In the 2014 elections, 31,976 donors — equal to roughly one percent of one percent of the total population of the United States — accounted for an astounding $1.18 billion in disclosed political contributions at the federal level. Those big givers — what we have termed the Political One Percent of the One Percent — have a massively outsized impact on federal campaigns.
They’re mostly male, tend to be city-dwellers and often work in finance. Slightly more of them skew Republican than Democratic. A small subset — barely five dozen — earned the (even more) rarefied distinction of giving more than $1 million each. And a minute cluster of three individuals contributed more than $10 million apiece.
The last election cycle set records as themost expensive midterms in U.S. history, and the country’s most prolific donors accounted for a larger portion of the total amount raised than in either of the past two elections.
The $1.18 billion they contributed represents 29 percent of all fundraising that political committees disclosed to the Federal Election Commission in 2014. That’s a greater share of the total than in 2012 (25 percent) or in 2010 (21 percent).
Though both parties depend on these donors, the GOP received more from them than Democrats, based on the contributions we could conclusively attribute to helping one party or the other. Mirroring the overall trend of the election, in which conservatives edged their liberal opponents in fundraising, Republican committees and conservative groups that support them pulled in about $553 million from the donors on our list, more than the $505 million that Democratic and liberal political groups received. The donors themselves, however, aren’t interested in hedging their bets — most of the contributors’ giving patterns heavily favored one party.