Liberal Billionaires Dominate Super PAC Game in 2014

Tom Steyer and his wife Kat Taylor with Paul and Nancy Pelosi at the Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary celebration / Drew Altizer Photography
October 27, 2014

Liberal billionaires are leaving conservatives in the dust when it comes to Super PAC spending during the 2014 election cycle, according to an analysis by the Sunlight Foundation.

It is the very billionaires who decried the 2010 Citizens United case who are now "taking advantage of the Supreme Court's ruling," writes the group.

Taking advantage of the Supreme Court's ruling in the Citizens United case, which opened the door to political spending by outside groups that can raise funds in unlimited amounts from individuals, corporations and labor unions, Republican billionaire donors and the super PACs they funded dominated the 2010 elections. In 2012, billionaire Democratic donors, many of whom decried the Citizens United ruling, lagged behind mega donors like Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, who combined to give more than $92 million. But in 2014, Democratic billionaires are the biggest givers, and dozens of super PACs have been the beneficiaries.

Leading the pack by far is hedge fund manager turned climate change crusader Tom Steyer, who has thus far put $73,725,000 in the hands of Super PACs this year, making him the largest single contributor to Super PACs of all time. The money hasn't all been given to environmental groups.

Steyer pledged to make climate change a key issue in the mid-terms, but has given to groups like the Senate Majority PAC which has supported Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. Landrieu — one of several incumbents in close races that Democrats hope to win in order to preserve their Senate majority — supports the Keystone Pipeline, the controversial project that would transport oil produced from Canadian tar sands to U.S. refineries. At one point, Steyer insisted he would not support candidates who favored building the pipeline.

While Steyer has not insisted on ideological purity, he has more than made good on other promises, including his pledge to give $50 million to NextGen. He gave $5 million to Senate Majority PAC, while NextGen gave Fair Share Action, American Bridge and She's Changed PAC donations.

Steyer and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have given more to Super PACs than all the other donors analyzed by the Sunlight Foundation combined.

Sunlight charted the ideological breakdown of spending up to this point.

Also helping tilt the Super PAC spending scale to the left are Fred Eychaner ($7.9 million), George Soros ($3.56 million), and Jim Simons ($3 million).