Jewish donors prominent in presidential campaign contributions

Sheldon Adelson is biggest giver of all; Obama’s top two donors also Jewish

Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam. (Olivier Fitoussi /Flash90)
Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam. (Olivier Fitoussi /Flash90)

The biggest donor to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, and the two biggest donors to Barack Obama’s reelection bid, are all Jewish, contribution rankings published by the Associated Press on Friday show.

By far the largest declared donor overall is casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who is worth an estimated $25 billion. He has donated $34.2 million so far to aid Romney and organizations supporting the Republican challenger this election, the AP figures show.

President Obama’s top two donors are Jeffrey Katzenberg and Irwin Jacobs.

Those donors and others are funding a presidential election on track to cost nearly $2 billion, with money going toward individual Democratic and Republican campaigns as well as independent, “super” political action committees working on the campaigns’ behalf.

Big-dollar donors can have big influence. They are often invited to state dinners at the White House and other events with the president. They also may be asked to weigh in on public policy, especially if it affects their financial interests. And the ranks of ambassadors, advisory panels, and other government jobs traditionally are filled with those who have been generous during the campaign.

Here are the top five Obama donors:

No. 1: Jeffrey Katzenberg, 61, Hollywood film producer and chief executive of DreamWorks Animation.

Total donations: $2.566 million

Jeffrey Katzenberg (photo credit: CC BY jeffrey95112, Flickr)
Jeffrey Katzenberg (photo credit: CC BY jeffrey95112, Flickr)

Katzenberg is Obama’s top donor when tallying his contributions to a “super” political committee, money to Obama’s campaign, and the money he arranged for others to write for the president. The biggest contributions include $2 million to the Priorities USA Action super PAC. It was founded by former White House advisers and is the key pro-Obama PAC this election cycle. Katzenberg has helped “bundle” more than $500,000 for the president’s second term, making him among the campaign’s top volunteer fundraisers. He’s also given more than $66,000 to Obama’s campaign and the Democratic Party.

Katzenberg, who runs DreamWorks with fellow Jewish Hollywood titans Steven Spielberg and David Geffen, is also a major donor to Jewish philanthropies and organizations like the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

No. 2: Irwin Jacobs, 78, the founder and former chairman of Qualcomm.

Total: $2.122 million

Irwin Jacobs (photo credit: public domain via Wikimedia Commons)
Irwin Jacobs (photo credit: public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Jacobs has given more than $2 million to pro-Obama super PACs and about $23,000 directly to Obama’s campaign and the Democrats. But he’s no newcomer to political giving: The billionaire has routinely backed San Diego-area politicians.

Jacobs is a major donor to Jewish philanthropies in Southern California, and reportedly donated $24 million in 2009 alone to a fund managed by the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego.

No. 3 (tie): Fred Eychaner, founder of Chicago-based alternative-newspaper publisher Newsweb Corp.

Total: $2.066 million

Eychaner has given $1.5 million to the Priorities USA Action super PAC. He’s also given more than $60,000 to the president’s re-election committees, and he’s listed as a major “bundler” for Obama, having raised at least $500,000 for the president. Eychaner, a gay-rights activist, also has donated millions to other nonprofit groups, including more than $1 million to the progressive EMILY’s List organization.

No. 3 (tie): Jon Stryker, 54, a Michigan philanthropist.

Total: $2.066 million

Stryker has given $2 million to the Priorities USA Action super PAC and has given $66,000 in contributions to Obama and the Democratic Party. Stryker is the heir to namesake Stryker Corp., the major medical device and equipment manufacturer. Stryker has been active in politics before the 2012 election; he contributed millions to help Democratic candidates statewide. And he also has given nearly $250 million of his personal wealth to groups supporting gay rights and the conservation of apes.

No. 5: Steve Mostyn, 41, a Houston-based personal injury attorney.

Total: $2.003 million

Mostyn has given more than $2 million to the Priorities USA Action super PAC that’s helping Obama. Mostyn, the former head of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, is a major backer of Democratic candidates in the state. He’s also sunk cash into a Texas political committee that tried unsuccessfully to unseat Gov. Rick Perry two years ago.


