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Only about 1/100th of 1 percent of the U.S. population make political contributions of $10,000 or more in any election campaign, according to the Sunlight Foundation, but they account for nearly a quarter of the total. The largest share of that came from FIRE (finance, insurance, real estate) sector. FIRE contributions of $10,000 or more are up 700 percent since 1990.
The average contribution by a member of the 1 percent of the 1 percent was $28,913 in 2010, the Sunlight Foundation reported; that was more than the average American’s total income, which was $26,364.
These wealthy contributors are gatekeepers of the American political process. Their contributions to political parties rose from 18 percent of all contributions in 1990 to 32 percent in 2010, with Democrats getting a slightly higher share than Republicans. An increasing number of federal candidates get more than half their funds from the 1 percent of the 1 percent.
About 55 percent of the 1 percent of the 1 percent are affiliated with corporations, with Goldman Sachs leading the rest. The Sunlight Foundation found another 16 percent affiliated with law firms and lobbyists, and 18 percent “ideological” contributors, who gave to organizations such as Emily’s List, the Club for Growth and Act Blue.
The 1 percent of the 1 percent comprises just under 27,000 people. Within that group, there is an elite of 252 who contributed between $100,000 and $500,000 toward the 2010 elections, and 15 who contributed more than $500,000.
This elite group accounted for a majority of the contributions to Republican Presidential candidates’ PACS— Mitt Romney’s Restore Our Future, Rick Perry’s Make Us Great Again, Jon Huntsman’s Our Destiny PAC, Newt Gingrich’s Winning Our Future, Ron Paul’s Embrace Liberty and Rick Santorum’s Red, White and Blue Fund.
Click on The Political One Percent of the One Percent for the Sunlight Foundation’s full report.
Click on How the Finance, Insurance and Real Estate Sector Drove the Growth of the One Percent of the One Percent for the Sunlight Foundation’s follow-up report.
Click on Presidential Super PACS almost entirely funded by six-figure contributions for a report on the 2012 Republican candidates by Talking Points Memo.