December 14, 2013

There’s a reason for this, there’s a reason education SUCKS, and it’s the same reason it will never, ever, EVER be fixed.

It’s never going to get any better; don’t look for it; be happy with what you’ve got.

Because the owners, the owners of this country, don't want that. I'm talking about the real owners now, the BIG owners! The Wealthy… the REAL owners! The big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions.

Forget the politicians. They are irrelevant. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don't. You have no choice! You have OWNERS! They OWN YOU. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the state houses, the city halls; they got the judges in their back pockets, and they own all the big media companies, so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear. They got you by the balls.

They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying - lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else. But I'll tell you what they don’t want:

They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That's against their interests.

That's right. They don’t want people who are smart enough to sit around a kitchen table and think about how badly they’re getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago. They don’t want that!

You know what they want? They want obedient workers. Obedient workers. People who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork. And just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shitty jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime and vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And now they’re coming for your Social Security money. They want your retirement money. They want it back so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street; and you know something? They’ll get it. They’ll get it all from you sooner or later cuz they own this fucking place! It's a big club, and you ain’t in it! You and I are not in the big club.

By the way, it's the same big club they use to beat you over the head with all day long when they tell you what to believe. All day long beating you over the head with their media telling you what to believe, what to think, and what to buy. The table has tilted folks, the game is rigged, and nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care! Good honest hard-working people: white collar, blue collar, it doesn’t matter what color shirt you have on. Good honest hard-working people continue - these are people of modest means - continue to elect these rich cock suckers who don’t give a fuck about you….they don’t give a fuck about you… they don’t give a FUCK about you.

They don’t care about you at all… at all… AT ALL. And nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care. That's what the owners count on - the fact that Americans will probably remain willfully ignorant of the big red, white and blue dick that's being jammed up their assholes everyday, because the owners of this country know the truth.

It's called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.

“The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.” ― Alexis de Tocqueville
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. ...We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. ...In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons...who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.” ― Edward L. Bernays, Propaganda, 1928 

Gift and Estate Tax Shelters Have Saved $100 Billion in Federal Taxes for the Wealthy Since 2000

By Bloomberg
December 17, 2013

Sheldon Adelson makes no secret of his disdain for the estate tax.
"How many times do you have to pay taxes on money?" the casino magnate asks, leaning on a blue cane on the cobblestones of Wall Street on a crisp October morning.
A gravel-voiced man whose accent recalls his blue-collar Boston roots, Adelson, 80, has just rung the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. Shares of his Las Vegas Sands Corp. are at a five-year high, making him one of the world's richest men, worth more than $30 billion.

Federal law requires billionaires such as Adelson who want to leave fortunes to their children to pay estate or gift taxes of 40 percent on those assets. Adelson has blunted that bite by exploiting a loophole that Congress unintentionally created and that the Internal Revenue Service unsuccessfully challenged.

By shuffling his company stock in and out of more than 30 trusts, he's given at least $7.9 billion to his heirs while legally avoiding about $2.8 billion in U.S. gift taxes since 2010, according to calculations based on data in Adelson's U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

Hundreds of executives have used the technique, SEC filings show. These tax shelters may have cost the federal government more than $100 billion since 2000, says Richard Covey, the lawyer who pioneered the maneuver. That's equivalent to about one-third of all estate and gift taxes the U.S. has collected since then.

Easy Bypass

The popularity of the shelter, known as the Walton grantor retained annuity trust, or GRAT, shows how easy it is for the wealthy to bypass estate and gift taxes. Even Covey says the practice, which involves rapidly churning assets into and out of trusts, makes a mockery of the tax code.
"You can certainly say we can't let this keep going if we're going to have a sound system," he says with a shrug.
Covey's technique is one of a handful of common devices that together make the estate tax system essentially voluntary, rendering it ineffective as a brake on soaring economic inequality, says Edward McCaffery, a professor at the University of Southern California's Gould School of Law.

Since 2009, President Barack Obama and some Democratic lawmakers have made fruitless proposals to narrow the GRAT loophole. Any discussion of tax shelters has been drowned out by the debate over whether to have an estate tax at all, McCaffery says.

‘Campaign Donors'
"From the Republican side of the aisle, you're committed to killing the thing," he says, adding that Democrats don't want to tackle an issue affecting a handful of people. "And that handful are all in the class of campaign donors (see report, charts and tables below)."
Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg and Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., are among the business leaders who have set up GRATs, SEC filings show.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. helps so many clients use the trusts that the bank has a special unit dedicated to processing GRAT paperwork, says Joanne E. Johnson, a JPMorgan private-wealth banker.
"I have a client who's done 89 GRATs," she says.
Goldman Sachs disclosed in a 2004 filing that 84 of the firm's current and former partners used GRATs. Blankfein has transferred more than $50 million to family members with little or no gift tax due, according to calculations based on data in his SEC filings.

Charles Ergen, chairman of Dish Network Corp., and fashion designer Ralph Lauren passed more than $300 million each, calculations from SEC filings show.

Blankfein, Ergen, Lauren and Zuckerberg declined to comment.

Devising Strategies

Congress enacted the estate tax in 1916 to apply to large fortunes at death. Eight years later, it added the related gift tax to cover transfers made before death. Both rates are currently 40 percent, and the first $5.25 million of an individual's wealth is exempt; the amount is $10.50 million for couples.

For as long as such levies have been on the books, lawyers have been devising strategies to get around them.

Congress created the GRAT while trying to stop another tax-avoidance scheme that Covey developed. In 1984, Covey, a lawyer at Carter Ledyard & Milburn LLP in New York, publicized an estate-tax shelter he'd invented called a grantor retained income trust, or GRIT.

Covey figured out how to make a large gift appear to be small. He would have a father, for example, put investments into a trust for his children, with instructions that the trust should pay any income back to the father. The value of that potential income would be subtracted from the father's gift-tax bill.

Growth Stocks

Then, the trust could invest in growth stocks that paid low dividends so that most of the returns still ended up going to his kids. 

