In the heat of the 2020 Senate race, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina received a significant boost from a league of out-of-state billionaires, contributing to his campaign’s battle for reelection. This article sheds light on the prominent figures who rallied behind Graham, supporting his quest to retain his Senate seat and examining the financial dynamics that have come into play.
Lindsey Graham’s Battle and the Billionaire Backing
Locked in a tightly contested race, Lindsey Graham’s Senate seat hung in the balance. However, the tide turned as a group of wealthy individuals injected crucial funds into his campaign. This eleventh-hour support provided a lifeline to Graham’s campaign, bolstering his chances of victory in a crucial election.
A Glimpse into the Billionaire Contributors
Idaho’s Frank VanderSloot, with an estimated net worth of $3.5 billion, emerged as a key player, contributing a substantial $300,000 to the pro-Graham super-PAC named Security is Strength. The support didn’t stop there—Florida’s Laura Perlmutter, married to Marvel Comics magnate Ike Perlmutter, contributed $250,000. Sandwich mogul Jimmy John Liautaud from Florida also chipped in $150,000, while Jim Davis, the shoe tycoon from Massachusetts, made a $100,000 donation. This concerted effort saw eight billionaires and their spouses collectively contribute around $1.1 million within the initial weeks of October.
Unveiling the Financial Landscape
The financial landscape of this high-stakes campaign unveils intriguing insights. These billionaire contributions propelled the super-PAC’s total fundraising to a staggering $10.9 million since 2019’s inception. Surprisingly, 25% of these funds originated from billionaires who aren’t South Carolina residents. Among these contributors, Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate, and his wife Miriam stand out, having each donated $500,000 in July 2019.
Contrasting Campaign Contributions
While super-PACs like Security is Strength can raise unlimited funds to support specific candidates, campaigns themselves are subjected to stricter donation limits. The contrast becomes evident as Graham’s campaign, which has directly raised $69.7 million, falls significantly short of his Democratic opponent Jaime Harrison’s impressive $109 million direct contributions.
The Counterbalancing Billionaire Backing
On the opposing side, Jaime Harrison’s campaign also enjoys significant billionaire support. The LMG (Lindsey Must Go) super-PAC, an anti-Graham initiative, has raked in $3.8 million, with 39% of that sum contributed by a single figure—John Pritzker, the heir to Hyatt Hotels, hailing from San Francisco. Hollywood producer David Geffen and Sue Mandel, wife of hedge fund magnate Stephen Mandel Jr., also lent their support to Harrison’s cause.
Spotlight on the Billionaire Donors
Here’s a closer look at the billionaire donors who played a pivotal role in supporting Lindsey Graham’s super-PAC, as per the FEC filings till October 14:
- Sheldon & Miriam Adelson, net worth: $31.4 billion, source of wealth: Casinos, residence: Las Vegas
- Frank VanderSloot, net worth: $3.5 billion, source of wealth: Nutrition, wellness products, residence: Idaho Falls, Idaho
- Larry Ellison, net worth: $74.2 billion, source of wealth: Software (Oracle), residence: Woodside, California
- Donald Friese, net worth: $1.1 billion, source of wealth: Manufacturing, residence: Los Angeles
- Laura Perlmutter, spouse’s net worth: $4.6 billion, source of wealth: Marvel Comics, residence: Palm Beach, Florida
- Jimmy John Liautaud, net worth: $1.7 billion, source of wealth: Sandwich chain (Jimmy John’s), residence: Key Largo, Florida
- Charles & Ann Johnson, net worth: $4.1 billion, source of wealth: Money management, residence: Palm Beach, Florida
- Jim Davis, net worth: $6.9 billion, source of wealth: New Balance, residence: Newton, Massachusetts
- Douglas Leone, net worth: $4.9 billion, source of wealth: Venture capital (Sequoia Capital), residence: Atherton, California
- Warren Stephens, net worth: $2.6 billion, source of wealth: Investment banking, residence: Little Rock, Arkansas
- Linda McMahon, spouse’s net worth: $1.6 billion, source of wealth: Entertainment (WWE), residence: Greenwich, Connecticut
- Sam Zell, net worth: $4.6 billion, source of wealth: Real estate, private equity, residence: Chicago
- John Catsimatidis, net worth: $2.8 billion, source of wealth: Oil, real estate, residence: New York
An Exploration of Campaign Financing
The dynamics of campaign financing play a pivotal role in shaping election outcomes. In Graham’s case, the influx of support from wealthy donors underscores the influence of super-PACs. These financial injections not only provide candidates with a financial edge but also raise questions about the transparency of “dark money” groups funneling funds without revealing their sources.
Conclusion: The Role of Billionaires in Political Landscapes
The 2020 Senate race illuminated the role of billionaires in political landscapes. The surge of support for Lindsey Graham’s campaign highlights how influential individuals can sway election dynamics. As financial prowess converges with political aspirations, the complex relationship between money and democracy becomes ever more evident.