For decades, the Democratic Party has positioned itself as the home of working-class Americans, the champions of organized labor, and even elevated self-described socialists like Bernie Sanders to positions of influence and power.
However, a closer examination of campaign finance filings reveals that the Democratic Party is also the home to another, lesser touted constituency: billionaires.
Political contributions from billionaires represent 15% of the total contributions made for the recent midterm elections, which is up 11% from the previous national election. In fact, since the United States Supreme Court’s landmark 2010 campaign finance ruling in Citizens United, the share of contributions from billionaires has been steadily increasing.
At the time of the Supreme Court’s ruling, political contributions from billionaires only represented about 3% of all such donations.
And while Democrats have long vilified wealthy Americans, there is no shortage of so-called “megadonor” billionaires putting their money where their politics are and supporting left-leaning candidates and causes.
When President Joe Biden floated an extravagant trillion-dollar spending plan, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren used the opportunity to criticize the wealthiest Americans, accusing them of not paying their fair share into the system.
When asked how Biden would fund his ambitious proposal, Warren remarked, “The money is going to come from the billionaires who don’t pay their taxes and therefore have enough money to shoot themselves into space.”
The jab was likely aimed at billionaire Jeff Bezos, who flew to the edge of space in a rocket built by one of his companies, Blue Horizon.
And this was not the first time Warren had waded into these class issues. At a 2019 political rally where she laid out her plan for a so-called “wealth tax,” an animated crowd chanted, “Eat the rich,” sparking a widespread social media phenomenon among the nation’s liberal elements.
During the recent midterm election, the largest political donor in the country was billionaire George Soros who pumped over $128 million into his super PAC that exclusively supports Democratic candidates.
And before billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried made headlines for the collapse of his cryptocurrency exchange FTX, he was among the nation’s top political donors, giving nearly $40 million to Democrats during the 2022 midterm cycle.
In 2020, billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, spent $1.2 billion dollars on political contributions. While most of that expense was on his failed run for the presidency, about $150 million of it went to Democratic candidates and entities.
Bloomberg decreased his Democratic political contributions in 2022 to only $28 million.
Billionaire Tom Steyer also spent big money in 2020, coming in at just under $415 million. Like Bloomberg, the lion’s share also went to his own failed run for president, but about $73 million went to left-leaning causes.
Tech billionaires are no different. In 2020, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife donated over $50 million to support a pro-Biden super PAC, up from contributions of $27 million in 2016.
Data shows that after Citizens United in 2010, Republicans enjoyed an early lead with contributions from billionaires. However, by 2014 Democrats hauled in over 63% more than Republicans from billionaires.
Since then, both parties have been engaged in an arms race among the nation’s wealthiest individuals.
At a rally in Philadelphia two days before the midterm elections, Sen. Bernie Sanders told a crowd, “Billionaires are saying, ‘Hey, we own the country, we may as well own the political system, and I’m going to elect you and I’m going to defeat you.’”
“That ain’t democracy; that’s oligarchy,” decried Sanders.
The political rhetoric of progressive Democrats like Warren and Sanders, and their supporters, stands in strong contrast with the ample financial support billionaires provide their party and ideologically-aligned entities.
For now, this uncomfortable reality persists. But time will tell if Democrats can continue to be the party of “eat the rich” and for the rich.