money

By Matea Gold
September 2, 2014 at 12:00 AM

Andrew Sabin gave Republicans so much money in 2012 that he accidentally went over a limit on how much individuals could donate to federal candidates and party committees.

So Sabin, who owns a New York-based precious-metals refining business, was delighted when the Supreme Court did away with the limit in April. Since then, he has been doling out contributions to congressional candidates across the country — in Colorado, Texas, Iowa and “even Alaska,” he said.

Top Republicans have taken notice: Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Florida Gov. Rick Scott have paid him personal visits this year, he noted proudly.

“You have to realize, when you start contributing to all these guys, they give you access to meet them and talk about your issues,” said Sabin, who has given away more than $177,000. “They know that I’m a big supporter.”

Sabin and other wealthy political contributors have more access than ever to candidates since the ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. More than 300 donors have seized the opportunity, writing checks at such a furious pace that they have exceeded the old limit of $123,200 for this election cycle, according to campaign finance data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research organization.

Among them are Las Vegas casino titans and New York hedge fund managers, Silicon Valley investors and Texas oil barons. Their ranks include well-known billionaires such as George Soros, Sheldon Adelson, and Charles and David Koch, but also lower-profile players such as Arkansas poultry magnate Ronald Cameron and New York pearl purveyor Christina Lang Assael.

Together, 310 donors gave a combined $11.6 million more by this summer than would have been allowed before the ruling. Their contributions favored Republican candidates and committees over Democratic ones by 2 to 1.

The data provides the most comprehensive picture of the immediate fallout of McCutcheon, a case brought by an Alabama businessman and the Republican National Committee that has further amplified the influence of the wealthy on campaigns.

As soon as the Supreme Court issued its opinion on April 2, major political donors who had maxed out jumped to take advantage, doling out $1.8 million more by the end of that month, according to a Washington Post analysis.

The expanding reach of mega-donors has fueled criticism that the political system increasingly favors the rich, an issue that Democrats have sought to make central to this year’s midterm elections.

But many wealthy donors rejected the notion that the playing field is tilted in their favor.

“Baloney,” said Stanley Hubbard, a Minnesota media mogul who largely backs Republicans and conservatives. “The average person can get their friends together and raise small donations that amount to big donations.”

Hubbard, who has given more than $191,000 directly to candidates and party committees this election cycle, said that since the limit on total donations was lifted, he fields incessant political solicitations.

“My phone rings, rings, rings,” he said. “It’s made me poorer, I’ll tell you that, but it’s made it possible for me do a better job as a citizen. It used to be kind of nice to say, ‘I’m maxed out,’ but I really believe that people running for office need to have support.”

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