Republican Rigging Part 30: The Party of the Wealthy

You know who I am talking about here, and it’s definitely not the Democrats or the Green Party. There is an aspect of campaign finance which has been largely ignored in recent years, probably due to the focus on Superpacs and “dark money.” However, even if those were eliminated, Republicans would still have an unfair advantage. The reason is that their individual donors tend to be richer those Democratic donors, and thus donate larger sums of money.

The best article that I found explaining this is one by Philip Bump in the Washington Post, from 2014. (I am certain that his conclusions are just as valid now as they were then.) He begins by mentioning that both parties rely mostly on donations from corporate interests and wealthy individuals, but then he said the comparison ends there. Bump includes several graphs in his article. The key one for the present purpose is the last one, which shows the average amount of individual donations to Republicans versus Democrats. If I am reading this correctly, the average donation to Democrats is barely measureable on the graph (probably $27 LOL). However, the average Republican individual donor, donates about $90,000 dollars! I presume that number is skewed by certain very wealthy individuals, but nonetheless it is a HUGE difference. Because of this massive difference, Republicans have been raising much more money overall from individual donors than did Democrats, even though there are far more people who donate to Democrats.

Forbes magazine looked at this issue in a different way that same year (2014) in an article by Katia Savchuk (https://www.forbes.com/sites/katiasavchuk/2014/07/09/are-americas-richest-families-republicans-or-democrats/4/#2f50b6775dbc). She looked at the political affiliations of the richest families in the United States. As she noted, some of these families, such as the Kochs and the Waltons, are known for their political donations and activities, but most of them are not. That does not mean that they don’t donate large amounts of money to politicians or political organizations, though, or that they have no political interests. In fact, some, as we know, have run for office themselves, and some have won their elections — most notably the current occupant of the White House, who had not run yet when this article was written. However, I was also stunned to discover that as a result of the recent primaries in Illinois, for instance, two ultra rich people (probably both billionaires) will be running against each other in this year’s governor race in that state. This in my view is perhaps the worst possible trend in politics that could occur, as it represents the end game of oligarchy.

Getting back to the gist of the article by Katia Savchuk, what she found was that the political affiliation of 56% of the 50 wealthiest families in the United States is Republican, while only 14% are Democratic families, with the other 30% being “both” (presumably mixed, with political disagreement among the family members). She also listed these 50 families by name, starting from the richest, which are the Waltons, then the Kochs. The six wealthiest are all Republican families. It is not until the seventh wealthiest family — the Cox family, of which I had never heard — that there was a Democratic family on the list. Most of these families are ones that I have never heard of, and aren’t particularly known for their poltical activities, but we can be fairly certain that most of them donate large amounts of money to politicians and political organizations. The findings speak for themselves; they speak of most wealthy people looking after their own financial interests in increasing their already massive wealth, which means supporting the Republican Party.

As long as large wealth disparities continue, we will be caught in a kind of self-perpetuating downward spiral of wealthy people buying themselves more wealth and more political influence. Ultimately, this downward spiral must come to an end as the system becomes unsustainable. I have no clear idea how it will end, but I know that it must. I do think the best place to start will be campaign finance reform to limit the influence of wealth on politics. Secondly, taxes need to be raised and social programs initiated or expanded to make society more economically fair and reverse the trend toward ever increasing wealth inequality. If and when we see these kinds of changes to our political system, it will be time for progressives to celebrate.