POLITICS
01/20/2015 05:47 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Trail To The Chief: Dirty Dozen Donor Edition



The Dirty Dozen Donor Edition


Our inaugural Trail to the Chief ranked presidential candidates. Now we’re free to focus on the real stars of the 2016 race: billionaires.

Five years ago this week, the U.S. Supreme Court built a pipeline for the Biggest Boys to pour their cash directly into campaigns. Now these guys are standing at their spigots, having their rings (or other parts) kissed by would-be presidents eager to fill their campaign tanks at a single stop.

For the candidates, it’s less messy and time-consuming. Why bother with thousands of donors or hundreds of bundlers? It is easier to sell yourself wholesale, and in bulk. And it is so much more efficient for the ridiculously rich to purchase an entire candidate, rather than just one or two of his or her issue positions.

Not that a brazenly beneficent billionaire alone can make you president. In 2012, the Biggest Money could only keep you on life support long after your candidacy was dead (read: Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum). These were the “zombie” candidates, and they were annoying.

Still, a sugar daddy or two can turn the improbable or the obscure into the impossible-to-ignore, especially early on (read: Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum). In a long and crowded Republican race (estimated MSRP for a nicely equipped campaign: $500 million), a billionaire has become indispensable. More than one is nice, if you can manage it.

On the Democratic side, the calculus is the reverse. Hillary Clinton’s aim (and that of her wealthy buddies) is to make sure that no would-be primary challenger can latch onto a billionaire of his or her own. Hillary wants -- and needs -- them ALL for herself. That could ultimately present another novel problem: keeping peace among the big-ego control freaks of big money.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the Hamlet of the Hub, doesn’t seem to want a billionaire, which is lucky for Hillary, until someone such as Warren proves that it is not: That is, until this whole mess of money madness is hosed off the streets by a new era of reform.

But, hey, this is America, where talk is cheap but TV time is expensive. With guidance from Paul Blumenthal, HuffPost's unparalleled expert on campaign finance, we offer this Dirty Dozen list of some of the most powerful (i.e. loaded and connected and, in most cases, still available) Bigs:

RANK DONOR PARTY LIKELY TO BACK
1 DAVID AND CHARLES KOCH
Need we say more? Stayed out of 2012 primary, but they love Scott Walker’s anti-union populism
Republican Scott Walker
2 SHELDON ADELSON
Can he find someone even more likely to waste his money than Newt? Shows clout by getting Christie’s apology
Republican Benjamin Netanyahu
3 PAUL SINGER
Trying to make Argentina cry billions for him; pro-gay marriage vulture Wall Street investor
Republican Bush/Romney/Christie
4 HAIM SABAN
Pro-Israel Mighty Morphin’ Power Ranger says he’ll spend “whatever it takes” for Hillary
Democrat Hillary Clinton
5 KEN LANGONE
Tough Home Depot founder said to have taken down Eliot Spitzer. You got a problem with that?
Republican Chris Christie
6 JOE RICKETTS
Family owns the Chicago Cubs, therefore he's used to losing; he’s loaded and earnest
Republican Up for grabs
7 TOM STEYER
Top super PAC donor in 2014 might try to eliminate the middle man by buying himself CA Senate seat
Democrat Himself
8 FOSTER FRIESS
Cowboy stock picker already breaking out the sweater vest for Santorum 2016 events -- the very definition of optimism
Republican Rick Santorum
9 JEFFREY KATZENBERG
Master Hollywood bundler was ready for Hillary before there was a Ready for Hillary
Democrat Hillary Clinton
10 BOB MERCER
We don’t know anything, let alone anything funny, about this Club for Growth superquant
Republican Rand Paul/ Ted Cruz
11 MIKE BLOOMBERG
$33 billion wildcard could back Hillary, establishment Republican or … himself
Independent Wildcard
12 LEW EISENBERG
Played by the book (Goldman, KKR, own PE firm) and now taking Republican RNC Finance Chairman spot to avoid making a (i.e. any) choice
Republican Republican nominee

Donor Photos: Getty, Associated Press

CORRECTIONS: We originally misidentified Tom Steyer as a Republican; he is a Democrat. The chart has also been updated to indicate that Joe Ricketts' family owns the Chicago Cubs; his children are those principally involved with the team.

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