Everyone knows American elections are tainted by the disproportionate influence monied interests hold over our candidates through massive campaign donations.
The United States Supreme Court case of Citizen’s United opened the floodgates to make this reality even more egregious, as fundraising is a very strong indicator of who will win the presidency (George Bush out fundraised John Kerry in 2004, and Obama did so with John McCain in 2008).
So here is a list of who each presidential candidate will be indebted to, should they win the presidency this November.
Note: The organizations listed did not donate the money themselves, the donations came from the organizations' PACs, their individual members, employees and owners.
President Obama got a head start in this beggar’s race and has built a huge lead over his opponents through his intensive fundraising efforts. Obama has raised most of his money online and so far, he has amassed over $216,592,251. His top 5 contributors are:
1. Microsoft: This software company was Obama’s fourth highest donor in 2008. This time around, Obama has received over $347,000 from Microsoft associates so far. The federal government is the world’s largest customer for IT services and products. In 2011, President Obama appointed former Microsoft Executive Steven VanRoekel to Chief Information Officer of the United States.
2. DLA Piper: This law firm was formed in 2005 when San Diego-based Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich LLP, Chicago-based Piper Rudnick LLP and London-based DLA LLP merged. It has contributed over $29,700 to the Obama campaign.
3. University of California: In 2008, the University of California donated to the Obama campaign. This year, the University has not let Obama down and has contributed over $261,000 so far.
4. Sidley Austin LLP: This global law firm is the 12th largest in the world. President Obama worked as a summer associate at the law firm in 1989 where he met his wife Michelle who also worked for Sidley Austin. It was a major contributor to Obama’s 2008 campaign and so far has donated over $240,000.
5. Google Inc: Google employees were Obama’s fifth largest contributors in 2008. Former Google CEO (2001-2011) Eric Schmidt was an informal advisor to President Obama’s campaign. He served on Obama’s transition advisory board and is now on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. So far, Google has donated over $212,000 to the Obama campaign.
The former Massachusetts governor raised more money than any other Republican candidate and is currently polling very close to President Obama. Here are his top contributors:
1. Goldman Sachs: America’s most beloved financial institution is Mitt Romney’s number one contributor at the moment. Goldman was Obama’s second largest contributor in 2008. In 2009, the Obama administration appointed former Goldman lobbyist Mark Patterson as Chief of Staff to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
Despite the Obama administration’s cozy relationship with the financial industry, financial institutions like Goldman have become Romney’s top contributors. Romney has called for repealing Dodd-Frank, the financial regulation law passed in 2010, and would likely loosen government oversight over such institutions. Goldman Sachs has contributed over $573,000 to the Romney campaign.
2. JP Morgan Chase & Co: Romney’s second largest contributor at the moment is another financial industry giant which has contributed over $415,000 to his campaign. In 2011, JP Morgan Chase passed Bank of America as the world’s largest financial institution.
More recently the institution has received criticism for having inadequate risk controls in place. Many blame financial institutions like JP Morgan for the financial crisis of 2007.
3. Bank of America: In March, Mitt Romney came to the defense of his third largest campaign donor saying that protesters who were holding demonstrations outside of a Bank of America shareholders meeting in Charlotte were “too young to really understand how the economy works.” Bank of America has contributed over $398,000 to the Romney campaign.
4. Credit Suisse Group: This Suisse multinational financial institution has contributed over $317,000 to the Romney campaign. In March, a Credit Suisse executive received criticism for trying to solicit donations for Romney from his subordinates via email.
This got him in trouble when the email ended up in the inboxes of foreign employees. Foreign contributions are illegal under U.S. law.
5. Citigroup Inc: This Manhattan based financial institution has contributed over $301,000 to the Romney campaign. One way in which Citigroup would likely benefit from a Romney presidency is through Romney’s pledges to undo Obama’s student loan reforms. Citigroup is one of the largest financial institutions in the student loan business.
1. U.S. Army: Ron Paul is arguably the most vocal critic of the military-industrial complex in the United States today. He has called for drastic cuts in defense spending and advocated for what many consider to be an isolationist foreign policy.
If Paul had his way, U.S. military bases abroad would be closed and the troops would be brought home. Perhaps as a result, the U.S. Army has contributed close to $110,000 to the Paul campaign.
2. U.S. Air Force: The U.S. Air Force has donated over $87,000 to the Paul campaign. For all the tough foreign policy talk in the Republican primaries, Ron Paul was the only serious candidate to have served in the military. Paul served as a medical officer in the Air Force from 1963 to 1968.
3. U.S. Navy: If by some miracle, Ron Paul were to become president, the U.S. Navy would be impacted in a major way. Paul’s calls to pull U.S. forces out of the Persian Gulf would lead to a major downsizing of the Navy due to its major presence in that region.
This reality has not stopped members of the U.S. Navy from contributing over $84,000 to the Paul campaign.
4. Google Inc: The search engine juggernaut was one of Paul’s top contributors back when he ran for the republican nomination in 2008, and it has not let him down this year. Paul has received over $41,000 from Google employees.
5. U.S. Department of Defense: Ron Paul has always been a major critic of the Department of Defense and U.S.' foreign policy, blaming it for the ever-present threat of terrorism and growing anti-U.S. sentiment in the Middle East.
If campaign contributions are any indicator, there must be a large contingent of people who agree with Paul’s criticisms within the defense department itself. Paul has received over $37,000 from the Department of Defense.
Thomas Jefferson once said the purpose of a representative government is to "curb the excesses of monied interests.".If Jefferson were around today, I wonder if he would think that our representative government still serves this purpose.