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25% of super PAC money coming from just 5 rich donors

Excerpt

The following ran in the Feb. 22, 2012, edition of USA Today. Political Scientist Cal Jillson provided expertise for this story.

March 5, 2012

By Fredreka Schouten, Gregory Korte and Christopher Schnaars, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Five wealthy people, led by Dallas industrialist Harold Simmons and Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, have donated nearly $1 of every $4 flowing to the super PACs raising unlimited money in this year's presidential race, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

Those donations have helped new Republican-leaning outside groups swamp Democratic-friendly super PACs in fundraising — money that is used largely for attack ads. The large sums also have rejuvenated the underfunded campaigns of principal challengers to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in the race for the Repulican nomination.

"Without the flow of super PAC money, the Republican race would be over," said Anthony Corrado, a campaign-finance expert at Colby College in Maine. "Super PACs have become a vehicle for a very small number of millionaires and billionaires who are willing to spend large sums in pursuit of their political agenda."

Simmons, a billionaire who pumped $3 million into "Swift Boat" ads in 2004 challenging Democrat John Kerry's Vietnam War record, is the largest super PAC donor of the 2012 election, the analysis shows.

He and his holding company, Contran, gave $12 million to American Crossroads, a super PAC affiliated with Republican strategist Karl Rove. He donated $2.2 million more to three super PACs supporting Republican presidential candidates. He did not respond to an interview request Tuesday....

Simmons, whose vast holdings include chemical plants and an East Texas nuclear-waste facility, and Perry, one of the nation's largest home builders, have different business interests but share common political views, said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and author of Lone Star Tarnished: A Critical Look at Texas Politics and Public Policy.

"They are extremely wealthy people who put their resources behind their vision of the appropriate relationship between the government and the private sector," Jillson said. "That vision is low taxes, small government and personal responsibility."...