Six years after Covey started promoting this technique, Congress termed it abusive and passed a law to stop it. The 1990 legislation replaced the GRIT with the GRAT, a government-blessed alternative that allowed people to keep stakes in gifts to their children while forbidding the abuse Covey had devised.

Covey studied the law and found an even bigger loophole.
"The change that was made to stop what they thought was the abuse, made the matter worse," he says.
Fredric Grundeman, who helped draft the bill while he was an attorney at the U.S. Treasury Department and is now retired, says the framers didn't recognize the new law's potential for abuse.

Flawed Thinking
"How do I say it?" Grundeman says. "When Congress enacts a law, it isn't always well thought out."
Covey, 84, a Missouri native and former U.S. Marine Corps basketball player who earned a law degree from Columbia Law School in 1955, uses the words "romantic" and "beautiful" to describe the most elegant tax maneuvers.

Covey recognized that a client could use the 1990 legislation to avoid gift taxes if he did something that would otherwise make no sense: put money in a trust with instructions to return the entire amount to himself within two years. Because he doesn't have to pay tax on a gift to himself, the trust incurs no gift tax. Covey calls the trust "zeroed out."

Because the client isn't paying any tax upfront, the transaction amounts to a can't-lose bet with the IRS. If the trust's investments make large enough gains, the excess goes to heirs tax-free. If not, the only costs are lawyer's fees, typically $5,000 to $10,000, Covey says.


Three years after the new law took effect, Covey created a pair of $100 million zeroed-out GRATs for Audrey Walton, the former wife of the brother of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. founder Sam Walton. The IRS, which had banned such GRATs through regulation, demanded taxes and took her to court.

In 2000, the U.S. Tax Court found in Walton's favor, determining the 1990 law didn't prohibit a "zeroed-out" GRAT. Covey had won a rare prize: an official seal of approval for a tax shelter.

Two years after Covey's court victory, Adelson set up a GRAT called the "Sheldon G. Adelson 2002 Two Year LVSI Annuity Trust," Adelson's SEC filings show. By 2009, he was juggling chunks of his fortune in as many as 10 GRATs at a time, filings show.

Adelson once discussed his approach to inheritance taxes in a legal deposition.
"Listen, the law says you can avoid taxes but you can't escape taxes," Adelson testified as part of a 1997 lawsuit over an unrelated business dispute. "We just want to do what is right, but it is prudent and it's wise to prepare your estate to save taxes."
Political Donations

The son of a cabdriver from Lithuania, Adelson started his first business at the age of 12, selling newspapers with the help of a $200 loan. He got rich in the 1980s as the owner of a company that organized computer trade shows. Later, he bought the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

A globe-spanning casino and resort empire followed. He drew national attention in 2012 by donating more than $90 million to groups that supported Republican candidates, including Mitt Romney, the presidential nominee and an estate-tax opponent.

In November 2010, Adelson sat for an interview with a Bloomberg News reporter in Las Vegas Sands' corporate boardroom, tucked inside the palatial Venetian resort. He spoke of the perks of being gambling's richest man: His weekend home in Malibu, California; the homes in Israel and the south of France; the six jets that ferry his family between them.

‘Extremely Gratifying'

Adelson had recently rescued Las Vegas Sands from the brink of bankruptcy. His company's stock, which lost more than 90 percent in 2008, had recovered almost half of its value. That was good news for his place on the list of the world's richest people, a ranking that he follows closely.
"I don't need to pat myself on the back to say, look at all the good things I did," he said. "But the success and the comeback that I've enjoyed, and the company's enjoyed, have been extremely gratifying."
The share gains were also good for Adelson's tax shelters. That's because after Sands stock plunged in 2008, Adelson plowed even more of his fortune into new GRATs, the SEC filings show. When the stock rebounded, those GRATs swelled in value.

A few days after the interview, he would pour $725 million from one of his GRATs into trusts for the benefit of his family. If he'd given the same amount to family members without using a GRAT, it would have resulted in a gift-tax bill of more than $250 million.

25 GRATs

In all, Adelson and his wife, Miriam, have created at least 25 GRATs. At least 14 of the 25 trusts were zeroed out, according to the calculations based on SEC filings. Those trusts transferred at least $7.9 billion to family members, an amount that would otherwise have incurred gift taxes of $2.8 billion.

Adelson has six living children, including two teenage sons. By early 2012, more than a third of Adelson's stake in the Sands -- worth more than $10 billion today -- had already passed through GRATs to trusts overseen by his wife for the benefit of his family.

The titles of some of those trusts start with the first letters of his children's names. Later, more GRATs added another $3 billion to the heirs' trusts.

Outside the stock exchange in October, Adelson declined to comment on GRATs. Later, he passed a message along through Ron Reese, his publicist.
"Mr. Adelson did tell me to tell you that he has no intention of ever dying," Reese says. ‘So the estate-planning conversation is moot.''
Lawyers Tweak

Since Covey's triumph in the Walton case, lawyers have tweaked his technique to generate even more tax savings. One idea, used by former Aetna Inc. CEO John W. Rowe, puts corporate stock options into a GRAT.

Another, championed by Goldman Sachs banker Stacy Eastland in presentations at estate-planning conferences, envisions a husband funding a GRAT with the proceeds of an options bet with his wife.
"It's very common," Rowe says, referring to the use of GRATs. "It's become standard practice in estate planning."
Charles Dolan, whose family controls the New York Knicks basketball team and who is chairman of Cablevision Systems Corp., has repeatedly swapped Cablevision shares out of his GRATs and replaced them with IOUs, his SEC filings show.

The technique multiplies the potential tax savings, according to a 2008 report by analysts at AllianceBernstein Holding LP. Through a spokeswoman, Dolan declined to comment.

Not Pressing

The GRAT loophole is unlikely to be plugged anytime soon. President Obama has included a proposal to limit the GRAT technique in each of his annual budget plans but hasn't pressed Congress to act on it, says Kenneth Kies, a Republican tax lobbyist.

