Jason Reed / Reuters
Sheldon Adelson in Jerusalem, July 29, 2012.
Fifty-seven percent of all super PAC donations in this election has come from a small circle of just 47 donors, says a new report by Demos. Those are the donors who have given over $1 million each; those who have given over $10,000 account for 94 percent of all Super PAC fundraising.
"[O]ur research shows that outside spending groups that aggregate unlimited contributions are distorting our democracy, functioning as megaphones for (sometimes unseen) millionaires and moguls," the report says. The authors, Adam Lioz and Blair Bowie, recommend a Constitutional amendment to allow limits on campaign contributions, among other proposed remedies.
One of the report's more surprising findings concerns "dark money," or super PAC contributions from unknown sources: as it turns out, only 2.8 percent of all super PAC fundraising came from undisclosed sources. 7.6 percent of all outside campaign donations—including to super PACs, 527s and other non-profits—was dark.
This might lend credence to the "iceberg theory" of campaign spending (discussed by legal scholar Lawrence Lessig last week on The Rachel Maddow Show) which says that campaign spending's potency mostly comes from the implied threat that future spending could be diverted to an opposing candidate's campaign. Under this theory, major super PAC donors have an incentive to disclose their names because that lets politicians to know which big spenders they need to appease in order to receive future donations.
Casino mogul and prominent Republican donor Sheldon Adelson was found, along with his wife Miriam, to have donated a cumulative $34.2 million, or 11 percent of all super PAC donations, this cycle. Said the report, "It would take more than 321,000 average American families donating an equivalent share of their wealth to match the Adelsons’ giving."