It Wasn’t Just Fat-Cat Republicans Trying to Influence the Election
Policy + Politics

It Wasn’t Just Fat-Cat Republicans Trying to Influence the Election

© Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Republicans are frequently tagged as the party of the rich, and there’s no doubt that lots of members of the Grand Old Party aren’t too worried about how to pay for their next Wagyu ribeye or bottle of Chateau Lafite. But fat-cat Democratic supporters spent almost as much to influence the outcome of election 2016 as well-off Republican donors.

Related: Trump’s Support Runs Deep – Even If His Approval Doesn’t

If you add up gifts to parties, political action committees, other political organizations and the campaigns of federal candidates by the top 100 individual donors in the last election, more than $447 million went to back Republicans. But donations to Democrats were not far behind, at more than $442 million, according to data from, a unit of the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics that tracks money in politics.

The most generous of “the individuals who have dipped deepest into their own pockets for campaign contributions,” as OpenSecrets puts it, was hedge fund billionaire and climate change activist Tom Steyer, who shelled out about $91.2 million to Democratic causes.

Around $8.7 million behind Steyer was casino billionaire and ferocious Israel supporter Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam: They gave some $82.5 million to Republicans – including a blast of cash to Donald Trump in the latter days of his campaign, according to OpenSecrets.

Steyer’s wide-open wallet was one reason that it took fewer well-heeled Democratic donors to nearly match the contributions of Republican supporters: Among the top 100 givers ponying up $1 million or more, 40 were in the Democratic column and 60 backed Republicans.

However, just four of the top 100 accounted for more than $157 million in donations to the Republicans.

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Many of the names of the largest contributors are familiar: Steyer, Adelson, former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, the Pritzker Family of Chicago and reliable Democratic supporter George Soros. And a good deal has been written about the odd couple who derive their wealth from Renaissance Technologies: hedge-fund billionaires James Simons, a Democratic backer, and Robert Mercer, who got behind the Trump candidacy last August and is widely believed to wield considerable influence over the new administration. Simons has said he and Mercer never talk politics.

But some are less well known. No. 3 and 4 among the top 100 donors in 2016 were two major backers of Hillary Clinton: Donald Sussman, the founder of hedge fund Paloma Partners, and reclusive Chicago media mogul Fred Eychaner. Sussman gave more than $41.7 million to Democrats, according to OpenSecrets, and Eychaner gave them over $37.7 million.

Facebook moneybags Dustin Moskovitz, the Mark Zuckerberg Harvard roommate said by Forbes to be the youngest self-made billionaire in history, was No. 5 among the top 100, giving almost $27 million to Democrats.

Fellow Facebook rich dude Sean Parker was also on the list, at No. 78, but perhaps in keeping with the character Justin Timberlake played in The Social Network, Parker hedged his bets: He gave $1.6 million to Democrats and $768,000 to Republicans.