08/29/2012 08:53 pm ET Updated Aug 31, 2012

Bay Area Republican Donors Give Big Money In Traditionally Liberal Region (PHOTOS)


Even though the San Francisco Bay Area isn't exactly up for grabs in November, national candidates have been spending an awful lot of time here--and yes, that means candidates from both parties.

As the GOP parties it up (and stretches it out) in Tampa this week, a good amount of the money they're using to do it comes from an area much more associated with opening up its wallet to liberals than conservatives. (That's not including the approximately half of the $87 million American taxpayers will be "donating" to both conventions.)


While Obama has come into the Bay Area on a near monthly basis for over a year, Romney also hasn't been shy about heading out to the West Coast and bellying up to the spigot that's our seemingly endless outpouring of campaign cash.

When in town for a fundraising trip last month, the presidential nominee attended an exclusive luncheon at the Silicon Valley home of tech billionaire Tom Siebel with former GOP gubernatorial candidate/eBay CEO Meg Whitman and former Secretary of State George Shultz. The former Massachusetts governor then shuttled north into San Francisco proper for a shindig at the ritzy Fairmont Hotel hosted by former San Francisco Giants exec Peter Magowen and socialites Alexis and Trevor Traina.

On another fundraising trip earlier this summer, Romney made a surprise visit to the closed-down factory of failed solar panel manufacturer Solyndra, where he hammered Obama on his support of green energy programs like the one that gave the defunct company a $535 million loan guarantee from the federal government.

"[This is] a symbol of gross waste," Romeney told NBC Bay Area, while standing in front of the factory. "This is not the kind of building built by free enterprise, it's the kind of building built with half a billion dollars of taxpayer funds."

According to a report conducted by the Center for Investigative Reporting's indispensable California Watch, the single largest individual political donor over the past decade is Republican Stanford physicist Charles T. Munger, Jr.. He's given over $14 million to 25 candidates and 25 ballot measures, virtually all of which have ultimately come out victorious. That ability to pick winners could be chalked up to genetics: Munger is the son of Berkshire Hathaway vice-chairman Charles Munger, Sr. and brother to attorney Molly Munger, the public face behind a California ballot measure hiking taxes to pay for the state's struggling education system.

The next largest California GOP donor is Stockton real estate developer and San Diego Chargers owner Alex G. Spanos with just under $9 million, followed by investment honcho Charles Schwab at a little shy of $3 million.

These individual donors aren't the only big sources of Bay Area campaign cash for Republicans. There are also bundlers.

Bundlers are individuals who, in addition to contributing their own money, work to get their wealthy friends and co-workers to donate. Campaigns are only required to disclose bundles contributed by registered lobbyists; making bundlers public is up to the individual discretion of each campaign.

In 2008, Bay Area bundlers delivered between $2.3 million and $5 million to the campaign coffers of GOP nominee John McCain.

Romney, unlike his Democratic opponent, has refused to reveal the names of his bundlers this election cycle, leading the non-profit government transparency group to file a petition asking the campaign to reconsider its decision.

Combine this lack of disclosure with the realities of the post-Citizens United world of campaign finance, where super PACs aren't required to release the names of their donors, and it becomes infinitely more difficult to discern precisely who in the Bay Area is giving to the Romney campaign.

Californians have given the Romney-affiliated super PAC Restore Our Future $6 million and Karl Rove's American Crossroads super PAC $4.3 million.

Check out this slideshow of California's top individual campaign donors:

CA Top Individual Donors

HuffPost Live will be taking a comprehensive look at the corrupting influence of money on our politics Aug. 30 and Sept. 6 from 12-4 p.m. EDT and 6-10 p.m. EDT. Click here to check it out -- and join the conversation.