Mitt Romney's Tax Plan: Of, By, and For His Big Donors?

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Mitt Romney has filed for an extension on his 2011 tax returns, but most Americans will have already paid their 2011 taxes, by and large, by Tuesday. Mitt Romney, who is decidedly not a wage-earner or a salaried employee like most Americans, has to pay taxes on the dividends and interest he’s received – taxes that he’d rather not discuss. It’s the perfect contrast to Romney’s economic beliefs and those of the American people.

Romney has said that efforts to require millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share of taxes would “divide America.” He has opposed ending subsidies to Big Oil companies and he and his friends benefit from tax provisions like the carried-interest loophole. According to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center, a Romney administration would “push for the top 1 percent of American earners to save an average of $150,000 in taxes,” and for the top .1%, “Romney’s plan would save them an average of $725,000.”

At the same time his budget, and the one by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) that he supports, would cut vital programs for poor and middle class families.

It’s no wonder. His campaign is backed by tens of millions of dollars of wealthy special interests and billionaires* that prefer a tax policy of, by, and for the wealthiest Americans.

Key Facts:

  • At least 19 billionaires have donated $8.54 million to Restore Our Future, the super PAC backing Romney’s campaign.
  • Romney’s campaign has received nearly $15.2 million from financial industry donors.
  • Romney’s campaign has taken over $750,000 in campaign contributions from Big Oil donors.

On this tax day, it’s important to look at who is funding Romney’s campaign and ask what sort of tax breaks and handouts they’ll expect in return for their investment.

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Super PAC billionaires

At least 19 billionaires have donated more than $8.54 million to Restore Our Future, the super PAC that has spent nearly $42 million to help elect Romney. These donors--some of America’s wealthiest people--would benefit from Romney’s tax plan and are likely expecting a return on their investment.

  • Ken Griffin, a hedge fund manager who recently said the wealthy have “insufficient influence” in the political process, has donated $200,000 to Romney’s super PAC. He is number 171 on the Forbes 400 list and is worth $3 billion.
  • Hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones, number 107 on the Forbes 400 list and worth $3.4 billion, has donated $200,000 to Romney’s super PAC.
  • Energy tycoon William Koch, number 81 on the Forbes 400 list and worth $4 billion, has donated $1 million personally and through his company to the Romney super PAC.
  • Another hedge fund manager, Bruce Kovner, has donated $500,000 to the Romney super PAC. He is worth $4.5 billion and is number 73 on the Forbes 400 list.
  • Henry Kravis, a “leverage buyout pioneer,” has donated $100,000 to Restore Our Future. Number 86 on the Forbes 400 list, Kravis is worth $4 billion.
  • Brothers Bill and Richard Marriott have each donated $750,000 to Restore Our Future. Bill is 331 on the Forbes list and is worth $1.6 billion.[ix] With a net worth of $1.7 million, Richard is number 312 on the Forbes list.
  • Hedge funder John Paulson, number 17 on the Forbes 400 list and worth $12.5 billion, has donated $1 million to the super PAC.
  • Jerrold Perenchio, a television tycoon, is number 171 on the Forbes list and is worth $2.3 billion. He has donated $500,000 to Restore Our Future.
  • Julian Robertson, the founder of the hedge fund Tiger Management, has given $1.25 million to Romney’s super PAC. Worth $2.5 billion, he is number 166 on the Forbes 400 list. He recently told CBS News that this donation was, “one of the most important investments I've ever made."
  • Real estate mogul (and Miami Dolphins owner) Stephen Ross, worth $3.1 billion and number 114 on the Forbes list, has donated $100,000 to Restore Our Future.
  • Another real estate mogul, Steven Roth, has donated $100,000 to Romney’s super PAC. He is worth $1.05 billion and is 397 on the Forbes 400 list.
  • Marc Rowan, another leveraged buyout specialist, and his wife, have donated $115,000 to Restore Our Future. He is 309 on the Forbes 400 list and worth $1.5 billion.
  • Robert Rowling, the head of TRT Holdings (which owns Omni Hotels and Gold’s Gym), has donated $100,000 to Restore Our Future. He is 66 on the Forbes 400 list and is worth $4.8 billion.
  • Elliot Management’s Paul Singer has given $1 million to Restore Our Future. Worth $1 billion, he is the 416th wealthiest American.
  • Hedge funder David Tepper has given $375,000 to Restore Our Future. He is worth $5.1 billion and is number 60 on the Forbes 400 list.
  • Two heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune, Jim Walton and Alice Walton, have donated a combined $400,000 to Restore Our Future. Jim is number 9 on the Forbes 400 list and worth $23.7 billion. Alice is number 10, worth $23.3 billion.
  • eBay billionaire Meg Whitman handed over $100,000 to Restore Our Future. She is worth $1.4 billion and is number 331 on the Forbes 400 list.

Wall Street

From a financial transaction tax to closing the carried interest loophole, there are several options advocated by Wall Street reform advocates to decrease the deficit and add some equity to tax system. The people that would be most effected by new taxes—Wall Street bankers and executives--are major donors to Romney’s campaign.

Romney is the biggest recipient of Wall Street money this cycle, having taken in nearly $15.2 million from the finance, insurance, and real estate sector (FIRE). It’s also the top sector giving to his campaign and makes up 48% of the donations to his super PAC.

The employees and PACs of financial industry corporations represent 16 of the top 20 companies giving to Romney (financial interests in bold).

Big Oil

Democrats in Congress and President Obama have repeatedly pressed for an end to the billions in taxpayer subsidies handed out to highly profitable oil companies every year. Romney has criticized these measures and both his budget and the one he supports by Rep. Ryan do nothing to end these wasteful subsidies.

Romney’s campaign has received at least $750,000 from oil and gas industry donors and his super PAC has received $970,000 so far this cycle—the same people who want to see these handouts continued.

Other key facts about Big Oil donors:

  • Harold Hamm, the CEO of Continental Resources, is hosting Romney for a fundraiser on May 9th. On its website, Continental Resources refers to itself as, “America’s Oil Champion.”
  • A January 17th fundraiser for Romney in New York City listed John Hess, the CEO of Hess Oil Company, as a co-chair.
  • ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson and Chevron CEO John Watson both donated the maximum $2,500 to Romney’s primary election campaign.
  • Jack Gerard, president of the Big Oil trade group the American Petroleum Institute, has donated money to Romney and is helping to raise money for his campaign.

Conclusion

Our elections are turning into a parlor game for millionaires and billionaires, putting public policy on the auction block. If elected, the big money donors behind Romney’s campaign and super PAC will expect a return on their investment. That could mean economic policies that benefit the top one percent on the backs of middle class families.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney’s answer to our broken campaign finance system is to allow wealthy Americans to give as much as they want directly to campaigns. That takes our democracy in the exact opposite direct as where we ought to go. It’s no wonder Big Oil and Wall Street is betting big on Romney.

*All campaign finance data in this report was analyzed by Public Campaign Action Fund using data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Available online: http://www.opensecrets.org.