Committees in the House and Senate are working on what they call comprehensive tax overhaul bills. Neither plans to address estate or gift taxes.

Covey suggests one reason for the lack of action: Wealthy donors to politicians, both Democratic and Republican, want to keep the loophole in place.
"I've done a lot for Democratic contributors," he says with a smile.
No one knows for sure how much all of these GRATs cost the U.S. government. The IRS estimates the number of gift-tax returns filed in connection with new GRATs each year; there were about 1,946 in 2009, according to the most recent publicly available data.

Taxpayers don't have to report how much each GRAT ultimately passes to heirs.

It's as if Covey built an invisible highway bypass that carries some of the biggest fortunes past the tax man's tollbooth. He marvels at the billions that flow along this route.
"It boggles the mind," he says.

The Political 1% of the 1% in 2012

By Lee Drutman, Sunlight Foundation
June 24, 2013
Graphics by Amy Cesal and Ben Chartoff

1% of the 1% logo
In the 2012 election, 28 percent of all disclosed political contributions came from just 31,385 people. In a nation of 313.85 million, these donors represent the 1% of the 1%, an elite class that increasingly serves as the gatekeepers of public office in the United States.

More than a quarter of the nearly $6 billion in contributions from identifiable sources in the last campaign cycle came from just 31,385 individuals, a number equal to one ten-thousandth of the U.S. population.

In the first presidential election cycle since the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC, candidates got more money from a smaller percentage of the population than any year for which we have data, a new analysis of 2012 campaign finance giving by the Sunlight Foundation shows. These donors contributed 28.1 percent of all individual contributions in the 2012 cycle, a record high.

One sign of the reach of this elite “1% of the 1%”: Not a single member of the House or Senate elected last year won without financial assistance from this group. Money from the nation’s 31,385 biggest givers found its way into the coffers of every successful congressional candidate. And 84 percent of those elected in 2012 took more money from these 1% of the 1% donors than they did from all of their small donors (individuals who gave $200 or less) combined.

This elite 1% of the 1% dominated campaign giving even in a year when President Barack Obama reached new small donor frontiers (small donors are defined as individuals giving in increments of less than $200). In 2014, without a presidential race to attract small donors, all indicators are that the 1% of the 1% will occupy an even more central role in the money chase.

The nation’s biggest campaign donors have little in common with average Americans. They hail predominantly from big cities, such as New York and Washington. They work for blue-chip corporations, such as Goldman Sachs and Microsoft. One in five works in the finance, insurance and real estate sector. One in 10 works in law or lobbying. The median contribution from this group of elite donors? $26,584. That’s a little more than half the median family income in the United States.

Visualizing the inequalities

What does 31,385 people look like? This elite group of donors would occupy a little more than a third of the seats in Fedex Field, where the Washington Redskins play football (Figure 1). But they pay a much higher price of admission than ticket-holders there. The smallest contribution required to make it into the 1% of 1% of political donors last year? $12,950.
Figure 1.
1-one percent of the one percent in Fed Ex field

How unequal was political giving in 2012? If we let the Verizon Center (capacity of about 20,000) stand in for the entire U.S., it would be as if just two people bought out the best 5,610 seats. Figure 2 shows what that looks like.
Figure 2.
2-the one percent of the one percent in the Verizon Center

The price of entry to be in this elite group of donors has risen steadily over the years (Figure 3). In 1990, a single $2,000 contribution (about $3,700 in 2012 dollars) could put you in the 1% of the 1%. By 2000, the minimum contribution had risen to $5,700. It crossed the $10,000 mark for the first time in 2008, reaching $11,000.
Figure 3.
3-one percent of the one percent minimum donations over time

Why the increase? No doubt, the Citizens United and SpeechNow decisions, which paved the way for unlimited contributions to super PACs, are a key factor. Of the 1% of the 1%’s $1.68 billion in the 2012 cycle, $500.4 million entered the campaign through a super PAC (including almost $100 million from just one couple, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson). However, more money ($670.5 million) went directly to parties. The vast majority of 1% of the 1% donors – 87.5 percent – contributed absolutely nothing to super PACs, giving instead directly to candidates, parties and traditional PACs. Only 5.5 percent of the 1% of the 1% donors (1,635 individuals) contributed more than $10,000 to super PACs.

We should also note that this total does not include the at least $305 million in “dark money” in the 2012 election, since the donors behind that spending remain anonymous. But we can reasonably speculate that most of them are in the 1% of the 1%, and had we been able to include them, the share of 2012 money coming from the 1% of the 1% would almost certainly have been higher.

The rising tide of the 1% of the 1%

The 28.1 percent of total money from the 1% of the 1% marks a dubious new landmark in the history of modern elections – well above the previous high of 21.8 percent in 2006 (Figure 4). In 2010, 20.5 percent of the money going to federal candidates and campaign committees came from the most generous 0.01 percent of Americans.

It’s especially striking – and surprising – that the new record should have been set in a presidential election year. The race for the White House attracts more small donors than mid-term elections. In recent presidential election cycles (2000, 2004 and 2008), the slice of donations coming from the 1% of the 1% held solidly around 17 percent. This year’s 28.1 percent share marks a significant break with the past. It is a new level in political contribution inequality.
Figure 4.
3-the growing share of the one percent of the one percent

Our data also cast doubt on the stereotype about big money being politically pragmatic. Less than four percent of the most generous political donors spread their money close to evenly between the two parties (a 60-40 split or less). Four out of five 1% of the 1% donors were pure partisans, giving all of their money to one party or the other.

While both parties draw on the generosity of these elites, 40 percent more 1% of the 1% donors predominantly supported Republicans than predominantly supported Democrats. We also find that conservative Republican members of Congress depend more on 1% of the 1% donors than moderate Republicans do, suggesting a polarizing effect of big money, at least on the political right. There is no corresponding relationship among Democrats.

