The 2016 election cycle, referred to in some corners as “toxic” and a “nightmare,” has undoubtedly made many Americans want to run and hide.
And while many of the Wealthiest Angelenos have kept their powder dry so far this campaign season, several are playing an active role, writing checks to candidates, hosting fundraisers, and giving to super PACs.
As usual, the biggest spender of the bunch appears to be perennial Democratic booster Haim Saban (No. 13, $4.1 billion). The chairman and chief executive of Saban Capital Group gave nearly $500,000 between Jan. 1, 2015, and April 25, 2016, to support state party committees and candidates such as Hillary Clinton, according to the Federal Election Commission. He also threw in an additional $2.5 million to Priorities USA Action, a super PAC supporting Clinton.
Joining the ranks of the big donors was DreamWorks Animation Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg (No. 37, $1.55 billion), who has donated nearly $430,000 to Democratic candidates as well as $1 million to Priorities USA Action, according to the FEC.
Former Facebook Inc. President Sean Parker (No. 4, $7.1 billion) has also contributed heavily, though his money is split between a slew of Democratic candidates, including Clinton, and a few Republicans, such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch. He also gave $200,000 to Defending Main Street, a super PAC supporting moderate Republican candidates. Noted GOP backer and Daily Journal Corp. Chairman Charles Munger (No. 47, $1.24 billion) gave $400,000 to a super PAC supporting Carly Fiorina’s ill-fated presidential campaign.
Still, many have chosen to take a backseat thus far, for a variety of reasons.
Public records show that one-third of the region’s richest residents did not give to any federal candidates and of the 50 wealthiest 11 gave less than $10,000 since January 2015.
Local politicians got even less attention: Just 15 of the 50 wealthiest gave to L.A. electeds.
Some billionaires have been waiting for the chaos of primary season to die down and the candidate landscape to clear up. Others don’t see any candidates they like and have been put off by the bombastic back and forth in this year’s campaign. Still others are shunning the spotlight of direct contributions and instead plowing their donations into super PACs and other nonprofits.
Whatever the reason, the dip in political giving has been noticed.
“I’ve actually seen a drop-off in donations this year compared to the last two presidential campaign years,” said Brent Kessel, chief executive of Santa Monica financial advisory firm Abacus Wealth Partners, whose clients have a net worth of from $10 million to $200 million.
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