COO of the Baltimore Orioles and son of the team’s owner, I referenced at the top. The fact that someone of his privilege and wealth understands exactly what is happening in America, and also has the balls to say it, is incredibly encouraging. We must recruit such people to join forces with us rather than alienate them with catchy soundbites.
The good news is that with modern technology we can data-mine the 0.001%, or even the 0.01%, better than ever in order to get a sense of who the really bad players are. Naturally, this would be much harder to do with a pool of several million, but that’s probably unnecessary anyway due to the extreme concentration of wealth and power in America today.
Several organizations are already doing such data mining, and one study that caught my eye yesterday is a joint analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics and the Sunlight Foundation. We should all be indebted to them for doing this, as the revelations and the wealth of information provided serves as an invaluable resource to anyone trying to avert multi-generational oligarch dictatorship.
The analysis focused on 31,796 people, roughly 0.01% of the American population, who collectively contributed $1.18 billion during the 2014 elections, or an estimated 29% of total donations. These donors were mostly male and mostly city dwellers, but most disturbingly, were dominated by Wall Street. Yes, the industry that received trillions in taxpayer backstops and bailouts is not only doing better than ever, but remains in complete and total control of the American political process.
In the 2014 elections, 31,976 donors — equal to roughly one percent of one percent of the total population of the United States — accounted for an astounding $1.18 billion in disclosed political contributions at the federal level. Those big givers — what we have termed the Political One Percent of the One Percent — have a massively outsized impact on federal campaigns.
They’re mostly male, tend to be city-dwellers and often work in finance. Slightly more of them skew Republican than Democratic. A small subset — barely five dozen — earned the (even more) rarefied distinction of giving more than $1 million each. And a minute cluster of three individuals contributed more than $10 million apiece.
Particular attention should be given to the $10 million plus donors, for obvious reasons.
The $1.18 billion they contributed represents 29 percent of all fundraising that political committees disclosed to the Federal Election Commission in 2014. That’s a greater share of the total than in 2012 (25 percent) or in 2010 (21 percent).
That’s one of the main takeaways of the latest edition of the Political One Percent of the One Percent, a joint analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics and the Sunlight Foundation of elite donors in America.
When former Sunlight Fellow Lee Drutman first reported on the One Percent of the One Percent, he noted that these deep pocketed donors were increasingly playing the role of “political gatekeepers.” Candidates needed their backing — and cash — as did the parties and super PACs that depended on the support of the politically active elite.
Now, in the first full midterm since the Supreme Court’s Citizens Uniteddecision, our joint analysis finds that the influence of the One Percent of the One Percent has only continued to grow.
Wall Street maintained its perch as the most influential sector among the One Percent of the One Percent, both in the number of donors that made the list and the money given. Individuals that listed a job in securities spent about $175 million in 2014, of which $107.5 million went to committees supporting Republicans.
The most jarring difference between the One Percent of the One Percent in 2014 and 2010, the last midterm cycle, is how “top heavy” the donor list has become. A small subgroup of these elite donors is the driving force behind its growing share of political money.
In 2010 only 17 individuals contributed a total of $500,000 or more, while members of the $1 million-plus club numbered only nine. In 2014, the number of $500,000 and up donors ballooned to a whopping 135, and 63 people gave more than $1 million.
Those 63 people are the ones that really matters.
The rising numbers of donors who gave at least $500,000 reflects, in part, the sharp uptick in liberal giving to outside spending groups, which can take money in unlimited amounts. In a change from both 2012 and 2010, more than half of the One Percenters’ contributions to outside groups went to those that supported Democrats and attacked Republicans. Liberals have learned to love the super PAC.
Can we finally admit that this is a bipartisan oligarchy?
The donors at the very top of the money pyramid provided the financial fuel for many of the attack ads and other messages from independent organizations that filled the airwaves last year. A previous analysis by CRP found that the country’s top 100 donors accounted for 39 percent of the $696,011,919 raised by super PACs in the 2014 elections.
Compared to the population at large, men are heavily overrepresented among top political donors. We were able to reliably ascertain a gender for about 95 percent of the donors in 2014. Of those, just under 75 percent were men, who accounted for 78 percent of the total contributions, almost exactly the same ratios as in 2012 and 2010.
Among the economic sectors defined by the Center for Responsive Politics, the finance, insurance and real estate category (FIRE) remains the best represented among the One Percent of the One Percent.
Unsurprisingly, these are the industries generally characterized as the most “rent-seeking.”
The loneliest sector in our analysis? That distinction goes to labor, which accounted for 75 donors and $349,795 in contributions in our .01% data.
