By Anu Narayanswamy, Chris Alcantara and Michelle Ye Hee Lee
April 10, 2018
Ten wealthy donors gave more than 20 percent of the $296 million that flowed this cycle into super PACs, which can accept unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations. While these groups cannot coordinate their advertising with candidates or political parties, they often work closely with official campaigns, and they are poised to be influential forces in this year’s congressional midterm elections. Some major donors who have been prolific givers in the past, such as casino owners Miriam and Sheldon Adelson and hedge fund founder George Soros, have yet to give substantial sums this cycle, Federal Election Commission filings show.
New on top is Richard Uihlein, the Wisconsin-based founder of packaging and shipping manufacturer ULINE, who increased his participation at the federal level compared with past cycles, largely funding insurgent Republican candidates.
The Top 10
1. Richard Uihlein, Founder of Wisconsin-based shipping and packaging materials company
Total super PAC donations:$20,068,000 Top donations: CLUB FOR GROWTH ACTION Backs economic conservative principles $5,000,000 SOLUTIONS FOR WISCONSIN Supports Wisconsin Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson $3,500,000 RESTORATION PAC Supports Senate Republicans $2,525,000 Along with the large donations Richard Uihlein has made this year to federal super PACs and GOP candidates he has also supported conservative think tanks through their family foundation.
2. Tom Steyer, Hedge fund founder
Total super PAC donations:$15,709,587 Top donations: NEXTGEN CLIMATE ACTION COMMITTEE Supports progressive causes $15,709,587 The San Francisco-based hedge-fund founder was the largest individual super PAC donor in 2016. He is now funding efforts to engage young voters in 2018 and to impeach President Trump.
3. Bernard Marcus, Home Depot co-founder
Total super PAC donations:$5,054,600 Top donations: SENATE LEADERSHIP FUND Helps elect Republicans to the Senate $4,000,000 CONGRESSIONAL LEADERSHIP FUND Helps elect Republicans to the House $754,600 JOHN BOLTON SUPER PAC Backs candidates with a national security agenda $300,000 The co-founder of Home Depot was one of the leading supporters of President Trump’s campaign in 2016, when Marcus gave $7 million to boost Trump’s candidacy.
4. Fred Eychaner, Media company owner
Total super PAC donations:$4,000,000 Top donations: SENATE MAJORITY PAC Helps elect Democrats to the Senate $2,000,000 HOUSE MAJORITY PAC Helps elect Democrats to the House $2,000,000 A media company investor and owner, Eychaner was a major donor to the super PACs supporting Hillary Clinton and Democratic House and Senate candidates in 2016.
5. George Marcus, Real estate developer
Total super PAC donations:$3,750,000 Top donations: HOUSE MAJORITY PAC Helps elect Democrats to the House $2,500,000 SENATE MAJORITY PAC Helps elect Democrats to the Senate $1,000,000 AMERICAN BRIDGE 21ST CENTURY Supports Democratic candidates $250,000 The Bay Area-based co-founder of commercial real estate brokerage firm Marcus & Millichap is a longtime Democratic donor.
6. S. Donald Sussman, Hedge fund manager
Total super PAC donations:$3,750,000 Top donations: HOUSE MAJORITY PAC Helps elect Democrats to the House $1,750,000 SENATE MAJORITY PAC Helps elect Democrats to the Senate $1,500,000 WOMEN VOTE! Mobilizes women voters $500,000 The Florida-based investor was one of the leading donors to super PACs supporting Hillary Clinton and Democratic House candidates in 2016.
7. Steven Cohen, Hedge fund manager
Total super PAC donations:$3,000,000 Top donations: SENATE LEADERSHIP FUND Helps elect Republicans to the Senate $2,000,000 CONGRESSIONAL LEADERSHIP FUND Helps elect Republicans to the House $1,000,000 Cohen, who was a bigger supporter of former New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s presidential bid in 2016, donated $1 million to President Trump’s inauguration fund.
8. Abigail & Leslie Wexner, Founders of retail merchandising brand
Total super PAC donations:$2,800,000 Top donations: WITH HONOR FUND Supports candidates who are veterans $2,800,000 Leslie Wexner founded L Brands, which includes Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, and supported the White House runs of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in 2012 and former Florida governor Jeb Bush in 2016.
9. Henry Laufer, Speech pathologist; former chief scientist at hedge fund Renaissance Technologies
Total super PAC donations:$2,175,000 Top donations: SENATE MAJORITY PAC Helps elect Democrats to the Senate $2,000,000 AMERICAN BRIDGE 21ST CENTURY Supports Democratic candidates $125,000 HOUSE MAJORITY PAC Helps elect Democrats to the House $50,000 A top executive at Renaissance Technologies, a hedge fund that uses quantitative analyses to inform its work, was among the biggest donors to Democrats in the 2016 election.
