- Since the Citizens United decision, companies have been able to donate millions of unregulated dollars to political causes as a form of protected free speech.
- Behind many of the largest corporate contributions are influential CEOs on the left and the right, such as Sheldon Adelson and Tom Steyer, who hope that in exchange Congress will work to push their political agendas.
- Here are 10 companies that are influencing politics by donating huge amounts of money to political groups in 2018.
However, the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision declared that spending money on political causes qualified as free speech protected by the First Amendment. The decision opened the door for unlimited political expenditures by corporations and unions (provided that they weren’t giving money to campaigns directly).
Campaign contributions directly to political candidates are limited for individuals and companies alike. But since 2010, companies can pour millions of unregulated and uncapped “soft money” into independent Super Political Action Committees (PACs) to influence the outcomes of federal elections without contributing to an individual candidate.
Unlike regular PACs, which can only accept contributions of up to $5,000 from individuals and nothing from unions and corporations, Super PACs can accept “dark money” from donors that shield their identities through shell corporations and political nonprofits who don’t have to reveal their donors.
Open Secrets has compiled a list of the largest organizational political contributors to Democratic and Republican or liberal and conservative outside groups. (We’ve excluded unions and nonprofits, which are also on the list.) The totals include political donations by employees of the companies, their PACs, and their treasuries.
Here are the top 10 corporate contributors so far in the 2018 election cycle.
Las Vegas Sands
When you combine the money contributed by Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands casino (almost $28 million) and the nonprofit Adelson Clinic for Drug Abuse Treatment and Research ($27 million) run by his wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson, their $55.7 million in campaign contributions for the 2018 cycle alone makes the Adelson family one of the biggest political donors.
According to Bloomberg, Sheldon Adelson has contributed over $200 million to conservative candidates and causes in recent years.
The Uline Corporation, run by Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein, sells office supplies through a thick catalog, the print version of which includes conservative political commentary from Elizabeth Uihlein, according to Politico.
Uline has donated $31.7 million so far in 2018, more than it spent for the 2016 cycle, according to Open Secrets. The vast majority of that money went to Republicans. Their soft money donations have soared since the Citizens United decision in 2010.