Why we should care

The 1% of the 1% are the political gatekeepers of American politics. Through countless independent phone calls and fundraising events, they set the boundaries of acceptable political topics and positions (i.e., what they care about and believe). They determine who is an acceptable candidate (i.e., those individuals whom they trust to represent their interests).

Their influence is very rarely found in simple favor trading. Rather, their influence arises from something subtler yet far more significant: shaping the limits of acceptable political discourse, one conversation at a time.
In the 2012 cycle, winning House members raised on average $1.64 million, or about $2,250 per day during the two-year cycle. The average winning senator raised even more: $10.3 million, or $14,125 per day.

That money has to come from somewhere. And while it could come from small donors, it’s much more time-efficient to host a $1,000-a-plate fundraiser, or spend an afternoon calling corporate executives, hedge fund managers, lawyers, lobbyists, political action committee managers and others in a position to give a few thousand dollars. Rare is the candidate with enough small donor appeal to bring in the kind of money needed to run a successful campaign.

This places limits on what is politically possible. As Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., put it succinctly at a recent event at Yale University, recalling his time fundraising in his recent (2012) campaign: “I talked a lot more about carried interest inside of that call room than I did in the supermarket.” (“Carried interest” refers to profits that private equity and hedge fund managers earn on investments.)

Murphy knows it is much easier to raise the kind of money he needs if he remains sympathetic to the concerns of private equity and hedge fund managers – and much harder if he supports increasing the tax rate on carried interest. Murphy is not alone. Every member of Congress faces the same concern. They don’t want to upset the people most likely to fund their campaigns, and will try their best to avoid doing so. As costs of elections for office run higher and higher, candidates and parties have less freedom to cross a potential donor. It amounts to what Lawrence Lessig has called “dependence corruption” – the way in which political discourse must necessarily shift to reflect the demands and opinions of the most active donors.

These concerns are likely even more acute for the two parties. In 2012, the National Republican Senatorial Committee raised more than half (54.2 percent) of its $105.8 million from the 1% of the 1%, and the National Republican Congressional Committee raised one third (33.0 percent) of its $140.6 million from the 1% of the 1%. Democratic party committees depend less on the 1% of the 1%. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised 12.9 percent of its $128.9 million from these top donors, and the Democratic Congressional Committee raised 20.1 percent of its $143.9 million from 1% of the 1% donors.

Party aside, what all these donors have in common is the personal wealth that allows them to contribute tens of thousands of dollars in an election cycle. And as political scientists Benjamin Page, Larry Bartels and Jason Seawright explain in a recent paper, the rich are not like the rest of us – and not just because they have more money. They also have very different political priorities, particularly on issues of economics and government spending. And as political scientist Marty Gilens has shown, when rich people and poor people disagree on policy, elected officials almost always side with rich people.

Where the money goes

Figure 5 breaks down all the sources of money in the 2012 election, comparing 1% of the 1% donors with other over-$200 donors, small donors and a few other sources of money. (PACs are not included separately in this total because they are conduits for individual donations). This figure also breaks down where the 1% of the 1% money went. In brief: $410 million went directly to candidates ($235 million to Republicans, $173 million to Democrats); $671 million went to party committees ($405 million to Republican committees, $265 to Democratic committees); $500 million went to super PACs; $89 million went to traditional PACs.
Figure 5.
5-the one percent of the one percent and sources of money

For those more interested on the inequality of giving within the 1% of the 1%, we have more detail here. The quick summary: Those in the top 10 percent of the 1% of the 1% (the top 3,139 givers in American politics) account for about half of the total spending by the 1% of the 1%. More than half of their contributions went to super PACs.

Congressional dependence

Every single member of Congress elected in 2012 received at least some money from the 1% of the 1% (Figure 6). Only Reps. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., ($4,750 from eight 1% of the 1% donors) and Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., ($7,000 from six 1% of the 1% donors) received less than $10,000 total. Both represent safe seats in poor, urban districts, and both get roughly 75 percent of their campaign money from PACs.
Figure 6.
5-the one percent of the one percent and congressional dependence

Of the 435 House members elected in last year, 372 (86 percent) received more from the 1% of the 1% than they did from every single small donor combined (Figure 7). And almost half (202, or 46.4 percent) received more than three times as much money from these large donors than they did from all small donors combined.

The 33 senators elected in 2012 were only slightly less dependent on the 1% of the 1%. The majority (20, 61 percent) got more money from the top donors than from all small donors combined. And one third (11) got three times as much money.
Figure 7.
7-congressional dependence on the one percent of the one percent and small donors

For an interactive version of the above graph, click here or on the above graph.

For bulk data on all members elected in 2012, click here.

Combined, winning House and Senate candidates in 2012 received 17.1 percent of their direct campaign contributions from the 1% of the 1%, as compared to 13.0 percent from all small (under $200) donors. Overall, the largest share of funding for Congress comes from PACs, which contributed 32.8 percent of the money congressional candidates received. If we combine PAC contributions and 1% of the 1% contributions, that’s exactly half of all winning Congressional candidate campaign contributions coming from either very wealthy individuals or political action committees. (Of course, some of the PAC money was originally 1% of the 1% money, since 1% of the 1% donors gave $89.4 million to PACs in 2012).

Overall, a total of 32 members of Congress (24 House members and eight senators) elected in 2012 got at least 25 percent of their total funds from 1% of the 1% donors. And 72 House members and 19 senators got at least 20 percent of their funds from these donors.

Table 1 (below) highlights the 20 members of Congress who depended on the 1% of the 1% for the biggest share of their contributions in 2012. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., tops the list. Four out of every ten dollars contributed to her campaign came directly from 1% of the 1% donors (as compared to just five percent from small donors). House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is also in the top 10 with 31.8 percent of his contributions coming from 1% of the 1%, as is House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., at 34.2 percent.

