We know how the super PACs have come to dominate the presidential campaign, but a closer look at financial-disclosure numbers shows how just a tiny handful of billionaires are dominating those super PACs. An analysis of January's campaign-disclosure filings reveals that 25 percent of all the money raised for the presidential race that month came from just five donors. That select group gave $19 million to various super PACs, often in support of more than one Republican candidate. Those numbers come from both The Washington Post and USA Today, though neither gives a complete list of those five top donors of 2012.
However, a look at the biggest overall donors reveals who have been the biggest supporters of this whole campaign and the outsized level of support they've provided — and some indication of how they hope the race will play out. The limit on individual contributions that can go directly to a candidate is $2,500, but when giving to a super PAC the sky is the limit. And a handful of wealthy individuals have already crossed the $1 million threshold in giving.
By far the most generous contributor is Harold Simmons of Texas, though he has not played favorites during this election cycle. He gave more than $1 million to Rick Perry's super PAC last year (before he dropped out of the race), threw $500,000 to Newt Gingrich in December, quickly pivoted with a $100,000 check to the pro-Mitt Romney Restore Our Future PAC, then went back to Gingrich with another $500,000 check. Perhaps he got confused by the names of the competing PACs — Restore Our Future (Romney) versus Winning the Future (Gingrich). Or as some have pointed out, anyone giving money to Gingrich at this point is really supporting Romney, since Newt's refusal to quit actually undermines Rick Santorum's chances.
Meanwhile, President Obama's super PAC raised just $59,000 in January, with $50,000 coming from his friend John Rogers, an investor. That will surely change from here on out, however, now that the president has abandoned the idea of avoiding the super PAC influence. If you can't beat them, join them, then beat them at their own game.