A couple of months ago I postulated that the political establishment in the USA equated not so much to left- or right-wing inclinations or ideologies, but to riches. The real political 'establishment' in America is wealth.
The Washington Post has just provided evidence to confirm my hypothesis.
A small core of super-rich individuals is responsible for the record sums cascading into the coffers of super PACs for the 2016 elections, a dynamic that harks back to the financing of presidential campaigns in the Gilded Age.
Close to half of the money — 41 percent — raised by the groups by the end of February came from just 50 mega-donors and their relatives, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal campaign finance reports ... In all, donors this cycle have given more than $607 million to 2,300 super PACs, which can accept unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations. That means super PAC money is on track to surpass the $828 million that the Center for Responsive Politics found was raised by such groups for the 2012 elections.
The staggering amounts reflect how super PACs are fundraising powerhouses just six years after they came on the scene. The concentration of fundraising power carries echoes of the end of the 19th century, when wealthy interests spent millions helping put former Ohio governor William McKinley in the White House.
. . .
To put that in perspective: This tiny cohort of mega-donors supplied more money than the combined contributions of nearly 1 million supporters of Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, whose campaign raised $161 million in the same time period. Unlike super PACs, candidates cannot accept corporate money, and individual contributions to them are limited to $2,700 per election.
Michael Malbin, executive director of the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute, said the last time political wealth was so concentrated was in 1896, when corporations and banking moguls helped McKinley, the Republican candidate, outspend Democratic rival William Jennings Bryan.
. . .
Populist anger over how presidential races were financed led to a 1907 ban on corporations donating to federal campaigns. Forty years later, Congress prohibited unions and corporations from making independent expenditures in federal races.
The picture dramatically changed in 2010, when the Supreme Court said in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporations and unions could spend unlimited sums on politics as long as they did it independently of campaigns and parties. The decision paved the way for super PACs, which are now a norm in federal races.
There's more at the link.
If anyone believes that these super-rich individuals are pouring their money into politics out of sheer altruism, expecting nothing in return . . . well, there's this bridge in Brooklyn, NYC that I'd like to sell you. Cash only, please, and in small bills.