Just Who Are The Top Democratic Super PAC Backers?

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It’s no secret that big-time Republican donors have given millions of dollars to super PAC groups this year, and it’s also no secret that Democratic groups haven’t seen the same amount of money roll in.

Individual donations of $1 million or more make up a significant chunk of all super PAC giving this cycle, and of the 31 individuals or married couples listed by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) as having given $1 million or more, only seven are considered to “generally” support liberal candidates. (This list, of course, only includes disclosed donors to outside groups.) These top seven “liberal” donors have combined to donate $10,180,042 so far to outside spending groups — less than has been individually spent by both Sheldon and Miriam Adelson and Harold and Annette Simmons, who have donated $25,000,000 and $15,200,000, respectively, to conservative groups. (Not on the current CRP list: George Soros, who last month pledged $1 million to both America Votes and American Bridge 21st Century.) But $10 million is still $10 million. So who are these people cutting the big Democratic checks?

Jeffrey Katzenberg

Kristin Callahan/Everett Collection/Newscom
  • Total Donations To Outside Spending Groups: $2,125,00
  • Recipients: Priorities USA Action ($2,000,000), Majority PAC ($100,000), Committee Elect Effective Valley Congressman ($25,000)
  • Total 2012 Spending: $2,190,300
  • Other 2012 Donation Recipients: DNC Services Corp ($35,100), Democratic Congressional Campaign Cmte ($9,200), Elizabeth Warren ($2,500), more.

DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, known for his hand in box office hits like “Beauty and the Beast” and “Shrek,” makes no secret of his political leanings. Last month, he told The Hollywood Reporter that he ranks politics “just one notch underneath” philanthropy in terms of personal importance. A major Obama fundraiser, he co-hosted a $15 million fundraiser for the president at George Clooney’s house last month.

In an email to CBS News in April, Katzenberg described his $2 million donation to Priorities USA Action as a reaction to spending by conservatives.

“I was concerned about the attempted hijacking of the elections by Karl Rove, the Koch brothers, and other extreme right wing special interest money and felt strongly that a defense had to be mounted,” Katzenberg wrote.

Katzenberg cut the check despite the fact that he considers the Citizens United decision a “terrible one.”

“[I]t is the law of the land, and it would be foolish for one side to unilaterally disarm,” he wrote.

Amy Goldman

Image via rareforms.com
  • Total Outside Group Spending: $2,000,000
  • Recipients: Priorities USA Action ($1,000,000), Planned Parenthood Votes ($1,000,000)
  • Total 2012 Spending: $2,147,540
  • Other Recipients: DNC Services Corp ($40,800), Kirsten Gillibrand ($5,000), Maria Cantwell ($5,000), more.

An heir to one of New York’s largest real estate fortunes, a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, a philanthropist, and a “well-known advocate for heirloom fruits and vegetables,” Amy Goldman is perhaps the biggest Democratic donor you’ve never heard of.

The daughter of Sol Goldman, one of the largest private landowners in New York City when he died in 1987, Amy Goldman gave $1,000,000 each to Planned Parenthood Votes and Priorities USA Action in December and March, respectively. Goldman has given thousands to Democratic candidates and the DNC over the years, but her total donations in 2008 and 2010 did not surpass $100,000. In 2012, she’s already over $2 million.

Goldman, who has written several books about gardening, was recently featured in The New York Times’ Vows column, which detailed her wedding to Cary Fowler, who directs a group that helps run the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

Earlier this month, she told CBS News that super PACs were part of the “new reality,” and “can be an enormous and powerful force for good.”

James H. Simons

Carrie Devorah/WENN/Newscom
  • Total Outside Group Spending: $1,500,000
  • Recipients: Majority PAC ($1,500,000)
  • Total 2012 Spending: $1,581,600
  • Other Recipients: Democratic Congressional Campaign Cmte ($56,600), KidsPAC ($10,000), Steve Isreal ($5,000), more.

Number 30 on Forbes’ list of the richest people in America, James H. Simons, net worth of $10.7 billion, founded Renaissance Technologies, a hedge fund “dedicated to producing superior returns for its clients and employees by adhering to mathematical and statistical methods.”

