Half-Billion Dollars of Influence Before Midterm Elections From Big Philanthropists

Changes in campaign law over the past decade have given wealthy individuals more clout in elections.

Dozens of charitable donors such as George Soros, Kenneth Griffin and Miriam Adelson are cutting personal checks to groups at the heart of the action in the final days of the midterms.

Of the 100 biggest political donors, 32 are major philanthropists who have signed the Giving Pledge appeared on either Forbes list of most generous billionaires or the Philanthropy 50.

The 5 Philanthropists Giving Most to Politics

  1. George Soros: $128 million (Democrat/Liberal)
  2. Kenneth Griffin: $66 million (Republican/ Conservative)
  3. Sam Bankman-Fried: $39 million (Democrat/Liberal)
  4. Larry Ellison: $31 million (Republican/ Conservative)
  5. Patrick and Shirley Ryan $26 million (Republican/ Conservative)



Too Much Power and Polarization?

Even if donors are selectively funding campaigns tied to their charitable work, the sheer size of their political giving raises concerns that already powerful philanthropists are buying influence in the arena that is democracy’s bedrock. It’s a lot of power- both political power and philanthropic influence- in a handful of people.” Says Chuck Collins, who studies inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Given the volatility and stakes of politics today, philanthropists on both sides of the aisle may see electing their candidates of choice as crucial to preserving democracy. But the reverse may be true, says Nick Troiano, executive director of Unite America, a good-government nonprofit. “Most of these resources are funding 30-second ads telling one side of the country why the other side is an existential threat. It’s deepening polarization.”

Collectively, these donors have made political contributions in the 2021-2022 election cycle totaling at least half billion dollars, according to an analysis by Open Secrets, a campaign finance watchdog. Most of the 32 philanthropists goal is to seat candidates in Congress from only one party.  Additionally, wealthy individuals contribute untold millions to “dark money” political groups not required to name their donors publicly. There’s a lot of undisclosed money in politics, and we don’t know if it’s coming from these individuals or others who want to remain out of the limelight.

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