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:
- Contran Corp. – $1 million to pro-Rick-Perry Make Us Great Again – Founded in Dallas in 1944, Contran manufactures and sells pigments in North America and Europe, according to its investor listing at Businessweek. It is chaired by Harold Simmons, who, after his companies’ donations to Make Us Great Again in the fall, would donate $500,000 to the pro-Newt-Gingrich superPACs Winning Our Future on Dec. 15.
- Rooney Holdings – $1 million to pro-Romney Restore Our Future — Formed in 1984 to acquire other companies, most notably Manhattan Construction, Rooney Holdings is chaired by Francis Rooney, former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See from 2005 – 2008.
- F8 LLC and Eli Publishing – $1 million each to pro-Romney Restore Our Future – Two Utah-based corporations connected to Steven J. Lund, formerly the president and CEO of skin-care company Nu Skin Enterprises. In August, Lund told a local Fox affiliate that he founded Eli Publishing in order to publish a book years ago and made his donation through the for accounting purposes. The two business share an office address in Provo, Utah, but when the Fox affiliate paid a visit, it found “only an accounting firm whose employees weren’t aware of the companies’ activities.” The Center for Responsive Politics identified the registered agent for F8, as listed on its incorporation filing with the Utah Secretary of State, as Lund’s son in-law.
- Oxbow Carbon – $750,000 to pro-Romney Restore Our Future – The Florida-based corporation supplies coal and petroleum logistics services around the world. It ships petroleum coke, refines coal, and mines. It’s owned by William Koch, who sold out of the Koch family fortune along with his brother Fred in 1983 for $1.3 billion and is rated by Forbes as the 81st wealthiest American. (David and Charles Koch get most of the attention in political circles as the renowned “Koch brothers.”) William has given money to both Republicans and Democrats over the years: He donated to the Democratic National Committee in the 2000 election year, to Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign in 1999, and to Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign. Koch himself also personally gave $250,000 to Restore Our Future.
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
Eli Publishing Inc – $1,000,000
F8 LLC – $1,000,000
Oxbow Carbon, LLC – $750,000
West Palm Beach, Fla.
MBF Family Investments – $500,000
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
2GIG Technologies – $100,000
Blue Ridge Capital LLC – $100,000
New York, N.Y.
The Rod and Leslie Aycox Foundation, In – $100,000
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
Sareli Investments, LLC – $50,000
Los Angeles, Calif.
EAM Services LLC – $50,000
Tarrytown, New York 10591
Pita Raleigh LLC – $50,000
Suffolk Construction Company, Inc. – $35,000
National Label Company – $27,500
Lafayette Hill, Pa.
Neal Communities Land Development, LLC – $25,000
Klehr/Harrison/Harvey/Branzburg LLP – $25,000
Ballard Exploration Company, Inc. – $25,000
Spectrum Laboratory Products, Inc. – $25,000
Monterey Peninsula Surgery Center, LLC – $20,000
Building and Land Technology, Inc. – $10,000
Tamathli, McGriff Farm, Inc. – $10,000
Anesthesia Associates of Southern Illin – $10,000
R.P. Lumber Co. Inc. – $10,000
Pacific Capital Group, Inc. – $7,500
Beverly Hills, Calif.
Acton Industrial Park – $5,000
M.C. Dean, Inc. – $5,000
Northwest Business Park LLC – $5,000
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
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
Friedkin Business Services – $500,000
Frontier Capital Group, LTD – $250,000
Chesapeake Energy – $125,000
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
(along with $125,000 from Chesapeake’s federal PAC)
Schwertner Farms, Inc. – $100,000
SCI Executive Services, Inc. – $100,000
Heritage Bag Company – $100,000
Bar G Feedyard – $50,000
Friedkin Business Services – $50,000
ALON USA, LP – $50,000
Dean Cluck Feedyard, Inc. – $25,000
RMB Inc. – $20,000
RobJon Holdings, LP – $10,0000
Brownco Capital LLC – $10,000
El Paso, Texas 79901
McCorvey Sheet Metal Works, L.P. – $7,000