This is the most expensive U.S. election in history with a total price tag of around $6 billion spent. That wouldn't be possible if not for the billionaires and the super PACS who gave and gave and gave some more. So which rich donors got the most bang out of their buck? (Hint: it's not Sheldon Adelson.)
Figures of Romney/Obama donors are from this AP report unless otherwise noted.
Sheldon Adelson, Owner of Las Vegas Sands
Net Worth: $25 Billion
The Bill: He spent somehwere between $70 million and $100 million, which is no more than 0.4 percent of his net worth.
- $34.2 Million to Romney/super PACs supporting Romney
- $10 million to Restore our Future
- $24 million to committees backing one-time Republican hopeful Newt Gingrich
- $10 million promised to Karl Rove's American Crossroads
- $5 million to Boehner super PACs
- $5 million to Cantor super PACs
Why He Said He Spent It:
- He's Likes to Win: "I suppose you could say that I live on Vince Lombardi’s belief: ‘Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.’ So, I do whatever it takes, as long as it’s moral, ethical, principled, legal." Adelson was quoted as saying in a profile by Politico
- He Really Liked Newt Gingrich and Wanted to Use the Word "Islamofacism": "I’m in favor of Newt Gingrich, because I like people who make decisions. He’s a decision-maker. You don’t have to worry about using the word ‘Islamofascism’ or ‘Islamoterrorist’ when that’s what they are," Adelson said at a Las Vegas event back in March.
- He Thinks Obama Dissed Las Vegas: Obama, had said something to the effect that Wall Streeters shouldn't be taking free trips to Vegas on taxpayer's dime around three weeks after his inauguration. This did not go over well with Adelson. "From that point on, Vegas started to go down ...And he’s got the nerve, the chutzpah, to come here and raise money here. He should follow his own advice and not come to Vegas. He hurt me. He hurt 200,000 people working in the hospitality industry in this town." Adelson said in the Politico profile.
The Payoff: If Adelson likes to win, he obviously is not going to be happy sinking close to $60 million on two losers. His money didn't even help Romney win Nevada, which probably made him more mad.
Harold "The Ice Man" Simmons, owner of Contran Corp, a Dallas-based waste/chemical management company
Net Worth: $9 Billion
The Bill : Between $30 million and $50 million which is between 0.3 percent and 0.5 percent of his net worth.
- Around $16 million to Mitt Romney and Mitt Romney super PACS
- $15+ Million to Karl Rove's American Crossroads
- $800,000 to Restore Our Future
- $2.2 million to Santorum, Gingrich, and Perry super PACs
Why He Said He Spent It:
Karl Rove Told Him To: In February, Simmons saw the Santorum surge. And then he called Karl Rove, and it was a done-deal from there, as per The Wall Street Journal's Monica Langley:
Watching a TV news report that Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum was rising in polls last month, Mr. Simmons wondered about the prospects of the former Pennsylvania senator. He called his personal political muse, Republican strategist Karl Rove.
He Believed/ Believes Obama Was/Is a Socialist: "Any of these Republicans would make a better president than that socialist, Obama ... Obama is the most dangerous American alive…because he would eliminate free enterprise in this country." Simmons told the Langley
He Didn't Care, He Just Wanted Obama Out: "That helps explain why the biggest chunk of his political contributions in this election cycle have gone not to individual candidates but to Mr. Rove-advised super PAC American Crossroads—its stated mission to defeat Mr. Obama and elect "majorities in both the House and the Senate'" writes Langley.
The Payoff: Well, the Republicans retained power in the House. That's something to hang your hat on right?
The Koch Brothers
Net Worth: William ("Bill")- $4 Billion, Charles and David-$31 Billion
The Bill: ????
- Charles and David Koch are special. As Rolling Stone's Tim Dickins pointed out, Charles and David have promised to spend $60 million to defeat President Obama, but "but their off-the-book contributions don't appear in any FEC filings." And Politico had reported they promised to spend $400 million this term in elections across the country. But because they fund tons of things through their PACs, like Americans For Prosperity, it's hard to tabulate exactly how much of their money is going where. And then there's shady stuff like this new piece of news that a secret $11 million donation in California actually has ties to them, which we only found out because of a tricky legal hearing. It all underscores the term "dark money."
- Think Progress found that groups with strong ties to Charles and David Koch spending some $95 million on ad spots between April and October
- According to Open Secrets, the Koch Brothers' Americans for Prosperity PAC had spent $36,637,591 in 2012
- They also planned to spend some $20 million in Wisconsin, according to Politico
- Bill (is independent of the other two) did give $4 million to Restore Our Future (making him Romney's fifth largest donor)
Why They Said They Did It:
They're Libertarians: "The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation." wrote The New Yorker's Jane Mayer in 2010.
They're In It for Themselves: "Rather, they are giving to support what they see as being in their business or personal financial interest: lower taxes, less regulation, smaller government," wrote the Washington Post's Carter Eskew.
The Payoff: Well, Republicans kept control of the House. And Scott Walker, who the AFP backed during his recall, kept his gubernatorial seat. So that's good right? But Obama is still in office and whatnot, which is a total $400 million bummer.
Jeffrey Katzenberg: $2.566 million
Irwin Jacobs: $2.122 million
Fred Eychaner: $2.066 million
Jon Stryker: $2.066 million
Combined Total: $8.82 million (about a quarter of what Adelson gave Romney and Romney-affiliated super PACs)
The Payoff: Well, obviously.
"I don't believe that there's ever been an effort in our party that can compare with what you have done over these past years," Romney said in concession speech last night referring to "the volunteers, the fundraisers, the donors, the surrogates." And he's right, on the last part at least. As the Sunlight Foundation reported on November 1, $213 million has been spent on "dark money" groups to influence election—$172 million of which was spent to help Republicans and just $35.7 million to help Democrats. Taking those numbers into account, Romney's concession speech might be the nicest way to gloss over the fact that outside conservative groups spent so much and tried so hard and couldn't even manage to get a Senate majority—a massive fail.
Now, this isn't to say the Obama campaign didn't spend a ton of money on its own. It did. As our John Hudson reported, $874.6 million went toward the Obama campaign this season "with the Obama campaign burning through $553.2 million, the DNC spending $263.2 million, and the biggest Obama Super PACS spending $58 million." It's just, that, well, some money is just better spent than others.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.