In order to shed some light on the types of Americans giving money in the hope of influencing the presidential race, we started by looking at independent donations to the 10 biggest super PACs—these are the political action committees with the deepest pockets to influence voters through television and radio advertisements (by law, PACs are not allowed to have official contact with or direction from any candidate). We narrowed our search to occupations with five or more donors, based on data from the Sunlight Foundation and the Federal Election Commission covering 2011 and, when available, also January 2012. In total, these individuals account for nearly $75 million in donations.
While we were particularly interested in donors of average means, so far the race, as you might expect, is being funded primarily by deep pockets. Just last month Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett-Packard and former California gubernatorial candidate, donated $100,000 to Restore Our Future, which supports Mitt Romney—that’s more than the donations of our first seven occupational categories combined.
(The current giving is heavily weighted toward Republicans and Republican candidates, in part because there are no Democratic primaries this year.)