The most generous megadonors of the 2020 cycle — so far
Wealthy megadonors typically waste little time distributing a flurry of maximum contributions to candidates of their preferred political party. Just three months into the 2020 cycle, two dozen individuals have already given $200,000 or more to federal candidates and parties.
With the 2020 cycle still in its infancy, a familiar name headlines the early list of top donors. Hedge fund manager Donald Sussman holds the top donor spot for now, giving $865,300 entirely to Democrats. Sussman’s name consistently shows up among top individual donors — he was fifth in 2018, giving $27 million to Democrats and liberal groups.
Billionaire New York couple Dirk and Natasha Ziff, also Democratic donors, came in second giving $689,200 in total. Though the two give large sums to Democratic groups, they didn’t give enough in 2018 to make the list of top 100 donors.
Little Rock, Arkansas investment banker Warren Stephens and his wife Harriet came in third giving $618,500 to Republicans. Indiana Democratic donor Deborah Simon — who gave the second-most money to candidates and parties of any donor in 2018 — started off 2020 by giving $612,025 to Democrats.
Two Irvine, California co-workers make the list. Michael Hayde and Laura Khouri of Western National Group — one of the nation’s largest real estate companies — each contributed more than $433,000 to Republican candidates and parties.
Much of that money was transferred through powerful joint fundraising committees. These committees, which allow wealthy megadonors to give maximum contributions to mulitple candidates and party committees by signing one large check, have already brought in $76 million to start the 2020 cycle.
Joint fundraising committees came into prominence following a landmark 2014 Supreme Court ruling that scrapped aggregate limits for how much an individual could give to candidates and parties in a single election cycle.
Hayde and Khouri each gave more than $741,000 to Take Back the House 2020, a brand new joint fundraising committee hosted by Senate Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). The committee has already transferred more than $11 million from donors to House Republican candidates and groups. McCarthy has so far flexed his fundraising chops, bringing in more than $21 million between his two JFCs.
Trump’s small dollar committee, Make America Great Again, and big dollar fundraiser, Trump Victory, brought in tens of millions for Trump for the Republican National Committee.
Several brand new JFCs are doing well so far. Defend The Senate, organized by several Republican senators, brought in $2.4 million and distributed cash to 10 different senate candidates including vulnerable incumbents. In advance of his senate run, Rep. Bradley Byrne’s (R-Ala.) new JFC, Team Byrne, brought in $403,565.
It appears Republicans still dominate these kinds of committees. Only two Democratic JFCs have raised more than $1 million — Nancy Pelosi Victory Fund ($4.7 million) and Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund ($1.8 million).
Megadonors truly open their pocketbooks for super PACs, which can accept unlimited contributions. These groups have not made much noise just yet. Only two Washington residents — Ellen Ferguson and Theiline Cramer — have given large contributions to an outside group, a combined $388,000 to Common Purpose.
Before the 2020 cycle is over, the top donor list will be dominated by individuals giving massive numbers to super PACs. Sheldon and Miriam Adelson gave $122 million to outside groups, and Michael Bloomberg gave $95 million, in 2018.
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