A recent analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics and the Sunlight Foundation looks at the mega-donors from the 2014 election cycle, a cycle which broke the record as the most expensive midterm elections in U.S. history. These 31,976 donors who represent the one percent of the one percent (or 0.01 percent) who dwell among us were responsible for donating $1.18 billion in disclosed donations to the federal political machine during the latest election cycle. This amounted to 29 percent of all fundraising that political committees disclosed to the FEC in 2014, a larger portion of the total amount raised during the entire cycle than in either the 2010 and 2012 elections as shown on this graphic:
The median contribution of the one percent of the one percent was $14,750 with the largest single donor giving more than $73 million. Five dozen of these donors gave more than $1 million and three individuals contributed more than $10 million each. The distribution of donors by size of donation has also changed since 2010; back then, only 17 donors contributed $500,000 or more and only nine donors contributed more than $1,000,000. In the 2014 cycle, there were 135 donors that contributed $500,000 or more and 63 donors that contributed more than $1 million.
Here is a list of the top 15 donors and how much they donated for the 2014 midterm elections:
In general, who are the political one percent of the one percent?
According to Open Secrets, they are:
1.) obviously not average American voters. They tend to be corporate executives, investors, lobbyists and lawyers and are clustered in a few metropolitan zip codes in the New York City and San Francisco areas.
2.) mainly male - of the 31,976 donors, 22,978 or 71.9 percent were male and 7,813 or 24.4 percent were female with 1,185 being of "undetermined gender". Here is a table showing a breakdown of donor gender and political leaning:
Obviously, men are heavily over-represented among donors. According to Open Secrets, 55 percent of women donated to liberal-leaning causes and candidates whereas 55 percent of men donated to conservative-leaning groups and candidates.
3.) a significant portion of the one-percent of the one-percent work in the finance, insurance and real estate (or FIRE) sectors with Wall Street maintaining its position at the top of the donor pile with individuals who worked in "securities" spending $175 million in the 2014 cycle.
Here is a table showing the top ten zip codes where the one percent of the one percent live:
Six of the top ten zip codes are in the New York City area. Number 11 is Greenwich, Connecticut, a relatively reasonable commute to and from NYC. Of the 50 most generous zip codes, 16 were located within one hour of New York City.
Here is a listing of the top contributors in the FIRE sector:
The FIRE sector had the largest portion of donors than any other sector (8177 donors) who donated a significant 31 percent of total givings by the political one percent of the one percent. Traditionally, this sector donates more to Republicans than to Democrats with Republicans receiving 55 percent of the sector's donations between 1996 and 2004. This changed during the 2008 cycle, probably as a result of the Democrats controlling the White House and Congress and the fact that, in the wake of their behaviour prior to the Great Recession, the FIRE sector was feeling the heat of potentially damaging legislation.
Here is a listing of the top 10 contributing industries during the latest midterm cycle:
Let's change direction for a moment and take a quick look at the top 20 contributing employers between the years 2007 and 2012. Please note that this table also shows how much these corporations spent on lobbying and how much they received in federal government business and federal government support and their effective tax rate:
As you can see, Goldman Sachs is right at the top of the list followed by a who's who of Wall Street companies including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup. Just below the top 20 we find Koch Industries with total contributions of $6.4 million and total lobbying.
This analysis by the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Responsive Politics shows us just how concentrated political power has become in America. Their analysis also shows that 100 percent of the United States senators and representatives that were elected in 2014 received money from the one percent of the one percent with Marco Rubio receiving 54.8 percent of the total money that he raised from this tiny group of Americans. When an insignificant fraction of the total voting public in the U.S. has such control over the nation's legislators, one can hardly say that democracy is alive and well in the United States.