Liberal Billionaires Spend Big to Influence Elections

Friday, 01 Nov 2013 01:42 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Groups tied to three of the nation's top liberal-leaning billionaires have spent more than $25 million this year alone to back progressive causes and candidates, just a year after liberals complained that wealthy Republicans were having too much influence over politics.

The progressive groups tied to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and California hedge fund investor Tom Steyer are showing a new trend among Democrats to accept outside money, reports Politico.

But the money is angering both campaign finance reformers and Republicans, who say the media and others hold wealthy Democratic donors to a different standard than Republicans.

Steyer's top adviser, Democratic strategist Chris Lehane, says more wealthy liberals are likely to spend money over the upcoming election cycle.

The liberal billionaires' funding is already making a difference in states like Virginia, where Bloomberg-backed Independence USA is expected to have spent $3 million in attack ads against Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli and state Sen. Mark Obenshain, the Republican candidate for attorney general.

Bloomberg's PAC has also spent $2.2 million against an Illinois candidate linked with the National Rifle Association earlier this year, and another $1 million to help Cory Booker win the special election to replace late Sen. Frank Lautenberg in New Jersey. Another $350,000 went out in an unsuccessful bid to keep two Colorado Democratic state lawmakers from losing recall elections over supporting gun control measures.

Steyer also put $1 million of his own money toward Democrat Ed Markey's special Senate race win in Massachusetts, saying primary opponent Rep. Stephen Lynch was not committed to the fight against climate change.

Zuckerberg, meanwhile, is funding, which has spent $15 million in the fight for comprehensive immigration reform, reports Politico.

The donations — from whichever side — mean elections are "becoming a parlor game that only millionaires and billionaires can play at, and frankly, the millionaires are getting less important," said election reform advocate Nick Nyhart, leader of the group Public Campaign.

"When politics is a proxy war for billionaires, you’ve lost democracy," Nyhart said.

Related Stories:
Facebook's Zuckerberg to Meet With GOP House Leaders
Billionaire Becomes Climate Change Radical

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