(For more on key Congressional leaders, click here)

Boehner also had the highest number of donors from the 1% of the 1% giving to his campaign (2,525 individuals), and accordingly received the most total money from them ($6.8 million). That puts him just ahead of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., for most 1% of the 1% donors (Warren had 2,361) and ahead of Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., for most money from 1% of the 1% donors (Kaine raised $5.1 million). However, since Warren and Kaine both ran in highly competitive Senate raises and raised remarkable sums (Warren at $42 million, Kaine at $18 million), they don’t show when we look at the top 20 by share of funds from the 1% of the 1%.

The top 20 list (ranked by share of contributions from the 1% of the 1%) includes slightly more Democrats (12) than Republicans (8). Even though 1% of the 1% donors concentrate in major cities, the geographic diversity of these top candidates is impressive. Only New York (3) and Florida (3) have more than one representative on the list.
Table 1.
Members of Congress with the highest share of donations from the 1% of the 1%, 2012
Candidate State Chamber Share from the 1% of the 1% Share from small donors Total raised
Nancy Pelosi (D) CA H 40.4% 4.8% $2,298,844
Roger Williams (R) TX H 38.7% 1.5% $2,736,485
Sheldon Whitehouse (D) RI S 36.5% 6.4% $3,280,685
Nita M. Lowey (D) NY H 34.2% 3.9% $2,125,851
Eric Cantor (R) VA H 34.2% 4.9% $7,619,202
Jeff Flake (R) AZ S 33.3% 13.9% $8,967,955
Joe Kennedy III (D) MA H 32.6% 0.0% $4,193,094
Bill Foster (D) IL H 32.3% 11.8% $2,956,287
John Sarbanes (D) MD H 31.8% 5.4% $1,010,367
John Boehner (R) OH H 31.0% 26.7% $21,981,789
Jon Tester (D) MT S 29.7% 13.1% $11,881,646
Ron DeSantis (R) FL H 29.1% 6.1% $1,145,859
Ted Cruz (R) TX S 28.8% 17.2% $13,627,317
Jerrold Nadler (D) NY H 28.4% 2.4% $1,114,468
Orrin G. Hatch (R) UT S 28.3% 0.6% $8,829,902
John A. Barrasso (R) WY S 28.3% 4.5% $4,007,574
Tim Kaine (D) VA S 28.2% 17.0% $18,008,380
Ted Deutch (D) FL H 27.9% 2.6% $1,263,534
Kirsten Gillibrand (D) NY S 27.6% 8.5% $15,577,940
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) FL H 27.6% 21.0% $3,610,339

For complete data on all members elected in 2012, click here.


Republicans are about 40 percent more common than Democrats among the 1% of the 1%. While almost half (49.8 percent) of the 1% of 1% gave at least 90 percent of their money to Republicans, just over one third (35.5 percent) of these donors gave at least 90 percent to Democrats.

Figure 8 bins the donors by their level of partisanship based on how much they gave to parties and candidates. Since super PACs are technically independent, we do not include donations to these groups in our totals.
Figure 8.
the one percent of the one percent and partisanship

Meet the 1% of the 1%

Who are the 31,385 individuals who contributed 28.1 percent of the traceable money in the 2012 election?

A few of them are well-known. Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam contributed a combined $97 million. Harold Simmons, who built a business empire around buying Superfund sites, contributed $25 million. Bob Perry, the late Texas real estate mogul, contributed $23.5 million. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the seventh largest donor, at $10.6 million. Many of the other names atop the list will be familiar to readers of our “Stealthy Wealthy” series.

But our analysis is not focused on specific individuals, many of whose campaign largesse and motivations already have been well-scrutinized. Rather, our interest is in examining the role of this elite group of donors as the collective gatekeepers of public office.

Mostly, these donors tend to come from top corporate positions, most commonly in the worlds of finance and law. They most frequently hail from New York and Washington. Of donors for whom we know the gender, 71.8 percent are male.

For a list of all 31,385 donors in the 2012 one percent of the one percent, click here

Top Professions

While the most common occupation listed among these donors is “Retired” (13.1%), the plurality with identifiable professions hail from top corporate jobs: 8.8 percent identify themselves as “president,” 8.7 percent as “attorney” or “lawyer” and 8.5 percent as “CEO.” While there is some overlap among the corporate jobs (for example, various individuals list themselves as “CEO and Chairman,” or “President/CEO,” etc.), a total of 5,639 top donors (17.0 percent) list themselves as at least one of the following: “CEO," "President," "Chairman,” “Executive” or “Owner."

Looking purely at the monetary contributions, CEOs and chairmen (frequently the same person) account for the largest raw percentage of donations, which tells us that they contribute, on average, a bit more than the average member of the 1% of the 1%. By contrast, retirees give a little less on average, accounting for only 10.8 percent of the contributions as compared to 13.2 percent of donors.

It’s also worth highlighting that 7.7 percent of the 1% of the 1% list their occupation as “homemaker.” Since homemakers are rarely compensated for their work, we are left to assume that their ability to contribute tens of thousands of dollars is due to spousal or inherited wealth. “Homemaker” is the listed occupation for 27.4 percent of the female 1% of the 1% donors, while “Retired” is the listed occupation of 17.5 percent of the female 1% of the 1% donors. (As a basis of comparison, 11.5 percent of the male 1% of the 1% donors list their occupation as “retired.”)
Table 2.
Most common professions among the 1 percent of the 1 percent, 2012
Occupation Donors Share of 1% of the 1% donors Total donations Share of 1% of the 1% donations
Retired 4131 13.2% $181,663,338 10.8%
President 2764 8.8% $137,886,277 8.2%
Attorney 2738 8.7% $104,658,811 6.2%
CEO 2671 8.5% $230,678,958 13.7%
Homemaker 2432 7.7% $117,901,507 7.0%
Chairman 2428 7.7% $223,832,610 13.3%
Executive 1886 6.0% $101,835,685 6.1%
Investor 1638 5.2% $106,385,270 6.3%
Owner 1015 3.2% $42,177,945 2.5%

Top Employers

While thousands of different employers are represented among the 1% of the 1%, certain names pop up more frequently than others. At the top of the list (by far), is Goldman Sachs, with 85 employees contributing $4.67 million between them. Blackstone, the private equity firm, is next with 49 employees, and the major law firm, Kirkland & Ellis, is third on the list with 40 employees. Financial and legal/lobbying firms dominate the top 20.