Known by some as the “quant king,” Simons holds a B.S. in mathematics from MIT and a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of California at Berkeley. Earlier in his career, he taught mathematics at MIT and Harvard, and worked as a cryptanalyst at the Institute of Defense Analyses in Princeton.

In the last year, Simons has given $1.5 million to Majority PAC, which is working to preserve a Democratic majority in the Senate. As Mother Jones noted earlier this month, fellow Renaissance Technologies executive, Robert Mercer, has offset Simons’ donations with $1,350,000 in total donations to conservative groups Restore Our Future and Club for Growth Action.

Fred Eychaner

  • Total Outside Group Spending: $1,300,000
  • Recipients: Priorities USA Action ($500,000), Majority PAC ($350,000), House Majority PAC ($250,000), America Votes Action Fund ($200,000)
  • Total 2012 Spending: $1,384,600
  • Other Recipients: DNC Services Corp ($61,600), Tim Kaine ($5,000), Claire McCaskill ($5,000), more.

When President Obama attended a fundraiser at Fred Eychaner’s Chicago home in January, it wasn’t the first time Eychaner had opened the door to a president. The media mogul has hosted Bill Clinton several times, according to The Chicago Tribune, and has been a major political donor for years.

In a 2005 profile in the Tribune, friends of Eychaner’s said made a joke out of the fact that the big-time Dem donor’s money had come in part from selling a television station to Rupert Murdoch. The paper asked him back then if his net worth approached the reported figure of $500 and he responsed: “It depends on what the definition of `is’ is.”

In 2010, Obama appointed Eychaner a trustee at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Leo Linbeck III

Michael Germana/Everett Collection/Newscom
  • Total Outside Group Spending: $1,255,042
  • Recipients: Campaign for Primary Accountability ($1,255,042)
  • Total 2012 Spending: $1,256,042
  • Other Recipients: None.

It perhaps says something about the state of liberals at the top of the outside group donor list that Leo Linbeck III is listed by the Center For Responsive Politics as someone who “generally” supports liberal candidates.

A member of a politically active Texas family, Linbeck III is CEO of Aquinas Companies, which manages construction and manufacturing concerns, and has revenues over $500 million. According to The Texas Tribune, Linbeck calls himself a “conservative communitarian,” and is an advocate for smaller government.

So why is he on this list? As TPM’s Eric Kleefeld reported in February, Linbeck is a founder and primary backer of a group called the Campaign For Primary Accountability, which aims to take down incumbents, regardless of party.

Bill Maher

Kristin Callahan/Everett Collection/Newscom
  • Total Outside Group Spending: $1,000,000
  • Recipients: Priorities USA Action ($1,000,000)
  • Total 2012 Spending: $1,010,000
  • Other Recipients: Midwest Values PAC ($5,000), Al Franken ($5,000)

It’s Bill Maher. He announced his intention to cut a seven-figure check to Priorities USA Action in February, during a stand-up show.

“I would like to announce tonight a donation to the Obama super PAC which has the very unfortunate tongue-twister name Priorities USA Action. I know, it was named by Borat,” Maher said, according to Yahoo!, which broadcast the show. “Tonight I would like to give that PAC $1 million dollars.”

Maher hasn’t always been a big-time political giver. CRP lists no donations in 2010, and $2,300 to Obama and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) in 2008, along with $1,000 to former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC).

Kareem Ahmed

  • Total Outside Group Spending: $1,000,000
  • Recipients: Priorities USA Action ($1,000,000)
  • Total 2012 Spending: $1,080,800
  • Other Recipients: DNC Services Corp ($30,800), Democratic Party of Pennsylvania ($10,000), Bob Casey ($5,000), more.

Another relative unknown, Kareem Ahmed, CEO of Landmark Medical Management, gave three separate checks to Priorities USA Action totaling $1,000,000 between February and March.

“President Obama is fighting to help middle class families during tough economic times, to transition our nation to a clean energy future, to fight to keep improving our health care – the list goes on and on,” he said in a statement to California Watch in March. “Priorities USA Action has the President’s back, and I’m proud to have theirs.”

The California-based Ahmed has given widely to Democrats around the country this year, from Virginia Senate candidate Tim Kaine to Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) to Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA).

Correction: This article originally stated that Leo Linbeck III gave $1,000 to David Dewhurt. That donation was made by Linbeck’s father, Leo Linbeck Jr.

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