Secret Funders Join the Party

Presidential hopefuls and party leaders will start courting these benefactors
Illustration by Lorin Brown

In 2015 presidential hopefuls will court high-profile billionaires such as Sheldon Adelson, the Koch brothers, and Tom Steyer. But there’s another, less well-known group of wealthy people ready to give.

Joe Ricketts (R)
Net worth: $1.6 billion
How he made it: Founded TD Ameritrade
How he gives: $4.7 million to conservative super PACs in 2014, including his Ending Spending Action Fund
Why he matters: Ending Spending bundled more than $20 million for the midterms, and it will be a force in 2016.

Laurene Powell Jobs (D)
Net worth: $16.5 billion
How she made it: Widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs
How she gives: $100,000 to a Maryland ballot initiative in 2012
Why she matters: She gave $500,000 to the Democratic Senate Majority PAC and $25,000 to the Ready for Hillary committee in 2014.

Linda McMahon (R)
Net worth: Unknown
How she made it: Former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment
How she gives: $100 million on her two failed Senate bids in Connecticut
Why she matters: She’s giving to other candidates, including $3 million in 2014.

Alice Walton (D)
Net worth: $35 billion
How she made it: Daughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton
How she gives: $1.7 million to support a 2012 charter-school measure in Washington state
Why she matters: She gave $25,000 to Ready for Hillary in 2013.

Peter Thiel (R)
Net worth: $2.7 billion
How he made it: Co-founded PayPal
How he gives: $2 million to the Club for Growth Action super PAC in 2012
Why he matters: He gave $2.6 million to a super PAC that supported Rand Paul’s father, Ron, in his 2012 presidential bid.

Amber and Steve Mostyn (D)
Net worth: Unknown
How they made it: Representing plaintiffs in hurricane-insurance settlements
How they give: $3 million to Wendy Davis’s Texas gubernatorial run in 2014
Why they matter: They’re founding members of the Ready for Hillary national finance council.

Ken Griffin (R)
Net worth: $5.8 billion
How he made it: Founded Citadel hedge fund
How he gives: $1.55 million to Mitt Romney’s Restore Our Future super PAC in 2011 and 2012
Why he matters: In 2014, Griffin gave six-figure donations to five GOP super PACs, including $950,000 to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads.

James Simons (D)
Net worth: $15.5 billion
How he made it: Founded Renaissance Technologies hedge fund
How he gives: $4 million in 2012 to pro-Obama Priorities USA
Why he matters: He gave $3 million to the Democrats’ House and Senate PACs in 2014.

Larry Ellison (R)
Net worth: $43 billion
How he made it: Co-founded Oracle
How he gives: $3 million to Restore Our Future in 2012
Why he matters: In October he hosted a fundraiser at his home for the National Republican Senatorial Committee featuring Rand Paul.

Warren Buffett (D)
Net worth: $69 billion
How he made it: Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway
How he gives: $200,000 to Nebraska’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2014
Why he matters: His unprecedented involvement in Nebraska may signal a willingness to become a political power after years of refusing to give to campaigns.

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