Two landmark 2010 court cases, Citizens United and SpeechNow.org, have moved us into brave new territory: corporations spending unlimited sums on politics - and, for the first time, disclosing it.
With Tuesday's release of Federal Election Commission reports, we now know how much they spent in 2011.
The disclosures are a disappointment to anyone expecting salacious, multimillion-dollar superPACs donations by well-known companies. Most companies that donated to superPACs, the independent groups that can take in unlimited contributions from nearly anywhere as long as they don't coordinate with candidates, were little-known firms, none were retail or consumer giants, and none gave over $1 million. They ranged from a lumber company in Edwardsville, Ill., to a real-estate company in Los Angeles to an international coal and petroleum-product shipping and processing company owned by a Koch brother.
But the superPACs are just getting started. The available data only reflects donations made through Dec. 31, 2011. Most superPACs activity has happened in the last month, and most superPACs didn't organize or hit full stride until the latter part of 2011, with the exception of the pro-Mitt-Romney group Restore Our Future, which raised over $12 million in the first half of the year.
In 2011 at least, the campaigns did more spending and fundraising than the superPACs did. Mitt Romney's campaign, for instance, raised $24.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2011, while Restore Our Future raised $17.9 million in quarters three and four combined.
The superPACs supporting Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Herman Cain reported taking no corporate donations before the start of 2012.
The top corporate superPACs donors in 2011 were:
Corporations could spend money on politics before superPACs existed - and, for a corporation that doesn't want its fingerprints on election activity, the old way is still the best. Corporations can give (as they could before) unlimited money to nonprofit groups filed under section 501(c)4. The effect, however, is limited: 501(c)4 groups are restricted to spending less than half of their money on electoral politics, left to use the rest of their donations (corporate and otherwise) on public issue-advocacy separate from candidate elections.
Now, with the new class of superPACs, corporations can get more bang for their political buck, and some of that corporate money spent on politics is visible.
Below are the full lists of corporate donors to the major superPACs that took them: the pro-Romney Restore Our Future, the pro-Rick-Santorum Red White and Blue Fund, and the pro-Perry Make Us Great Again.
Restore Our Future (supports Mitt Romney)
$7.37 million raised from corporations, out of $30.2 million raised in 2011
Rooney Holdings, Inc. - $1,000,000 Tulsa, Okla.
Eli Publishing Inc - $1,000,000 Provo, Utah
F8 LLC - $1,000,000 Provo, Utah
Oxbow Carbon, LLC - $750,000 West Palm Beach, Fla.
MBF Family Investments - $500,000 Miami, Fla.
W/F Investment Corp. - $275,000 Los Angeles, Calif.
The Villages of Lake Sumter, Inc. - $250,000 The Villages, Fla.
Glenbrook LLC - $250,000 Redwood City, Calif.
Melaleuca of Japan, Inc. - $250,000 Idaho Falls, Idaho
Melaleuca of Asia Ltd. Co. - $250,000 Idaho Falls, Idaho
Melaleuca of Southeast Asia, Inc. - $250,000 Idaho Falls, Idaho
Paumanok Partners LLC - $250,000 New Canaan, Conn.
Trott and Trott PC - $200,000 Farmington Hills, Mich.
Larry H. Miller Group of Companies - $100,000 Sandy, Utah
2GIG Technologies - $100,000 Lehi, Utah
Blue Ridge Capital LLC - $100,000 New York, N.Y.
The Rod and Leslie Aycox Foundation, In - $100,000 Alpharetta, Ga.
G. H. Palmer Associates - $100,000 Los Angeles, Calif.
Slocum and Associates - $100,000 Salt Lake City, Utah
Jet Set Sports Holdings, LP - $100,000 Far Hills, N.J.
B/E Aerospace, Inc. - $50,000 Wellington, Fla.
Sareli Investments, LLC - $50,000 Los Angeles, Calif.
EAM Services LLC - $50,000 Tarrytown, New York 10591
Pita Raleigh LLC - $50,000 Salisbury, N.C.
Suffolk Construction Company, Inc. - $35,000 Boston, Mass.
National Label Company - $27,500 Lafayette Hill, Pa.
Neal Communities Land Development, LLC - $25,000 Bradenton, Fla.
Klehr/Harrison/Harvey/Branzburg LLP - $25,000 Philadelphia, Pa.
Ballard Exploration Company, Inc. - $25,000 Houston, Texas
Spectrum Laboratory Products, Inc. - $25,000 Gardena, Calif.
Monterey Peninsula Surgery Center, LLC - $20,000 Monterey, Calif.
Building and Land Technology, Inc. - $10,000 Wilton, Conn.
Tamathli, McGriff Farm, Inc. - $10,000 Quitman, Ga.
Anesthesia Associates of Southern Illin - $10,000 Marion, Ill.
R.P. Lumber Co. Inc. - $10,000 Edwardsville, Ill.
Pacific Capital Group, Inc. - $7,500 Beverly Hills, Calif.
Acton Industrial Park - $5,000 Chatsworth, Calif.
M.C. Dean, Inc. - $5,000 Dulles, Va.
Northwest Business Park LLC - $5,000 Chatsworth, Calif.
Red White and Blue Fund (supports Rick Santorum) $35,000 raised from corporations, out of $730,000 raised in 2011
FSH Capital LLC - $20,000 Henderson, Nev.
Arrabon Management Services, LLC - $15,000 Santa Monica, Calif.
Make Us Great Again (supported Rick Perry) $2.4 million raised from corporations, out of $5.5 million raised in 2011
Contran Corporation - $1,000,000 Dallas, Texas
Friedkin Business Services - $500,000 Houston, Texas
Frontier Capital Group, LTD - $250,000 Dimmit, Texas
Chesapeake Energy - $125,000 Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (along with $125,000 from Chesapeake's federal PAC)
Schwertner Farms, Inc. - $100,000 Schwertner, Texas
SCI Executive Services, Inc. - $100,000 Houston, Texas
Heritage Bag Company - $100,000 Carrollton, Texas
Bar G Feedyard - $50,000 Hereford, Texas
Friedkin Business Services - $50,000 Houston, Texas
ALON USA, LP - $50,000 Dallas, Texas
Dean Cluck Feedyard, Inc. - $25,000 Gruver, Texas
RMB Inc. - $20,000 Austin, Texas
RobJon Holdings, LP - $10,0000 Houston, Texas
Brownco Capital LLC - $10,000 El Paso, Texas 79901
McCorvey Sheet Metal Works, L.P. - $7,000 Houston, Texas