Besides Goldman and Blackstone, financial firms Morgan Stanley (38 donors), Elliot Management (24), Citigroup (23), Credit Suisse (23), Fidelity (23) and Bain Capital (21) also make the top 20 list. That adds up to 248 major donors from top financial firms. Elliot donors contributed on average $184,830, the highest of any of the top employers. Bain Capital came in second, at $131,634.

The top legal and lobbying firms, after Kirkland and Ellis, are Akin Gump (36), Podesta Group (30), Skadden Arps (29), DLA Piper (21) and Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck (20). That adds up to 176 major donors from top law and lobbying firms.

Rounding out the list of organizations with the most employees in the 1% of the 1%: Harvard University at 33, Google at 33, Microsoft at 31 and Comcast at 26. One name that may not be familiar to Washington insiders is the Rothman Institute, a Philadelphia-area orthopedic group with 23 employees in 1% of the 1%. It is the only healthcare organization on this list. Its 1% of the 1% donors also gave the least on average: $25,668.
Table 3.
Most common employers among the 1% of the 1% percent, 2012
Employer 1% of the 1% Donors Total donations Average donations
Goldman Sachs 85 $4,670,207 $54,944
Blackstone 49 $2,236,050 $45,634
Kirkland and Ellis 40 $1,526,949 $38,174
Morgan Stanley 38 $1,241,241 $32,664
Comcast 37 $1,222,705 $33,046
Akin Gump 36 $1,643,941 $45,665
Google 33 $1,352,312 $40,979
Harvard 33 $1,236,391 $37,466
Microsoft 31 $1,049,667 $33,860
Podesta Group 30 $1,052,179 $35,073
Skadden Arps 29 $1,239,387 $42,737
Patton Boggs 26 $925,528 $35,597
Elliot Management 24 $4,435,923 $184,830
Credit Suisse 23 $705,788 $30,686
Rothman Institute 23 $590,366 $25,668
Citigroup 23 $746,650 $32,463
Fidelity 23 $726,414 $31,583
DLA Piper 21 $864,496 $41,166
Bain Capital 21 $2,764,306 $131,634
Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck 20 $627,016 $31,351

Top Sectors

Looking more closely at the sectors shows that donors from the financial and legal world are indeed the most common donors in the 1% of the 1%. The Financial, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE) donors are most prominent – giving one quarter of all 1% of the 1% donations, and accounting for 21.5 percent of the 1% of the 1% donors. Law and lobbying firm donors are second, accounting for roughly one in ten members of the 1% of the 1% and 7.4 percent of of the dollar contributions. Collectively, financial and legal sector donors make up almost a third of all donors and all donations from the 1% of the 1%. The third most common category are the single-issue or ideological donors, which means that they contribute primarily through groups such as Emily’s List or the Club for Growth, rather than directly. Notably, only nine donors affiliated with Labor (out of 31,385) make it onto this list. (The shares do not sum to 100 percent because this list does not include donors who did not name their employer or who fall into a motley category of “other.”)
Table 4.
The 1% of the 1% by sector
Sector Donors Share of donors Total given Share of total
Finance/Insur/Real Estate 6762 21.5% $419,239,200 25.0%
Lawyers & Lobbyists 3189 10.2% $123,487,817 7.4%
Ideology/Single-Issue 2584 8.2% $112,832,223 6.7%
Communic/Electronics 1833 5.8% $127,047,146 7.6%
Health 1485 4.7% $112,942,024 6.7%
Energy/Nat Resource 1330 4.2% $69,083,469 4.1%
Construction 1053 3.4% $69,537,968 4.1%
Transportation 873 2.8% $34,239,262 2.0%
Agribusiness 817 2.6% $36,401,750 2.2%
Defense 102 0.3% $3,418,074 0.2%
Labor 9 0.0% $205,513 0.0%

The Geography of the 1% of the 1%

Though the 1% of the 1% hail from all over the country, they predictably most commonly inhabit the major metropolitan areas. New York, the biggest city in the U.S. and home of Wall Street, gives the most money and has the most donors. To understand the wide reach of this money, we’ve visualized the outflow of money from New York City 1% of the 1% donors (Figure 9). The money from just 2,259 New York City residents went to races in every single state of the U.S., though in varying amounts. That is truly remarkable reach.
Figure 9.
the New York City one percent of the one percent

Washington has the second most 1% of the 1% donors, and a much higher rate per 10,000: 12.87 donors. If the 1% of the 1% were equally distributed across the country, by definition each city would have one such donor per 10,000 people. Among the cities with the ten most donors, Greenwich, Conn., has by far the highest rate of 1% of the 1% donors – 39.34 donors. Greenwich is a popular home for individuals who work in high finance.

Houston, Los Angeles and Chicago round out the top five. To see how many one percent of the one percent donors are in your city or town, click here for data on donors by location
Table 5.
Cities with the most 1% of the 1% donors
City Donors Donors per 10,000 Total given
NEW YORK, NY 2,259 2.71 $152,697,066
WASHINGTON, DC 814 12.87 $30,820,906
HOUSTON, TX 664 3.07 $68,272,330
CHICAGO, IL 603 2.22 $45,865,679
LOS ANGELES, CA 598 1.55 $40,424,728
DALLAS, TX 507 4.08 $57,075,447
SAN FRANCISCO, CA 498 6.03 $29,840,911
BOSTON, MA 266 4.18 $17,199,606
ATLANTA, GA 262 5.9 $14,270,899
GREENWICH, CT 240 39.34 $13,751,384

