The Slatest

SuperPacs Have Taken Over 2016 Campaign Fueled by Million-Dollar Donations

Norman Braman speaks at a press conference during Art Basel Miami Beach 2014 on December 3, 2014 in Miami Beach, Florida. Braman has donated $5 million to a super PAC backing Sen. Marco Rubio.

Photo by Aaron Davidson/Getty Images

In case there was any doubt that money in the presidential campaign has reached unprecedented levels, filings with the Federal Election Commission made it clear how important millionaires and billionaires have become to the process of electing a commander in chief. And the numbers are mighty depressing. “The 67 biggest donors, each of whom gave $1 million or more, donated more than three times as much as the 508,000 smallest donors combined,” reports Politico. These 67 donors gave a whopping $128 million in cold hard cash to super PACs that support specific presidential candidates.

Overall, super PACs have raised $271 million from 9,500 donors. To put that number in perspective, super PACs spent $374 million during the entire 2012 campaign cycle and we’re not even in the primaries yet. “At this point in 2011, only one of the 12 Republican contenders had a super-PAC. That was Mitt Romney, whose super-PAC’s $12 million haul was less than the $18 million raised by his official campaign at that point,” notes Bloomberg.

And the big money is bigger than ever. In 2012, a mere six Republicans donated $5 million or more over the course of the entire campaign cycle. But now, in the first six months of the campaign, nine Republicans have already donated $5 million or more, details CNN. Even though the amounts may be higher than ever, the names are all pretty familiar. “The relative absence of new faces in the very small pool of really big donors magnifies the impact of ultra-wealthy individuals who have been participating in the process for years,” points out the Center for Responsive Politics in a piece in the Guardian.

In what may be an ominous sign of things to come though, the financial disclosure reports also reveal just how much candidates have outsourced some of their traditional operations to super PACs. In fact, super PACs often supported candidates before they even threw their hat in the ring. Watchdog groups say the filings put in evidence how candidates have not been shy about getting around the rules that limit how much they can fundraise before officially launching a campaign, reports the New York Times.

 “Today’s revelations will just make voter cynicism about politics even worse,” David Donnelly, president of campaign-finance reform advocacy group Every Voice, tells the Times. “How will candidates convince voters they aren’t beholden to $10 million donors?”