Several billionaires and wealthy executives have invested heavily in the 2022 midterm election, pushing tens of millions of dollars to both Republican and Democratic candidates and PACs.
The big money donors, many of whom have made their wealth in the technology and financial sectors, have fueled a record-setting avalanche of donations to political campaigns. Overall, a whopping $9.3 billion is expected to be spent on the 2022 federal election, shattering the previous inflation-adjusted record of $7.1 billion set in 2018, according to a conservative estimate from the site OpenSecrets, which analyzes political expenditure data.
“We’re seeing much more money, more candidates and more political division than we did in 2018,” Sheila Krumholz, the executive director of Open Secrets, said in September. “Spending is surging across the board this midterm cycle, fueling a polarization vortex that shows no signs of slowing.”
Big spenders have accounted for an estimated 43% of all political contributions during the 2021-2022 cycle compared to the 20% raised from small dollar donors, the next largest category. PACs have provided 8% of the money that has been raised.
The largest contributor of the current cycle has been George Soros, a prolific billionaire liberal donor who earned his fortune in the financial sector and chairs his investment firm Soros Fund Management. Soros has funneled more than $128 million to exclusively Democratic candidates and left-wing organizations since the cycle began.
Most of the money came in a single $125 million contribution in September 2021 to the Democracy PAC, a liberal super PAC he created in 2019, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) data. The super PAC has been linked to Democratic Party PACs and PACs associated with a variety of left-wing causes like racial justice and abortion.
FEC records showed that Soros has also recently made maximum donations to Democratic candidates in swing state races such as senators Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., and Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., Cheri Beasley in North Carolina and Mandela Barnes, who is running to unseat GOP Sen. Ron Johnson in Wisconsin. Soros has also given millions of dollars directly to the Democratic National Committee and state Democratic parties.
In addition to Soros, Reid Hoffman, who co-founded LinkedIn and is a partner at Greylock Partners; Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, billionaire investor Sam Bankman-Fried, who founded cryptocurrency exchange FTX; Tom Steyer, the founder of hedge fund Farallon Capital Management and a 2020 Democratic candidate for president; Fred Eychaner, the founder of media company Newsweb Corporation; and Stephen Mandel, the founder of hedge fund Lone Pine Capital, have infused left-wing campaigns with cash.
Steve Ballmer, the former Microsoft CEO, and Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and founder of Bloomberg who ran for president in 2020 as a Democrat, have donated more than $5 million each exclusively to Democrats.
On the Republican side, billionaires Kenneth Griffin, the founder of the massive market maker firm Citadel Securities, and Richard Uihlein, the founder of the shipping and business supply company Uline, have each forked over tens of millions of dollars to conservative campaigns and organizations.
Griffin has pumped about $57.6 million into Republican political causes during the 2021-2022 cycle, according to FEC records. His largest contributions have landed at the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), a super PAC that aims to elect Republicans to the House. He has given $25 million to the CLF since 2021.
Griffin has also donated to GOP groups the Senate Leadership Fund, Rick Scott Victory Fund and the National Republican Senate Committee. He has given to individual Republican candidates, including Sen. Johnson, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., Herschel Walker, who is running for Senate in Georgia, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
And Uihlein and his wife, who he co-founded Uline with in 1980, have pushed another $57.1 million to Republican candidates and PACs during the current cycle, FEC records showed.
In addition, Nike CEO Phil Knight; Peter Thiel, of Thiel Capital; Jeff Yass, the managing director of Susquehanna International Group; Steve Wynn, of Wynn Resorts and Valmore Management; Stephen Schwarzman, the CEO of the investment firm Blackstone Group; and Paul Singer, president of Elliott Investment Management, have contributed millions of dollars of their own cash to help elect Republican candidates nationwide.
While Knight hasn’t been a major Republican donor in past elections, he gave $1 million to Oregon Republican candidate Christine Drazan last month, Willamette Week reported. The billionaire businessman had previously supported Independent candidate Betsy Johnson but switched to Drazan since she is more likely to defeat Democratic candidate Tina Kotek, a far-left former state representative.
“One of the political cartoons after our legislative session had a person snorting cocaine out of a mountain of white,” Knight recently told reporters, according to The New York Times. “It said, ‘Which of these is illegal in Oregon?’ And the answer was the plastic straw.”
Thiel has donated $30.7 million to Republican candidates and groups, the majority of which has landed with PACs supporting Senate candidates Blake Masters of Arizona and JD Vance of Ohio.