By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: February 2, 2016
Billionaires went to bed very cranky last night and are likely awakening to irritable bowel syndrome this morning. What has been working swimmingly well for them since the 2010 Citizens United decision was handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court, allowing the super wealthy to dump unlimited sums of money into Super Pacs to sway the outcome of elections, just had a wrench thrown into the gears.
Voters in Iowa gave a resounding thumbs down to Jeb Bush and his massive Super Pac spending, giving him an embarrassingly low 2.8 percent of the Republican vote. According to data made available by BloombergBusiness (see chart below), Bush’s campaign spent $9.8 million in the final three months of last year while his Super Pac spent an astounding $54.3 million in the final six months of 2015.
Also embarrassing for the billionaires giving to Hillary Clinton’s Super Pac, Priorities USA, was her tiny margin of victory over Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who has no aligned Super Pac of billionaires and millionaires, but has instead received hundreds of thousands of small checks from average people across America according to Federal Election Commission records. With 99 percent of the vote counted in Iowa caucuses, Hillary logged in with 49.9 percent of the Democratic vote versus Sanders’ 49.6 percent. Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley drew 0.6 percent of the vote and announced he is suspending his campaign.
Hillary’s Super Pac, Priorities USA, was legally required to update its filings with the Federal Election Commission on January 31, 2016. Those filings make for some very interesting reading. Over 90 percent of the $41 million the Super Pac raised during the full year of 2015 came from a handful of billionaires and the super rich.
George Soros, the hedge fund billionaire, gave a total of $7 million to Priorities USA in 2015, writing one check in the second half of the year for an astonishing $6 million. The second largest bundle came from Haim Saban, a billionaire entertainment mogul, and his wife, Cheryl, who gave a combined $5 million in 2015. Another hedge fund mogul, David Sussman, operator of Paloma Partners, kicked in $2.5 million to Priorities USA in 2015.
Hedge fund operators are depending on Hillary Clinton not to repeal their tax perk windfall known as “carried interest,” which allows their profits to be taxed at a lower rate than wage earners like nurses and plumbers.
One eyebrow-raising donor to Hillary’s Super Pac is former World Savings Bank CEO Herbert M. Sandler, who chipped in $2.5 million to Priorities USA in 2015. Time Magazine credits Sandler and his now deceased wife, Marion, as two of the top 25 people responsible for the 2008 financial crash, writing as follows:
“In the early 1980s, the Sandlers’ World Savings Bank became the first to sell a tricky home loan called the option ARM. And they pushed the mortgage, which offered several ways to back-load your loan and thereby reduce your early payments, with increasing zeal and misleading advertisements over the next two decades. The couple pocketed $2.3 billion when they sold their bank to Wachovia in 2006. But losses on World Savings’ loan portfolio led to the implosion of Wachovia, which was sold under duress late last year to Wells Fargo.”
Bill Clinton also appears on the Time list as one of the top 25 people to blame for the crash for his deregulation of Wall Street, including the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. Hillary does not want to restore the act, siding with Wall Street’s wishes. Sanders says he will restore the legislation, separating insured depository banks from their gambling casino cousins (investment banks) on Wall Street.
Four of Hillary’s top five lifetime campaign donors are Wall Street mega banks Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Rounding out the big bucks flowing into Hillary’s Super Pac in 2015 was $2.3 million from San Franciso Bay area philanthropist, Laure Woods; $1.8 million from Jay Pritzker and Mary Kathryn Pritzker of the Chicago billionaire real estate family; and a cool million each from investor Bernard Schwartz, Daniel Abraham, and Legendary Pictures CEO, Thomas Tull.
Apparently attempting to quiet nervous stomachs among the billionaire class who have lavished large chunks of their fortunes to put Hillary in the White House, Priorities USA issued a memo a few days ago alerting donors to what’s left in the war chest and what’s still pledged to come in. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Super Pac said it is “sitting on a war chest of $44.7 million in cash following strong fundraising in the second half of the year” and “has another $42 million in fundraising commitments, or pledges from its donors to contribute funds in the future.”
Sanders lacks the national name recognition of Hillary Clinton but that could all change based on the close race in Iowa and the upcoming New Hampshire primary on February 9. Current polls show Hillary trailing Sanders in New Hampshire by about 18 points.
After much public criticism of the Democratic National Committee for scheduling Democratic debates at bizarre times in what looked like an intentional effort to keep Sanders’ popularity from gaining further momentum, MSNBC announced on Sunday that a newly added Democratic presidential debate will be held this Thursday, February 4, at the University of New Hampshire in Durham at 9 p.m. ET (8 p.m. CT, 7 p.m. MT, 6 p.m. PT). The debate will air on MSNBC and live stream at MSNBC.com.