Buying the Election

Liberal Super PACs spend $200M to secure Democratic victories

Obama / AP Katzenberg, Maher, Freeman / Wikimedia Commons
November 9, 2012

Liberal Super PACs spent roughly $200 million during the 2012 election cycle on behalf of Democratic President Barack Obama’s reelection effort.

Priorities USA Action alone spent more than $67 million. Super PACs overseen by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Majority PAC) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (House Majority PAC) spent a combined $68 million.

Priorities USA’s attacks included one ad suggesting Romney was responsible for a woman’s death from cancer. The group was funded with the help of 25 individual donors who contributed $1 million or more. Those major donors include:

—Jeffrey Katzenberg ($2 million), the DreamWorks Animation CEO and major Democratic fundraiser whose company is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for allegedly bribing Chinese officials to secure film distribution rights in the communist country. That deal may have been facilitated by Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

—Steve Mostyn ($2 million), a Texas trial lawyer who made millions suing state agencies over hurricane-related insurance claims. Mostyn donated a combined $4.2 million to Super PACs supporting Democrats this cycle and told Politico that he and other wealthy Democrats "will be more willing to participate in Super PACs early and more than they did this time" in future election cycles.

—George Soros ($1 million), the billionaire financier and founder of the shadowy network of wealthy leftwing donors known as the Democracy Alliance.

—Bill Maher ($1 million), a misogynistic comedian.

—Steven Spielberg ($1 million), the director of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Amistad.

—Morgan Freeman ($1 million), narrator.

—The National Air Traffic Controllers Association ($1 million).

Super PACs run by major unions spent more than $20 million this cycle supporting Democrats. Their contribution is being celebrated by major labor leaders.

Planned Parenthood’s Super PAC spent more than $5 million.

Obama and other Democrats have long bemoaned the political influence of such groups. The president once described Super PACs as "shadowy groups" that pose "a threat to our democracy" following their increased prominence after the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United ruling.

Democrats repeatedly expressed concern that Republican-allied Super PACs would successfully "buy" this year’s election.

Despite Obama’s professed disdain for the Citizens United ruling, for which he publicly chastised the Supreme Court justices during his 2010 State of the Union address, he ultimately embraced Super PACs in a stunning reversal.

Days before the president began encouraging donors to contribute to third-party groups, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), the chief political strategist for Senate Democrats, pledged to hold congressional hearings on the activities of Super PACs. He described them as "evil" and "corrosive to democracy."

Campaign finance reform advocate and former Senator Russ Feingold (D., Wis.) accused the president of "dancing with the devil."

President Obama boldly pledged to end the reign of "special interests" in Washington during his first term. However, prominent campaign bundlers and other major Democratic donors have fared extraordinarily well over the past four years in terms of White House access and federal funding for their business interests.