Super PACs’ biggest donors, from soldiers to CEOs

The Daily Beast looks at the jobs of those funding the presidential race.

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.)

-Clark Merrefield

Chuck Savage / Corbis


Total donated: $1,925

Accountants haven’t been huge Super PAC donators so far. They’ve given $825, their biggest chunk, to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, which has put more than $1 million toward supporting conservative causes, but haven’t come out in support of a particular candidate.

Charles Gullung / Corbis


Total donated: $2,200

Educators include college-level professors and public-school teachers. Of the more than $2,000 they’ve donated, $1,000—from two professors at southern colleges and one Indiana schoolteacher—has gone to Winning our Future, the political action committee that supports Newt Gingrich. 


Members of the Military

Total donated: $3,000

This includes soldiers, an information security specialist, a medic—anyone employed by a branch of the U.S. military. Endorse Liberty, the PAC that supports Ron Paul, has received $2,000 from this category. Paul’s staunch antiwar stance has long made him popular with U.S. servicemen and -women.



Total donated: $3,075

One pilot each for American Airlines, US Airways, FedEx, Delta, and NetJets—the private-jets-for-hire company—account for this occupational category. The biggest recipient, at $2,500 (all from the NetJets pilot), is the Red White and Blue Fund, which supports Rick Santorum.

Alan Levenson / Corbis


Total donated: $6,951

The engineers who have donated to the current campaign cycle come from Lockheed Martin, Chrysler, and small engineering firms. American Crossroads, the Karl Rove-founded PAC with a sizable war chest of more than $20 million cash on hand, has received $3,750 of its donations from engineers.

Jeff Greenberg / Getty Images


Total donated: $8,775

Salespeople, like pilots, seem to prefer Santorum. Or at least one of them does: A single salesman from Murphy Tomatoes, a Texas-based tomato grower, has jumped on the Santorum bandwagon by forking over $5,000 to the Red White and Blue Fund.

Thomas Barwick / Getty Images


Total donated: $24,555

From office managers to business managers, this group also includes anyone who identified their work simply as “manager.” Managers donated $10,305 to Restore our Future—the PAC that backs Mitt Romney—most of it from a single Maryland business manager.

Thomas Barwick / Getty Images


Total donated: $315,549

Management consultants, independent consultants, startup consultants and big shots in big-time consulting groups who identify as consultants make up this category. The biggest slice, $150,125, has gone to Restore Our Future, including $40,000 alone from Bill Achtmeyer of The Parthenon Group.

April L. Brown / AP Photo


Total donated: $427,600

With the bankers we’re starting to get into the large bills (don’t worry, there’s plenty more to come). Once again, Mitt Romney—specifically, Restore Our Future—is the biggest beneficiary, with $300,100 in donations, including $200,000 from Jim Walton, Chairman of Arvest Bank and son of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. As with most of the other categories so far, the bankers are composed of those who identify as bankers or who are working in banking.

Joshua Lott, Bloomberg / Getty Images


Total donated: $468,518

This category includes those who identified as builders, working in construction, or contractors for companies involved in residential or commercial building. The giving is dominated by the $465,018 to Restore Our Future, which includes $325,000 from Susan and Howard Groff of Northwest Excavating.


Business Owners

Total donated: $469,750

The businesses owned here overlap with other categories, but those in this category identified specifically as business owners. The now-defunct Rick Perry campaign was the biggest beneficiary, with $300,000 to the Perry-supporting Super PAC Make Us Great Again, including $200,000 from Donald Carter, owner of Texas-based Personal Way Transportation.

Heide Benser / Corbis


Total donated: $637,200

More than three dozen attorneys donated from $25 to $250,000, with the most total money—$292,500—going to Make Us Great Again. The quarter-million donation came from Tony Buzbee, a cigar-chomping trial lawyer from Houston.



Total donated: $975,790

Homemakers might be the wives of rich and powerful men, but it’s their names on the donation documents (and yes, they are all women—we also included a self-identified “Home School Mom” a “Household Engineer” and two who identified as “Mother”). Homemakers have overwhelmingly given to Restore our Future—the Romney-supporting PAC—to the tune of $620,000. But the biggest single donation, a quarter million dollars, was given to American Crossroads—Karl Rove’s PAC—by Janet Duchossois, wife of Craig Duchossois, CEO of The Duchossois Group, which is valued at $2 billion. 

Ariel Skelley / Corbis


Total donated: $1,264,272

Retirees have spread their donations fairly evenly, with more than $200,000 going to three different PACs. But the single biggest recipient so far, at $355,000, is Make Us Great Again. Most donations are small, in the $100 to $200 range. But one in particular stands out as an atypical retiree—Darwin Deason, who sold his Affiliated Computer Services to Xerox a few years back and is now worth more than $1 billion, according to Forbes. He gave a quarter million to Make Us Great Again last September.


Real Estate

Total donated: $1,355,135

Employees in the real-estate industry, including investors and developers, have given $727,000 to Restore Our Future. A quarter million of that came from Renee Morse, who, along with her husband, Gary, founded The Villages, a planned retirement town in Florida. The Villages of Lake Sumter, Inc.—the corporation behind The Villages, Florida—gave another quarter million to Restore Our Future on top of Morse’s personal donation.

Alistair Berg / Getty Images


Total donated: $2,162,700

A broad category whose donors identified as self-employed and didn’t otherwise identify a job position or company. These people gave $1,042,500 to Restore Our Future—the PAC that supports Romney. It’s no wonder Restore Our Future was the biggest recipient in this category—last April it got $1 million from Edward Conard, a former Bain Capital director.

AFP / Getty Images


Total donated: $5,045,500

Nearly all donations from this category—five million dollars—came from Miriam Adelson, an Israel-born doctor married to casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. All of that money, plus a few thousand extra, went to Winning Our Future—the PAC that supports Newt Gingrich. The rest of donations from physicians were relatively modest, from several hundred to a couple thousand dollars.

Ron Sachs, CNP / Landov

Investors/Wealth Managers

Total donated: $15,734,377

Investors and wealth managers include those who identify as investors, venture capitalists, capital advisers, portfolio managers—basically, anyone providing capital or managing vast sums of America’s wealth. They have donated the most—$10,630,525—to Restore Our Future, which supports Romney. Foster Friess, a longtime investor known for supporting conservative Christian causes, has gone in another direction. He’s given $1 million to the Red, White and Blue Fund, a huge financial injection toward the mass communications that helped Rick Santorum stage a legitimate challenge to Romney in recent weeks.

Flor Cordero, Reuters / Landov

Business Executives

Total donated: $36,170,831

Welcome to the C-suite. By far the wealthiest cadre, Business Executives include C-level executives, chairmen, directors, and presidents. Their companies run the gamut, from petroleum to manufacturing concerns, but they are all donors who identified themselves as leaders of some of America’s most profitable companies. American Crossroads—the Karl Rove-founded PAC—is the big winner here, with $14,026,850 in donations. Restore Our Future (Romney) is second with $8,307,560, while Winning Our Future (Gingrich) has netted $6,007,000. Texas businessman Harold Simmons (worth more than $9 billion, according to Forbes) has hedged his bets somewhat, giving $10 million to American Crossroads, $100,000 to Restore our Future, and $1 million to Winning Our Future.