The cities with the highest rate of individuals belonging to the 1% of the 1% are all wealthy suburbs. In Chevy Chase, Md., a wealthy suburb just outside of northwest Washington, 3.6 percent of the residents are members of the 1% of the 1%. In Bloomfield Hills, Mich., a wealthy suburb of Detroit, 2.2 percent of the residents belong to the 1% of the 1%. Looking at the cities with the highest rate of 1% of the 1% donors offers another insight into the elite nature of this group of donors.
Table 6.
Cities with the highest percentage of 1% of the 1% donors
City Donors Donors per 10,000 Total given
CHEVY CHASE, MD 105 361.2 $4,718,768
BLOOMFIELD HILLS, MI 89 226.41 $4,073,003
PALM BEACH, FL 142 166.43 $8,387,773
ATHERTON, CA 97 134.89 $5,716,703
WAYZATA, MN 50 132.38 $3,735,813
WINDERMERE, FL 31 120.16 $950,060
MEDINA, WA 36 117.42 $1,729,314
PORTOLA VALLEY, CA 44 98 $4,176,231
GATES MILLS, OH 22 97.39 $816,685
NAPLES, FL 183 90.98 $7,908,364

To explore the 1% of the 1% by state, click here


The U.S. now has a campaign finance system where a tiny slice of individuals – 31,385 people, not even enough to fill half of a professional football stadium – collectively account for more than a quarter of all individual contributions (that we can trace), even though they represent just one in ten thousand Americans. Every single member of Congress elected in 2012 received a contribution from this group of individuals, and the vast majority of those elected (84 percent) received more money from the "1% of the 1%" than they did from all small donations (under $200).

A tiny sliver of Americans who can afford to give tens of thousands of dollars in a single election cycle have become the gatekeepers of public office in America. Through the growing congressional dependence on their contributions, they increasingly set the boundaries and limits of American political discourse – who can run for office, what their priorities should be and even what can be said in public. And in an era of unlimited campaign contributions, the power of the 1% of the 1% only stands to grow with each passing year.

Data sources:,,

Thanks to Alexander Furnas and Alison Rowland for their help in preparing this post.

Notes on Methodology
To conduct the analysis we reviewed disclosed donations for the 2012 cycle to federal candidates, party committees, congressional campaign committees PACs and super PACs. Our ability to aggregate campaign finance data by individual donor comes with a few caveats. To calculate totals, we relied on the bulk campaign finance records provided by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), and we summed the totals by a unique ID that CRP adds to the raw Federal Election Commission (FEC) data for each contributor. CRP, a respected nonpartisan nonprofit, creates these unique ids because the FEC, which regulates campaign finance in the United States, does not. And because donors – and the recipients of their funds – aren’t required to accurately and reliably identify themselves in FEC records, it’s left to CRP to take on the daunting task. In the 2012 election, there were about 1.26 million unique donors, many with multiple name permutations.

For a good understanding of the challenges of accurate individual counts, we recommend our recent post, “What Charles G. Koch can teach us about campaign finance data.” While we do list the individual members of the 1% of the 1%, we urge caution on the individual donor totals. However, while there may be some random error in individual totals, we are confident that the aggregate conclusions are solid, given the large number of cases that make up these aggregate totals.

We also note that our inability to include contributions to “dark money” groups in our individual donor totals also prevents an exact comparison with our 2010 analysis of the political 1% of the 1%. Back then, the dark money groups were a small part of the political universe, and 527s (which reveal their donors) were the bigger vehicle for independent expenditures. The reverse is now true. We also decided to do a true 1% of the 1% analysis this time around, taking the top 31,385 donors rather than cutting off at a particular giving threshold, which also mitigates against a perfect comparison (we used $10,000 as that threshold last time).