10. Geoffrey Palmer Real estate developer
Total super PAC donations:$2,100,000 Top donations: AMERICA FIRST ACTION Supports President Donald Trump’s agenda $2,000,000 JOHN BOLTON SUPER PAC Backs candidates with a national security agenda $100,000 The real estate magnate is a major Trump donor who consistently contributed to Trump’s and other Republicans’ campaigns during the 2016 cycle.
As in past election cycles, a tiny concentration of wealthy donors are driving a large share of the millions of dollars already filling super PAC coffers.
More than a third of contributions come from donors giving more than $500,000
ALL DONATIONS $295.5 million
DONATIONS OVER $500K $105.2 million
People and companies giving more than $500,000
Richard Uihlein Founder of Wisconsin-based shipping and packaging materials company Republican $20,068,000
Tom Steyer Hedge fund founder Democratic $15,709,587 Bernard Marcus Home Depot co-founder Republican $5,054,600
Fred Eychaner Media company owner Democratic $4,000,000
George Marcus Real estate developer Democratic $3,750,000
S. Donald Sussman Hedge fund manager Democratic $3,750,000
Steven Cohen Hedge fund manager Republican $3,000,000
Abigail & Leslie Wexner Founders of retail merchandising brand Republican $2,800,000
Henry Laufer Speech pathologist; former chief scientist at hedge fund Renaissance Technologies Democratic $2,175,000
Geoffrey Palmer Real estate developer Republican $2,100,000
Hillwood Development Dallas, Texas, based real estate company Republican $2,000,000
Deborah Simon Philanthropist and daughter of Simon Property Group co-founder Melvin Simon Democratic $2,000,000
Diana & Robert Mercer Technologist and hedge fund manager Republican $1,850,000
Hushang Ansary Former Iranian diplomat; American businessman Republican $1,500,000
James Simons Hedge fund manager Democratic $1,500,000
Cynthia Simon-Skjodt Philanthropist and daughter of Simon Property Group co-founder Melvin Simon Democratic $1,500,000
Jeffrey Yass Founder of investment company Republican $1,340,000
Pinnacle West Capital Electric company Republican $1,150,000
George Soros Hedge fund founder Democratic $1,129,636
Paul Singer Hedge fund executive Republican $1,010,322
Al Altep Holdings Owned by investor Leonard Blavatnik Republican $1,000,000
Frank & Lorenzo Fertita Casino businessmen Republican $1,000,000
Paul Foster CEO of oil refining company Republican $1,000,000
Amy Goldman Fowler Philanthropist and author Democratic $1,000,000
Kenneth C. Griffin Hedge fund manager Republican $1,000,000
Mathile Clayton Businessman from Dayton, Ohio Republican $1,000,000
Murray Energy Coal mining company Republican $1,000,000
Nextera Energy Energy company Republican $1,000,000
Richard Rosenthal Owner of Cincinnati, OH based publishing company Democratic $1,000,000
Tesoro Companies Texas based energy company Republican $1,000,000
Richard Gilliam Coal company executive Republican $1,000,000
Tandy & Lee Roy Mitchell Founder of movie theater chain Republican $1,000,000
Jacklyn & Miguel Bezos Parents of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos Independent $999,314
Allied Wallet, Inc. provides e-commerce payment services Democratic $850,000
William E. Oberndorf Hedge fund manager Republican $850,000
Jon Stryker Philanthropist/architect Democratic $825,000
Rai Services Subsidiary of Reynolds America, a tobacco company Republican $750,000
Bernard L. Schwartz Former head of Loral Space & Commnications Democratic $750,000
Chevron Multinational oil company Republican $700,000
David E. Shaw Hedge fund founder Democratic $700,000
Warren Stephens Arkansas-based investment banker Republican $650,000
Occidental Petroleum Multinational oil company Republican $600,000
Karen Wright Philanthropist and chief executive of manufacturing company founded by her father, Jim Buchwald Republican $600,000
David Herro International stock fund manager Republican $550,000
Naomi Aberly Democratic fundraiser and wife of hedge fund manager Larry Lebowitz Democratic $525,000
Michael Bloomberg Former New York City Mayor Independent $503,395
BK2 Holdings Private equity firm Republican $500,000
John Fish CEO of construction company Democratic $500,000
Diane Hendricks Roofing company co-founder Republican $500,000 Virginia James Co-founder of Club for Growth Republican $500,000
Jerry Reinsdorf Owner of Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls Independent $500,000
Andrea Soros Colombel Founder and President of the Trace Foundation Democratic $500,000
The Anschutz Corporation An investment company Republican $500,000
Andrew Beal Dallas based businessman Republican $500,000 Devon Energy An oil company Republican $500,000
Craig Duchossois CEO of private corporation Republican $500,000
Michael Porter Owner of Cross Creek Ranch in Texas Republican $500,000
Thomas Russell Energy entrepreneur Republican $500,000
The Washington Post analyzed all donations of $10,000 and above to all federal super PACs through Feb. 28.
Donor totals have been adjusted to include refunds.
Donations made by labor unions and party committees were excluded from the list of top donors.