A hedge fund billionaire who said the wealthy have “insufficient influence” in our political system has donated nearly $2.7 million to federal candidates and committees this election cycle, 50 times what the typical American family makes in a year, according to Public Campaign Action Fund analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
Earlier this year, Citadel Investment Group’s Ken Griffin was asked by a reporter for the Chicago Tribune if the “ultrawealthy have an inordinate or inappropriate influence on the political process.” He responded, “I think they actually have an insufficient influence.”
So far this election cycle, he has donated $2,662,000 to 17 candidates, party committees, political action committees (PACs), and “super PACs.” The median annual income of a US family is just under $52,000, one-fiftieth of what he has donated just this election cycle.
His donations include $1.45 million to the pro-Mitt Romney Restore Our Future super PAC and $1 million to Karl Rove's super PAC, American Crossroads. He is a bundler for Mitt Romney’s campaign and has hosted or co-chaired fundraisers for both Romney and Paul Ryan in Chicago.
Other recipients include:
- Mitt Romney’s campaign committee and the House campaign committee and leadership PAC for Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.)
- The Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee
- Senators Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Scott Brown (R-Mass.), and Dean Heller (R-Nev.)
- House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and his leadership PAC as well as Reps. Sean Duffy (R-Wisc), Rick Berg (R-N.D.), Denny Rehberg (R-Montana), and Robert Dold (R-Ill.)
- The Managed Funds Association PAC, a trade group
It’s not just through campaign contributions that Griffin tries to influence the political process. Through the first three quarters of 2012, his company spent $400,000 on federal lobbying, according to the Center for Responsive Politics and reports filed with the House Clerk’s office. The company’s lobbyists focused on a variety of issues, including, "tax treatment of investment partnerships and capital gains."
Low tax rates on capital gains is one way wealthy financial titans like Griffin get away with paying so little in taxes. Amid any debate over budgets and deficit reduction, that is one loophole people like Griffin would like to keep.
Griffin likely has little company in believing the wealthy don’t have enough influence in our political system. A May poll from Democracy Corps and Public Campaign Action Fund found that, “Voters strongly believe that Washington is corrupted by big banks, big donors, and corporate lobbyists.”
Griffin isn't the only wealthy American donating big bucks, of course. Sixty-seven percent of super PAC donations this cycle have come from just 209 donors who have each given over $500,000, and 20 percent of all super PAC donations are made up of “five individuals and couples” who “have contributed more than $10 million each.”
One has to wonder at what point Mr. Griffin thinks the wealthy have sufficient influence in politics.