Top campaign donors mostly live in California, New York

Labor Day weekend is over, which means one thing to political junkies: The fall campaign season kicks into high gear.

Specifically, candidates and committees tap into all that cash they’ve raised over the last two years to inundate the airwaves with advertising for the final two-month stretch (yes, even more than they already have).

This midterm election, mega donors — freed up by the McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission decision allowing unlimited amounts to candidates — are digging even deeper into their bank accounts, our colleague Matea Gold writes.

With so much money influencing the political process, the Loop recently sliced and diced how the very wealthy direct their campaign spending.

Last month we broke down who the richest person in every state donates to, and then to which party the very wealthiest in the country steer their political contributions. This led us to another question: Where geographically is most of the political money concentrated?

What we found shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. The lion’s share of political money originates on the coasts, particularly California and New York, which is common every cycle. These are also popular destination spots for top-dollar fundraisers. But seeing it illustrated here underscores just how acutely politics is influenced by a select few in elite pockets of the country:


The top individual donor so far this election cycle is Tom Steyer, who has given $20 million to Democrats. The total includes money given to “federal candidates, parties, political action committees, 527 organizations, super PACs,” according to an analysis from OpenSecrets.org.

Steyer is from San Francisco. Twenty-five percent of the top 100 donors live in California.

The second biggest campaign contributor is Michael Bloomberg, who has given $9.5 million, mostly to Democratic candidates, causes and organizations. He’s one of 22 top donors who hail from New York.

The third biggest spender is also a donor to Democrats. Fred Eychaner, founder of Newsweb Corp., lives in Chicago and has given $5.6 million to Democrats and related groups.

As we discovered in our other two Loop money-in-politics analyses, there tend to be more donors to Republicans, but the donors to Democrats have the deepest pockets.

But it’s important to remember that these donors are people who disclose their political spending, so it does not include individuals who give to groups like Americans for Prosperity, the conservative nonprofit advocacy group that doesn’t have to report its donors. So while Democratic top contributors are giving generously to super PACs that disclose its contributors, it’s impossible to know which party really has the most financial support because of all the so-called dark money groups.

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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Colby Itkowitz · August 25