WASHINGTON -- In February, super PACs continued to collect the vast majority of their donations from wealthy individuals and powerful interests. Donors giving more than $500,000 accounted for nearly 72 percent of all contributions last month, and donors giving more than $100,000 accounted for 86 percent.
In other words, super PACs are still giving the richest a way to turn their money into political currency through unlimited campaign contributions.
Total contributions from donors giving more than $500,000 in the 2012 election cycle jumped from $80.12 million at the end of January to $100.4 million at the end of February, according to a Huffington Post analysis. That increase bumped up the share of money from $500,000-plus donors from 61 to 67 percent of all super PAC contributions.
A small portion of that increase came from the location of donors who gave $500,000 or more prior to the February filings when their contributions were aggregated with contributions from family members or companies under their supervision. The majority of these new $500,000-plus donations, however, came in the form of new contributions, or the movement of donors up into the $500,000-plus range.
A small portion of that increase came from HuffPost's aggregration of earlier contributions from donors who gave less than $500,000 with earlier contributions from their family members or companies under their supervision, thereby pushing those donors into the $500,000-plus group. The majority of February's increase, however, came in the form of new donations from $500,000-plus donors or additional donations moving previous lesser donors into the $500,000-plus range.
The new mega-donors were almost all wealthy individuals. Of the $5.55 million from newly identified $500,000-plus donors, $3.8 million came from individuals, $750,000 came from corporations, and $500,000 came from the political campaign of a sitting senator.
Among the new donors was comedian Bill Maher, who gave $1 million to Priorities USA Action, which supports President Barack Obama's reelection, after the president's campaign endorsed the super PAC in a public statement. Another new donor, bingo tycoon and Israeli settlement funder Irving Moskowitz, gave $1 million to the Karl Rove-linked super PAC American Crossroads.
Kenneth Griffin, the hedge fund executive who recently claimed that the super rich have "insufficient influence" in politics, contributed $100,000 to Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting Mitt Romney. That pushed Griffin's total giving to $500,000. He had previously donated $300,000 to American Crossroads and $100,000 to Restore Our Future.
Another new $500,000-plus donors included Kareem Ahmed, CEO of a California-based medical billings company, who gave $500,000 to Priorities USA Action; David Humphreys, head of the roofing supply company Tamko Building Products, who gave $500,000 to Restore Our Future; investment advisers S.W. Childs Management, which gave $500,000 to Restore Our Future; and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who gave $500,000 from his campaign war chest to the Club for Growth.
Two new $500,000-plus donors emerged after HuffPost aggregated family and business contributions. They were the Walton family, heirs to the founders of Walmart, and the Morses, owners of the Florida retirement community named The Villages. Jim, Alice and Christy Walton combined to give $550,000 to super PACs. Jim donated $200,000 to Restore Our Future and $100,000 to Our Destiny, the super PAC that supported Jon Huntsman's failed presidential bid, Alice gave $200,000 to Restore Our Future, and Christy added another $50,000 for Our Destiny.
These newly included donors account for only 27 percent of the total increase in super PAC donations from the $500,000-plus crowd. The rest of the rise in contributions from these mega-donors -- $14.73 million -- came from those who had already crossed the $500,000-plus line.
Sheldon Adelson and his family threw another $5.5 million on the embers of Winning Our Future, the super PAC trying to keep Newt Gingrich's flagging presidential campaign alight. The contributions -- $2.5 million each from Adelson and his wife, and another $500,000 from daughter Shelley Maye Adelson -- pushed the billionaire casino magnate to the number one spot among all super PAC donors, with a total of $16.5 million.
The previous top super PAC donor, Harold Simmons, dropped to the number two spot despite his giving $100,000 each to the super PACs backing Romney and Gingrich, and his wife, Annette, providing a $1 million boost to the Red White and Blue Fund, the main super PAC supporting Rick Santorum's campaign. The Simmons and their company, Contran Corp., gave a total of $1.2 million in February, raising their super PAC giving in the 2012 cycle to $15.4 million.
The number three super PAC donor, Texas homebuilder Bob Perry, held onto that spot while nearly doubling his giving with one contribution in February. Perry made a $3 million donation to Restore Our Future, which made him the single biggest donor to the super PAC supporting Romney's candidacy. In total, Perry has given $4 million to Restore Our Future, $2.5 million to American Crossroads, and $100,000 to Make Us Great Again, the super PAC that backed Rick Perry's failed presidential bid.
The other $500,000-plus donors rounding out the top 10 are venture capitalist Peter Thiel ($2.6 million), Univision founder Jerry Perenchio ($2.6 million), the Cooperative of American Physicians ($2.47 million), the AFL-CIO ($2.3 million), industrialist Jon Huntsman Sr. ($2.22 million), and investor Robert Rowling ($2.1 million).
SEE a slideshow of top super PAC donors: