Top super PAC spenders

    Super Political Action Committees, or Super PACs, have been a hot topic embroiled in controversy this election season. Panned by critics and satirized by Stephen Colbert, these organizations give donors, both private and corporate, the ability to give limitless amounts of money to a candidate by using a PAC that supports them as a middleman that spends the money campaigning for the presidential hopeful of their choosing. So far, Super PACs have spent more than $52 million on the 2012 election, according to the Wall Street Journal.  But from whom exactly are they getting all of this money?  Here are the top spenders trying to purchase the 2012 election.

    All data courtesy of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and wealth estimates are courtesy of

    Harold Simmons—$11.1 million donated

    Who he is: Simmons is a Texas businessman and the owner of Contran Corporation, a holding company that own stakes in everything from titanium to waste management to security products. A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, Forbesestimated the 80-year-old’s net worth at $9.3 billion.

    Where the money is going: Simmons donated $10 million to the Super PAC American Crossroads, which has Karl Rove as its senior adviser, and $1 million to Winning Our Future.  While American Crossroads has no affiliation with a presidential candidate, the Super PAC has spent $975,000, or 92% of its expenditures, campaigning against President Barack Obama and several Democratic congressional and senatorial candidates. Winning Our Future has been tied to Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign and has spent more than $11 million of the $13 million the Super PAC has raised solely supporting Gingrich and opposing Mitt Romney.

    Simmons also donated $100,000 to the Restoring Prosperity fund, which was affiliated with Texas governor and former Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry before the Iowa Straw Poll in August 2011.

    Additionally, Contran Coroporation has donated $2 million to American Crossroads and $1 million to Make Us Great Again, a pro-Perry Super PAC that shifted its focus after Perry dropped out.

    Sheldon and Miriam Adelson—$10 million

    Who they are: Sheldon Adelson is the chairman of the board and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands corporation, which runs casinos in Las Vegas, Macao and Singapore. A college dropout and the son of a cab driver, the 78-year-old Adelson has amassed $21.5 million in wealth, or three Northwestern University 2011 endowments. Adelson and his wife Miriam are close friends of Newt Gingrich and the two of them have almost single-handedly funded his presidential campaign.

    Where the money is going: Out of the $13 million that Winning Our Future has raised, $10 million of it has come from the Adelsons. The Super PAC has split the funds 65-35, with the former going exclusively to pro-Gingrich advertisements while the latter has been allocated entirely for anti-Romney media, most of which unfavorably compares the former Massachusetts governor to Gingrich, a former congressman from Georgia and Speaker of the House.

    Bob J. Perry—$3.5 million

    Who he is: This isn’t Bob J. Perry’s first Super PAC rodeo. Perry, a graduate of Baylor University, is a Houston-based homebuilder that funded Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, an organization of Vietnam War veterans that opposed Massachusetts Senator John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign.  

    Where the money is going: This past August, Perry donated $2.5 million directly to Rick Perry’s presidential campaign (no relation). As far as his Super PAC spending breaks down, $2.5 million of Perry’s political donations have gone to American Crossroads, a Super PAC he donated $7 million to in 2010. Another $1 million has gone to Restore Our Future, a Super PAC established by former aides of Mitt Romney in support of their former boss.

    Peter Thiel:—$2.6 Million

    Who he is: Thiel helped co-found PayPal in 1998 and currently serves as the president of Clarium Capital, a hedge fund that was worth as much as $6 billion at it’s peak in 2008. The 43-year-old Stanford J.D. was also one of the first big investors in Facebook.

    Where the money is going: The entirety of Thiel’s political investments have gone to Endorse Liberty, the Super PAC that supports Texas Rep. Ron Paul. Endorse Liberty, which supports Ron Paul's campaign, has raised a total of $3.4 million as of January 31, making Thiel the primary benefactor.  

    The Super PAC has spent 98 percent of their funds supporting almost every aspect of Paul’s campaign. Although the majority of money has been spent on Internet advertisements and social media outreach on Facebook and StumbleUpon, funds from Endorse Liberty have also covered travel fees and $820 worth of food from Subway, Domino’s Pizza, Ridley’s Grocery Store and several catering businesses.

    The other 2 percent of spending has gone to anti-Gingrich TV commercials run before the Florida primary this January.

    Jon M. Huntsman Sr.:—$2.2 million

    Who he is: Huntsman Sr. is the father of former Republican presidential candidate Jon M. Huntsman Jr., former Utah governor and U.S. ambassador to China. The elder Huntsman made his fortune by founding Huntsman Corporation, a global chemical company based in Salt Lake City.

    Where the money went: Predictably, the money was funneled directly into his son’s campaign through the Our Destiny Super PAC, which spent roughly $2.4 million solely on advertisements for Huntsman Jr. and not in opposition of any other candidate. However, Huntsman Jr. dropped out of the campaign in January and endorsed Romney.

    Jeffrey Katzenberg:—$2 million

    Who he is: Katzenberg is the CEO of DreamWorks Animation and oversaw the production of Shrek, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Kung Fu Panda and countless other animated features during his time with Disney and DreamWorks.  

    Where the money is going: Katzenberg donated $2 million to Priorities USA Action, a Democratic Super PAC that’s headed by Bill Burton, a former aide to President Barack Obama.

    Even though the PAC has raised almost $4.5 million, it’s only spent $611,766 of its funds, all in opposition of Mitt Romney.

    While Katzenberg’s donation to Priorities USA Action is his most substantial and noteworthy, he has been actively funding political campaigns since 1979. In total, Katzenberg has given close to $3.5 million to various presidential, senatorial and congressional campaigns, a large portion of which are Democratic, according to Newsmeat.

    Most recently, Katzenberg donated to the senatorial re-election campaigns of Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in 2010 and 2009, respectively, along with several other democratic senatorial candidates from over 40 states. He also contributed $33,100 to President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign between 2007 and 2008.

    Julian Robertson:—$1.3 million

    Who he is: Robertson is the founder of Tiger Management, one of the earliest hedge funds. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill alum is reportedly worth upwards of $2 billion.

    Where the money is going: Robertson donated $1.3 million to Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney Super PAC mentioned above. Restore Our Future leads all Super PACs in fundraising, boasting close to $37 million in total funds.

    Restore Our Future operates on a notably different strategy than other Super PACs by using 97 percent of its funds to smear other candidates as opposed to supporting their ideal choice. In total, the Super PAC has spent approximately $24.9 million on negative advertisements—$17.8 million worth against Gingrich while the remainder goes to fending off former Pennsylvania governor Rick Santorum. The remaining 3 percent, or just over $800,000, went to pro-Romney advertisements.

    Restore Our Future has received the most seven-figure donations out of any Super PAC, with eight separate donors and corporations gifting $1 million or more each.


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