Top All-Time Donors, 1989-2012

March 25, 2013

LEGEND:   Republican    Democrat    On the fence

= Between 40% and 59% to both parties
= Leans Dem/Repub (60%-69%)
= Strongly Dem/Repub (70%-89%)
= Solidly Dem/Repub (over 90%)
Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% as money can be given to third party
candidates or outside spending groups and PACs not affiliated with either party.
RankOrganizationTotal '89-'12Dem %Repub %Tilt
2American Fedn of State, County & Municipal Employees$61,147,60481%1% 
3AT&T Inc$56,912,53241%57%
4National Education Assn$53,978,30662%4%
5National Assn of Realtors$51,392,55244%47%
6Intl Brotherhood of Electrical Workers$44,911,22092%1%   
7Goldman Sachs$44,797,48353%44%
8United Auto Workers$41,950,35871%0% 
9Carpenters & Joiners Union$39,257,87174%9% 
10Service Employees International Union$38,065,36584%2% 
11Laborers Union$37,580,06085%6% 
12American Federation of Teachers$36,833,72589%0% 
13Communications Workers of America$36,305,99887%0% 
14Teamsters Union$36,272,58588%5% 
15JPMorgan Chase & Co$34,307,21748%51%
16United Food & Commercial Workers Union$33,919,25986%0% 
17United Parcel Service$32,202,24435%64%
18Citigroup Inc$32,141,12248%50%
19National Auto Dealers Assn$31,800,26031%68%
20Machinists & Aerospace Workers Union$31,635,09798%1%   
21American Bankers Assn$31,399,97236%63%
23EMILY's List$31,228,06098%0%   
24American Medical Assn$30,129,67840%59%
25Microsoft Corp$29,250,23555%44%
26National Beer Wholesalers Assn$28,832,01035%64%
27Blue Cross/Blue Shield$28,668,39136%63%
28National Assn of Home Builders$27,547,63034%65%
29General Electric$27,486,47848%51%
30Lockheed Martin$26,777,73042%56%
31Bank of America$26,627,61441%57%
32Altria Group$26,403,62927%72% 
33National Assn of Letter Carriers$26,359,85984%9% 
34Morgan Stanley$26,057,48342%56%
35Verizon Communications$25,796,12840%59%
36Deloitte LLP$24,863,60235%64%
37Time Warner$24,446,99172%26% 
38Newsweb Corp$24,387,37141%0%
39Credit Union National Assn$24,016,40547%51%
40Plumbers & Pipefitters Union$23,924,84485%4% 
41Ernst & Young$23,324,86442%57%
42American Hospital Assn$23,108,10552%46%
43International Assn of Fire Fighters$22,964,58079%16% 
44Operating Engineers Union$22,865,49882%14% 
46Sheet Metal Workers Union$22,524,37895%2%   
47American Dental Assn$21,865,83344%54%
48Boeing Co$21,231,33746%52%
49UBS AG$21,176,74240%58%
50American Assn for Justice$20,728,49382%4% 
51Comcast Corp$20,261,09657%42%
52National Rifle Assn$19,880,44517%82% 
53AFLAC Inc$19,853,05943%56%
54Union Pacific Corp$19,746,76827%72% 
55Air Line Pilots Assn$19,654,54783%16% 
56Pfizer Inc$19,650,37034%64%
57Northrop Grumman$19,461,86142%57%
58Natl Assn/Insurance & Financial Advisors$19,447,62441%58%
59Honeywell International$19,354,86944%54%
60Koch Industries $18,063,5488%91%   
61American Postal Workers Union$17,940,65886%2% 
62Ironworkers Union$17,406,54092%6%   
63FedEx Corp$17,285,83339%60%
64Credit Suisse Group$17,222,29041%57%
65Club for Growth $17,220,5970%95%   
66United Transportation Union$17,154,60087%11% 
67New York Life Insurance$16,903,28749%50%
68Raytheon Co $16,841,35844%55%
69General Dynamics$16,640,95246%53%
70National Rural Electric Cooperative Assn$16,531,08847%51%
71United Steelworkers$16,519,42499%0%   
72Akin, Gump et al $16,476,23161%37%
73American Institute of CPAs$16,077,05641%58%
74National Air Traffic Controllers Assn$15,805,07578%20% 
76Reynolds American$15,677,74822%77% 
78National Cable & Telecommunications Assn$15,175,81047%51%
79KPMG LLP $15,156,49634%65%
80Exxon Mobil$15,079,39613%85% 
81Merrill Lynch$14,914,66737%62%
82DLA Piper$14,807,46768%31%
83Wal-Mart Stores$14,799,97932%67%
85Walt Disney Co$14,043,45768%30%
86CSX Corp$14,035,16134%65%
87Indep Insurance Agents & Brokers/America$13,870,37135%64%
88News Corp$13,833,75758%41%
89American Health Care Assn $13,809,80851%48%
90American Financial Group$13,792,55515%73% 
91Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance $13,611,75438%60%
92Wells Fargo$13,546,50436%61%
93Associated Builders & Contractors $13,525,0821%98%   
94University of California $13,459,43989%9% 
95American Society of Anesthesiologists$13,364,73741%58%
96American Crystal Sugar$13,226,35561%38%
97Southern Co$13,205,29328%70% 
98WPP Group$13,130,91953%45%
99Prudential Financial$12,919,01649%50%
100National Restaurant Assn$12,606,16416%83% 
101Securities Industry & Financial Mkt Assn$12,539,44839%59%
102BellSouth Corp$12,294,46543%55%
103MetLife Inc$12,170,04751%48%
104Human Rights Campaign$12,167,96389%8% 
105American Optometric Assn $12,083,63357%42%
106American Academy of Ophthalmology$12,036,20850%49%
107Natl Active & Retired Fed Employees Assn $11,922,20077%21% 
108Home Depot$11,751,99525%74% 
109Saban Capital Group $11,680,57289%0% 
110Eli Lilly & Co$11,664,80531%68%
111United Technologies$11,479,44445%52%
112General Motors$11,321,39738%61%
113Associated General Contractors$11,197,09714%85% 
114National Assn of Broadcasters$11,132,12244%55%
115UST Inc$11,114,34321%78% 
116Painters & Allied Trades Union$11,080,32085%12% 
117American Maritime Officers$11,066,83145%53%
118Ford Motor Co $10,813,98938%60%
119Skadden, Arps et al$10,661,04477%22% 
120National Cmte to Preserve Social Security & Medicare$10,541,03681%17% 
122MBNA Corp$10,480,78816%82% 
123Seafarers International Union$10,427,06583%16% 
124Independent Community Bankers of America$10,375,48542%57%
125Amway/Alticor Inc$10,301,7630%97%   
126Freddie Mac$10,292,45943%56%
127Exelon Corp$10,284,07043%56%
128American Airlines$10,137,52543%56%
129Patton Boggs LLP $10,047,78871%27% 
130American Trucking Assns $10,044,19226%72% 
131American Physical Therapy Assn $9,874,98349%49%
132Lehman Brothers$9,808,96452%46%
133National Fedn of Independent Business $9,607,0406%93%   
134Transport Workers Union $9,592,39995%4%   
135American Council of Life Insurers$9,533,02737%62%
136Greenberg Traurig LLP$9,499,60362%37%
137Amalgamated Transit Union $9,447,41893%6%   
138Archer Daniels Midland$9,417,78743%56%
139Blackstone Group $9,395,82546%50%
140Aircraft Owners & Pilots Assn$9,392,51643%56%
141Harvard University $9,349,26587%12% 
142National Rural Letter Carriers Assn $9,161,60071%27% 
143Fannie Mae $9,135,88953%46%
144Interpublic Group$8,753,90766%32%
145Wachovia Corp$8,623,39430%69%
146National Cmte for an Effective Congress$8,522,69099%0%   
147Marine Engineers Beneficial Assn$8,224,37973%25% 
148Bristol-Myers Squibb$7,930,89923%76% 
149MCI Inc$7,788,97645%54%
150Bear Stearns $7,358,02354%43%
152Enron Corp$6,686,29328%71% 
155MGM Resorts International$5,868,15545%48%
156Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp$5,089,79139%60%

Based on data released by the FEC on March 25, 2013.

Feel free to distribute or cite this material, but please credit the Center for Responsive Politics. For permission to reprint for commercial uses, such as textbooks, contact the Center.

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