Will Rogers reportedly once said “politics has become so expensive that it takes a lot of money even to be defeated.” Between his campaign — which has raised at least $283 million to date — and the more than $90 million raised for his “independent” super PAC, calling the amount going to elect Mitt Romney “a lot” would be an understatement. While Romney will owe the top donors and bundlers to his campaign a great personal debt of gratitude even if he loses in November, should he win, those who bankrolled his campaign will likely expect access and influence.
A ThinkProgress review of the top donors to Restore Our Future Inc. and top “bundlers” (supporters who volunteer to collect large bundles of campaign contributions for the former Massachusetts governor) identified by USA Today and the Sunlight Foundation, finds eight have done the most for Romney’s campaign. Each has raised large sums for the campaign and also contributed at least $500,000 to the pro-Romney super PAC.
1. Ed Conard of New York, NY. Romney’s former partner at Bain Capital, Conard headed Bain’s New York office and led the firm’s controversial acquisitions of large industrial companies. Conard is perhaps best known for his 2012 book Unintended Consequence:Why Everything You’ve Been Told About The Economy Is Wrong in which actually makes the case that American needs more income inequality and defends off-shoring of American jobs. He has claimed that “predatory lending and Wall Street greed did not cause the collapse of the housing market.” He has donated at least $1 million, to date, to Restore Our Future.
2. John A. Paulson of New York, NY. The billionaire founder of Paulson and Co., among the world’s largest hedge funds, gained about $4 billion as the subprime mortgage market melted down in 2007. While he earns more in an hour than the average American earns in a year, he pays a lower tax rate, thanks in part to the hedge fund “carried interest” loophole. He has donated at least $1 million, to date, to Restore Our Future and let the Romney campaign hold an April fundraiser at his Manhattan townhouse.
3. Paul E. Singer of New York, NY. The billionaire manager of Elliott Management Corp., another major hedge fund, has been a persistent critic of the Dodd-Frank financial reforms and Federal Reserve Bank monetary policy. A major funder for right-wing media, the mainstream press has dubbed him a “vulture capitalist” for his controversial record of buying up debt from developing nations at a discounted price and then suing for full repayment. Fortune called him “a passionate defender of the 1%” and noted that he is viewed by many as “an intellectual with the tenacious spirit necessary to help them turn back the clock on regulation and resist higher taxes on the wealthy.” Singer is chairman of the the anti-regulation Manhattan Institute and has donated heavily to the Club for Growth. In one regard, his support for Romney is ironic, given that Singer is a strong supporter of marriage equality and his openly gay son married in Massachusetts in 2010 — despite Romney’s unyielding attempts to revoke that right from same-sex couples. He has donated at least $1 million, to date, to Restore Our Future.
4. Joseph W. Craft III of Tulsa, OK. The billionaire head of Alliance Resource Partners LP, a major coal producer, is the lone person on this list who did not make his or her fortune in investment banking or hedge-fund management. The coal industry has strongly opposed environmental protection standards that would hurt coal companies’ bottom lines and the pro-deregulation Romney campaign has hit the Obama administration repeatedly for what it calls a “war on coal.” Romney has proposed increasing production and consumption of dirty energy sources. Alliance owns and operates the Dotiki Mine in Providence, Kentucky, where two miners were killed in a roof collapse in April 2010. Alliance had been cited for 840 safety violations in the 16 months preceding the Dotiki collapse. He has donated at least $1,000,000, to date, to Restore Our Future and also has given $1,250,000 to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads.
5. William Laverack, Jr. of New Canaan, CT. The chairman and chief executive officer of Laverack Capital Partners, a privately-held investment firm, is also a senior advisor to Tiger Infrastructure, another private equity group known for investing sectors like power and natural resource infrastructure. The New York Times reported in February that his initial contributions to Restore Our Future appeared to hidden from public view. Tiger Infrastructure’s website highlights its investment priorities including “monopolies with sustainable competitive advantage underpinned by regulation, contracted revenues or barriers to entry.” He has donated at least $750,00 to Restore Our Future, to date.
6. Kelly Loeffler of Atlanta, GA. The vice president of investor relations and corporate communications at IntercontinentalExchange, she helps lead a company that provides online marketplaces for investors to trade futures, energy contracts, and financial derivatives. The company has lobbied extensively on Dodd-Frank implementation, focusing on derivative rules. Before that, she held a similar position for Crossroads Investment Advisers, a private equity firm. She co-owns and co-chairs the Atlanta Dream, a WNBA franchise. Should Romney win Georgia, Loeffler will also serve as a Romney elector from that state. She has donated at least $500,000 to Restore Our Future, to date.
7. Warren A. Stephens of Little Rock, AR. The billionaire head of Stephens Inc., an investment banking firm, has been an outspoken opponent of government regulation of business and Wall Street. He has complained that “CEOs literally cannot keep up with the changes in regulation and the behavior of the regulators” and has endorsed legislation to make it harder for government to regulate industry. He has called proposed increased taxes for billionaires like himself “just not a good idea,” putting him in line with Romney, who has proposed lower taxes for the richest Americans. He has donated at least $500,000, to date, to Restore Our Future.
8. Stephen M. Zide of Old Greenwich, CT. The Bain Capital Private Equity managing director, is another former colleague of Romney’s. Zide reportedly is on the board of a Bain-purchased company that is laying off 170 employees and off-shoring jobs to China. He has donated at least $500,000, to date, to Restore Our Future.
The bundler data is based on a USA Today review of political fundraiser invitations. The Romney campaign has, steadfastly refused to disclose the identities of its campaign bundlers — except for a small list of registered lobbyists who bundle, as required by federal law. President Obama, on the other hand, voluntarily discloses all of its major bundlers, as did President George W. Bush (R) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and in their 2000, 2004, and 2008 races.