Becoming a ‘showboat’ campaign donor is surprisingly affordable

Anthony Scaramucci is a Wall Street guy who has a regular gig on CNBC and who, according to Politico's Ken Vogel, is a "showboat" donor to Republican causes. All for the low, low price of about $16,200 in contributions to federal candidates since 2012.


Anthony Scaramucci speaks at the SALT conference in Las Vegas. (Rick Wilking/Reuters)

Vogel describes Scaramucci's showboating: one-on-ones with high-profile candidates, meeting Magic Johnson and Kevin Spacey, and so on. A conference run by his company, SkyBridge Capital, is described as "a self-styled Davos meets Wolf of Wall Street that attracts top names from Hollywood." Hence: showboat. (Also, "Davos meets Wolf of Wall Street"? Ouch.)

As Vogel also makes clear, Scaramucci's value lies less in the depth of his pockets than in how far his arms can reach into his friends'. "He has the profile of Sheldon Adelson, but not the bank account," one Wall Street executive said of Scaramucci, adding that he suspects people take him seriously "because of his image and his brand, more so than because of his political giving."

Scaramucci, as an individual, has only given a little more than $16,000 to candidates since 2012, but over $130,000 to political action committees, according to FEC data. He also bundled contributions for the 2012 Mitt Romney presidential campaign, according to analysis from Open Secrets. Those bundled contributions are ones Scaramucci lined up for Romney, making him, in his words, one of Romney's "top raisers." It's not clear how much he actually raised. SkyBridge has distributed another $300,000 or so over that time period, again according to Open Secrets.

This whole thing sort of gives the lie to the idea that it's donations to political candidates that makes all the difference in terms of donor access. Scaramucci's "image and brand" may get him in the room with people, but his giving is largely to institutions and PACs. He gave to Scott Brown several times in 2009, but for the then-Massachusetts senator's reelection in 2012, Scaramucci gave to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the "Scott Brown Victory Committee," which divvied contributions between Brown and the NRSC. In 2014, he gave to Brown's existing PAC. Brown hasn't yet gotten a dollar from Scaramucci for his 2014 Senate bid in New Hampshire, at least according to FEC records.

Our colleagues at the Monkey Cage blog have been parsing ways in which new contribution systems could curtail the influence of big donors and PACs (or, if past experience is a guide, not curtail that influence). One proposal, from Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) would give people a $25 tax credit for contributing to House campaigns; their giving would be matched, six-to-one. Meaning that a $200 donation would result in a $1,200 contribution. Under this plan, if it passed Congress, you'd only need to give about $2,300 over a cycle to match the candidate giving of Scaramucci.

Do not, however, expect to become a showboat donor as a result. If you do meet Magic Johnson, that's probably simply a coincidence.

Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He is based in New York City.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Politics
Next Story
Chris Cillizza · May 27