Just in case you wondered why real wages haven’t budged in decades. Labor doesn’t pay off the politicians, so it gets scraps, if that.
But that doesn’t mean that Wall Street has shortchanged Democrats: The securities and investment industry had the second-largest representation among individuals in the One Percent of the One Percent who gave to Democrats and liberal outside groups. In fact, the top five industries by party are similar — both also include real estate and miscellaneous finance in the top five. Donors from the oil and gas and manufacturing industries round out that list for Republicans.
Bear that in mind when Hillary disingenuously attacks Wall Street. Like Barry, she doesn’t mean it for a second.
While environmental giving surged among the .01 percent, the largest drop between our 2010 and 2014 lists goes to pro-Israel interests and donors in the insurance industry. In the case of the latter, their contributions surged during consideration of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, in the last midterm cycle.
That is hilarious. They got what they paid for and then moved on.
What about the Vampire Squid itself? Unsurprisingly…
Goldman Sachs, the global investment bank, was the most prolific organization on our 2014 list, with more employees among the One Percent of the One Percent’s list of super donors than any other organization we could identify. The bank is a seasoned player in the Washington influence game. Goldman has kept the top spot on our list for the past three election cycles and was also the number one contributor on Fixed Fortunes 200, Sunlight’s ranking of the top 200 most politically-active companies in the country. Several other financial titans join it in the top 10 including Citigroup and the Blackstone Group investment firm.
Look who else is in there, the biggest financial corporate welfare baby of them all, Citigroup. As is Blackstone, best known for buying up Americans’ foreclosed real estate after the crisis, merely to rent it back to the broke citizenry while behaving like slumlords (see: A Closer Look at the Decrepit World of Wall Street Rental Homes).
Many of the names on the list, of course, are stalwarts who have been among the nation’s top donors in nearly every recent election cycle. Eleven of 2014’s top 20 names were in the top 20 in 2012, and none of the top 20 were new to the .01 percent. Sheldon Adelson and his wife may not have matched his record-setting sum of more than $93 million in contributions in 2012, but in 2014, he alone still threw in $5.8 million. Liberal super donor Tom Steyer gets the award for most dramatic ascent into the topmost tier of the super donors. He gave “only” $115,000 in 2012 (ranking him No. 1,458), before claiming the top spot in 2014 with his $73 million in donations. On the other hand, Oracle founder Larry Ellison went in the opposite direction: He was No. 19 in 2012, with donations of $3.1 million, but only gave $94,300 in 2014.
I’ve focused on the specific danger represented by Sheldon Adelson several times in the past. See:
A review of the top zip codes on our One Percenters list finds much of the money comes from donors who live near population hubs like New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington. Of the 50 zip codes that produced the most money from the .01 percent, 14 were in New York, 8 in California and 5 each were in Texas and Illinois.
Also important, is the surge in relevance of super PACs in this oligarch bribe scheme.
The 2010 midterm cycle saw more than $38.6 million of the nearly $732.8 million spent by the One Percent of the One Percent go to outside groups, or about 5 percent of their total contributions. In 2012 contributions to super PACs and hybrid super PACs accounted for about 30 percent of the $1.7 billion contributed, and in 2014, that share inched up again 31.5 percent of this group’s spending, for about $373 million.
Now here’s the best chart of them all:
Our list of the 10 candidates who received the highest percentage of the money from elite donors includes many candidates from wealthy states, and nationally-known candidates like Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, as well as new members who won high-profile races in 2014 like Sens. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, and Tom Cotton, R-Ark.
When I first read the above, I thought, let’s just find out who is most beholden to 0.01% donations and they are probably the most corrupt. Then I saw that Justin Amash is in that category, and I consider him to be one of the few honorable, brave and constitutional members of Congress. This just further proves the dangers of generalization, and the need to really look deep within the data and couple that with the elected representative’s actions.
*This analysis relies on donor ID’s and industry and sector codes researched and assigned by the Center for Responsive Politics. In cases where two donors tied for overall contributions, both donors were included. The number of donors was expanded from previous years to reflect 2014’s larger population.
These figures represent all the political contributions to traditional political action committees, super PACs, party committees and political committees affiliated with federal candidates. In keeping with previous reports in this series we did not include contributions to 527 political organizations that are not registered with the Federal Election Commission. These totals do not include contributions to politically active nonprofit organizations, also known as “dark money” groups, which do not publicly disclose their donors. Note that some totals for the 2010 and 2012 cycles in this analysis differ from what was originally reported; for this study, we used the most recently updated data available.
As if it’s not bad enough, if we include dark money it’s probably far worse. To illustrate just how bad it really is, here’s a great five minute video from Represent.Us