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Fun Facts about Political Contributions

Updated on February 15, 2011

Where does the money come from?

Let's have fun with political contributions. Public information regulations stipulate that folks have access to who donated what to whom. Flyover people have a right to know, right?

Movie Stars

As Homer Simpson observed: "Movie stars! Is there anything they don't know?" They certainly know how to spread their cash.

Al Franken waged a protracted campaign for a Minnesota Senate seat in 2008. The Hon. Mr. Franken achieved fame and fortune as a writer and actor on Saturday Night Live, followed by a nationally syndicated radio show on (now bankrupt) Air America radio. He has 5 best-selling books to his credit. We can assume that name recognition wasn't a problem for his campaign, although he was born in New York and moved to Minnesota in 2005 shortly before initiating his run for Congress.

Mr. Franken called on his extensive contacts throughout Hollywood for funding assistance. The good people of Minnesota would be gratified to know that so many celebrities take an interest in Gopher State politics:

Selected Political Contributions to Al Franken

Dan Aykroyd
Dan Aykroyd
$2,300 X 2
George Clooney
$2,300 X 2
Robert Deniro
Michael J Fox
$2,300 X 2

US Attornies

Eric Holder was appointed by president Barack Hussein Obama as Attorney General of the United States. Before rising to that position, Mr. Holder served in the Clinton administration as a Deputy Attorney General. During the presidency of George W. Bush, Mr. Holder worked in private practice. He represented high profile clients such as the NFL and Chiquita. In 2007 Mr. Holder joined the Obama campaign team as a senior legal adviser.

Mr. Holder made political contributions to Democratic candidates in several states. Between 2004 and 2008 he sent money to Barbara Boxer (California), Steny Hoyer (Maryland), Mark Werner (Virginia), Al Franken (Minnesota), Edward Markey (also Maryland), Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island), Hillary Clinton (New York), Tom Lantos (California), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Tom Daschle (South Dakota), Kit Bond (Missouri), and Daniel K. Inouye (Hawaii). All contributions were between $250 and $1000 dollars.

Hollywood Icons

Barbara Streisand may not be as publicly visible as she once was, but she is still politically active. Since 1979 Ms. Streisand has contributed $682,275 to Democrat, Independent, and special interest political campaigns:

  • $612,375 Democrat,
  • $3,500 Independent, and
  • $66,400 special interest.

Ms. Streisand has certainly spread her wealth. Her generosity extends well beyond her home state of California:

  • Martha Coakley (Massachusetts) $1000
  • Howard Berman (California) $1000
  • Kirsten Gillibrand (New York) $1000
  • Paul Hodes (New Hampshire) $1000
  • Thomas Geoghegan (Illinois) $1000
  • Al Franken (Minnesota) $1000
  • Andrew Rice (Oklahoma) $1000
  • Scott Kleeb (Nebraska) $1000
  • Darcy Burner (Washington) $500
  • Hillary Clinton (New York) $2300
  • Tom Udall (New Mexico) $1000 X 2

Soft Money Political Contributions?

All money spends the same way, but US campaign law defines two different types of dollars. Soft money is donated to political parties. The other kind of money (not generally referred to as hard money) is donated directly to specific political candidates. These direct contributions are relatively limited. Candidates are permitted to accept checks of no more than $2300 from individual contributors. Soft money contributions, also called party building contributions, are not strictly regulated. The money may end up being distributed by the political party to specific candidates, but it is first filtered through the party machinery. Big spenders funnel big bucks to candidates and causes through soft money contributions.

For example, Sheldon Adelson graciously donated $30,400 to the Republican National Senatorial Committee in January of 2010. Mr.Adelson owns casinos in Las Vegas. In 2008, Boone Pickens, a highly visible 'oil man', donated $10,000 each to the Democratic parties of New Mexico, Georgia, and Colorado. In 2007 Mr. Pickens sent $28,500 to the Republican National Committee and $10,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Uber Dollars

Big political contributions come from big organizations. The following list details top contributors since 1989. Note that 7 of the top 10 are labor unions or trial lawyers. Note also the percentage of contributions directed to Republicans vs Democrats.

Top Contributors by total dollars since 1989

(click column header to sort results)
% Democrat  
% Republican  
AT&T Inc
American Fedn of State, County & Municipal Employees (Labor union)
National Assn of Realtors
Intl Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (Labor union)
Goldman Sachs
American Assn for Justice (Trial Lawyers Association)
National Education Assn (Teachers Union)
Laborers International Union of North America
Teamsters Union
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
Source: Center for Responsive Politics


Political contributions are fun to analyze. All information is publicly available.


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    • cjv123 profile image


      8 years ago from Michigan

      Wow! I'm going to bookmark this and refer to it often! This is chock full of excellent information! It disgusts me though - how much the special interest groups give to the Democrats - but it's a "need to know" kind of thing. Thanks for such a great Hub!

    • profile image 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for digging these up Nicomp. Like digging up the secrets that rule the world that no-one mentions! I'm sure the results would be surprising to some as they show how backers are not necessarily one-eyed supporters of either side of the fence.

    • nicomp profile imageAUTHOR

      nicomp really 

      8 years ago from Ohio, USA

      I think it's a good thing that individuals contribute money to candidates. It's an awesome thing that it's all public record. Except for the bundlers of course, which is a topic for another day.

      I'm a big fan of democracy; perhaps this hub has backfired on me. I simply wanted to illustrate how broad the support base can be for candidates that ostensibly represent a state or a district.

      I also wanted to dispose of the myth that 'big business' funds candidates. Given the volume of contributions from unions, obviously it's a combination of 'big business' and 'big labor'. It's also obvious that 'big labor' is in bed with the Democratic Party and 'big business' hedges their bets by splitting their donations almost straight down the middle.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      It's interesting but also depressing to realize how easily and even cheaply patronage can be purchased in our great country.

      Twas ever thus even tho capitalism, despite what some leaders profess, is still the greatest system in the world. Thank you, nicomp, for the exstensive research and eye-opening facts you presented.

    • nicomp profile imageAUTHOR

      nicomp really 

      8 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @greatAmerican : pretty much. :(

    • greatAmerican profile image


      8 years ago

      Sheila Soros and his ideology are definitely standing with our President on every decision..

      Donations,, just another word for bribe!

      Remember, 'everyone has his/her price'!

      We know what many Americans have for a price,,

      It is Called 'Freedom' for 'Welfare'!

      I think they sell out too cheaply!

      No Fun in that fact!

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 

      8 years ago

      I've been studying this, too. George Soros seems to have it figured out. I'm beginning to believe he's the shadow president.

    • Tom Whitworth profile image

      Tom Whitworth 

      8 years ago from Moundsville, WV


      Follow the money like the Nixon era. They hedge their bets on all available politicians. Some left wing loons like Streisand and Clooney are exclusively liberal. Al Franken as senator is as funny as when Pat Paulson ran for president!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Except Franken got elected and jokes on us.8(

    • breakfastpop profile image


      8 years ago

      Interesting hub chock full of just who supports what and whom.


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