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Robert Reich

GOP's big investors: Who's really running for president?

A handful of billionaires are all but funding the GOP primaries. Never before have so few spent so much to influence so many.

By Guest blogger / February 22, 2012

Republican presidential candidates, from left, Gov. Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul take the stage for the January Fox News debate at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center in Myrtle Beach, S.C. in this file photo.

Janet Blackmon Morgan/AP/The Sun News/File

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Have you heard of William Dore, Foster Friess, Sheldon Adelson, Harold Simmons, Peter Thiel, or Bruce Kovner? If not, let me introduce them to you. They’re running for the Republican nomination for president.

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Robert is chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Clinton. Time Magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written 13 books, including “The Work of Nations,” his latest best-seller “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future," and a new e-book, “Beyond Outrage.” His new movie, "Inequality for All," is available on Netflix. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.

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I know, I know. You think Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Mitt Romney are running. They are – but only because the people listed in the first paragraph have given them huge sums of money to do so. In a sense, Santorum, Gingrich, Paul, and Romney are the fronts. Dore et al. are the real investors.

According to January’s Federal Election Commission report, William Dore and Foster Friess supplied more than three-fourths of the $2.1 million raked in by Rick Santorum’s super PAC in January. Dore, president of the Dore Energy Corporation in Lake Charles, Louisiana, gave $1 million; Freis, a fund manager based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, gave $669,000 (he had given the Santorum super PAC $331,000 last year, bringing Freis’s total to $1 million).

Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam provided $10 million of the $11 million that went into Gingrich’s super PAC in January. Adelson is chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation. Texas billionaire Harold Simmons donated $500,000.

Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, provided $1.7 million of the $2.4 million raised by Ron Paul’s super PAC in January.

Mitt Romney’s super PAC raised $6.6 million last month – almost all from just forty donors. Bruce Kovner, co-founder of the New York-based hedge fund Caxton Associates, gave $500,000, as did two others. David Tepper of Appaloosa Management gave $375,000. J.W. Marriott and Richard Marriott gave a total of $500,000. Julian Robertson, co-founder of hedge fund Tiger Management, gave $250,0000. Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman gave $100,000.

Bottom line: Whoever emerges as the GOP standard-bearer will be deeply indebted to a handful of people, each of whom will expect a good return on their investment.

And this is just the beginning. We haven’t even come to the general election.

Non-profit political fronts like “Crossroads GPS,” founded by Republican political guru Karl Rove, are already gathering hundreds of millions of dollars from big corporations and a few wealthy individuals like billionaire oil and petrochemical moguls David and Charles Koch. The public will never know who or what corporation gave what because, under IRS regulations, such non-profit “social welfare organizations” aren’t required to disclose the names of those who contributed to them.

And all this comes precisely at a time when an almost unprecedented share of the nation’s income and wealth is accumulating at the top.

Never before in the history of our Republic have so few spent so much to influence so many.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. This post originally ran on www.robertreich.org.

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