Here are the top five Romney donors:

No. 1: Sheldon Adelson, 79, owner of the Las Vegas Sands casino empire.

Total: $34.2 million

Adelson is the largest declared donor to the Romney campaign and supporting political committees, providing more than $34.2 million this election season. He and his wife, Miriam, a physician, have given $10 million to Restore Our Future, a super PAC backing Romney. Adelson also joined relatives to give $24 million to committees backing former Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. And he has made public pledges vowing to give $10 million to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads super PAC and as much as $100 million this election more broadly to the Republicans.

Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam Ochshorn (photo credit: Miriam Alster/File/Flash90)
Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam Ochshorn (photo credit: Miriam Alster/File/Flash90)

Worth an estimated $25 billion, Adelson oversees the Las Vegas Sands Corp., which runs casino and resort interests in Las Vegas, Singapore, and Pennsylvania, and Sands China Ltd., a cluster of casinos in the Chinese territory of Macau.

A staunch supporter of Israel, he also is a contributor to the Republican Jewish Coalition, which spent $920,000 since 2002 backing bills aimed at pressuring Iran and enhancing U.S. security cooperation with Israel. In Israel, he owns the widely read, pro-Benjamin Netanyahu free daily paper Israel Hayom.

No. 2: Bob J. Perry, 80, head of a Houston real estate empire worth an estimated $650 million.

Total: $17.3 million

Perry had been at No. 3, after giving $15.3 million to aid the Romney campaign and allied causes so far this election season. But federal campaign figures released Friday showed a new $2 million donation to Restore Our Future in September, vaulting Perry into the No. 2 spot. Long active in Texas and national Republican politics, Perry has donated a total of $10.7 million to Restore Our Future and $6.5 million to American Crossroads. Before backing Romney this year, Perry gave $100,000 to the super PAC backing Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is no relation. Bob Perry was a top “bundler” for former President George W. Bush’s campaign.

No. 3: Harold Simmons, 81, owner of Contran Corp., a Dallas-based conglomerate worth an estimated $9 billion that specializes in metals and chemical production and waste management.

Total: $16.5 million

Simmons is a longtime backer of Republican and conservative causes. He has donated $16 million to the party’s efforts this year, including more than $11 million to American Crossroads and $1.3 million to Restore Our Future. Simmons and his wife, Annette, also gave $2.2 million to super PACs backing former Republican presidential candidates Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry.


No. 4: Robert Rowling, 58, head of Dallas-based TRT Holdings.

Total: $4.1 million

Rowling has given at least $4.1 million to Republican Party and candidates this election. Most of his $4 million in donations went to Rove’s American Crossroads, both through personal donations and through his firm. Rowling also has given $100,000 to the pro-Romney Restore Our Future super PAC. Rowling’s holdings are worth an estimated $4.8 billion and include Omni Hotels, Gold’s Gym and Tana Exploration, his family’s oil company. Rowling once told the Texas Tribune he prefers political donations to lobbying efforts.

No. 5: William Koch, 72, an industrialist whose South Florida-based energy and mining conglomerate is worth an estimated $4 billion.

Total: $4 million

Koch has given $4 million to Restore Our Future, including a $250,000 personal donation and $3.75 million through his corporation, Oxbow Carbon LLC, and a subsidiary, Huron Carbon. Unlike his brothers, Charles and David Koch, who are longtime supporters of Republican and conservative causes, Bill Koch has funded both Republican and Democratic Party candidates in the past.



These rankings by The Associated Press, based on campaign financial reports submitted to the Federal Election Commission, include contributions to super political action committees, presidential campaigns, political parties and joint-fundraising committees. Federal law limits maximum contributions to campaigns, parties and affiliated committees, but federal court rulings have stripped away such limits to super PACs. This analysis excludes secret-but-legal contributions that might have been made to nonprofit groups, which can pay for so-called issue ads that don’t explicitly advocate for or against a candidate. Such groups are not required to identify their donors.

Where available, the analysis considered donations “bundled,” or raised, from other wealthy donors for Romney and Obama. Obama periodically identifies his bundlers, although Romney has resisted calls to do the same.

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