Money And Trust

A number of people who regularly comment on this blog have repeatedly expressed contempt for the very wealthy CEOs who exercise disproportionate power in our current political environment. I share their disapproval of the systemic flaws that facilitate that influence, but I am unwilling to throw all rich people into the “deplorable” basket.

Just like all minority groups–blacks, Jews, Muslims, LGBTQ folks–the rich are a mixed lot, so I was interested to see a MarketWatch report that looked at personal political contributions by the nation’s CEOs. 

Let me concede right now that the observation I’m about to share is probably unfair. But I’ll share it anyway: the corporate executives that I have previously thought to be honorable have been giving to Democrats during this election cycle. Those who’ve been demonstrably less-than-upright tend to be found in the “donating to Republicans” column.

Warren Buffett gave 100% of his donations to Democrats; Timothy Sloan–who heads up scandal-ridden Wells Fargo–gave to Republicans.

Tim Cook of Apple made only one contribution, to a Democratic candidate for Congress. Jamie Diamond of JPMorgan also made only one contribution–to Orrin Hatch.

I am compelled to admit that the totals donated do tend to support the previously-referenced expressions of contempt for America’s plutocrats. These particular CEOs gave 2,632,234 to Democrats, and a whopping 7,438,781 to Trump’s GOP.

MarketWatch’s analysis found that among the CEOs who did contribute to party-affiliated committees, nearly all leaned heavily blue or red, with few donating equally to the two main parties. More than 84% of the 261 CEOs who contributed to partisan committees donated 70% or more of their money to one party or the other. And about 100 of the CEOs spent above the median amount and contributed 75% of their money to one party.

The behavior of these executives when they are spending their own money is interesting, because corporate PACs mostly spread their money around, presumably in an effort to buy influence on both sides of the political aisle. The study by MarketWatch found that executives within the “corporate elite” tend to donate their personal funds based on ideology rather than strategy.

The chart accompanying the article is interesting. I am not familiar with most of the corporations listed, but I have a very good impression of Salesforce, a company which has become one of Indianapolis’ best corporate citizens since locating here a few years ago. And I’ve upgraded my impression of Netflix…

In the 2018 election cycle, two Silicon Valley bosses — Netflix Inc.’s NFLX, +2.43% Reed Hastings and Inc.CRM, +1.46% co-CEO Marc Benioff — stand out for contributing only to individual Democratic candidates’ committees or groups tied to the Democratic Party, as shown in our chart, which is based on itemized filings with the Federal Election Commission. Hastings donated $571,600, making him the biggest spender among partisan outliers who favor Democrats, while Benioff gave $188,900. The chart shows the CEOs who were both the most partisan in their outlays and contributed the most money overall (more than $90,000 in partisan donations). Netflix and Salesforce declined to comment.

“A lot of the immigration concerns that tech companies have are going to push them in the direction of supporting Democrats,” said Sarah Bryner, research director for the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign-finance watchdog. “They’re worried about their employee base.” Tech companies, which often employ highly skilled newcomers to the U.S., have voiced opposition to the GOP’s efforts to restrict immigration.

Or maybe they are just appalled by Trump and his takeover of the GOP.

As I say, probably not a totally fair analysis of this particular data. But interesting.


  1. I couldn’t believe how PACs operated influencing candidates for their own companies. It seems some politicians seem more important than others and CEOs strategically try to have one man they can count on to vote their way.

  2. Nice try, but the question is, “Why aren’t these plutocrats giving to progressive causes which advance the interests of the people versus the interests of the plutocrats?”

    We all know the answer to that. What I find interesting is George Soros does and he is demonized by the right but not defended by the plutocrats. 😉

    We don’t have a democracy…university studies have reached this conclusion time after time after time. Intellectuals have reached this conclusion as well. Based on a closer look at the inception of our constitution and its formative years, I’m not sure we ever had a representative republic based on democratic principles.

    I know one thing, there were opportunities in this country when FDR was elected, but those have forever been shut down to ensure that near fatal mistake never happened again. And it hasn’t.

    As the country slides deeper and deeper into an Oligarchic mess, the “political spectrum” has slid to the right so far the democratic party (DNC) is nothing more than an obstructionist tool to prevent the people from rising from the left.

    We saw this play out in 2016 which has caused the idiots from the Establishment’s left flank to over utilize the Russia strategy. They are even talking about a Hillary Clinton run for the presidency which will ensure another four years for Trump.

    What saddens me are the “intellectuals” from our universities are falling for this nonsense because they enjoy their rank in society. There was a day our institutions of higher learning worked for the greater good, but even Albert Einstein saw through that facade.

    One has to ask why the State of Indiana via Gannett newspapers promotes the Libertarian thoughts of Michael Hicks on all matters and policies. Let’s be clear, UnKoch My Campus has limited resources so for them to speak out at Ball State’s board meetings says much. A board selected by the Governor. 😉

    Not all Oligarchs are bad, but all Oligarchs want the systems to remain which line their pockets with gold and don’t use their gold to show the people there is a better way for them.

    It defies human nature for them to work against their interests for the sake of others. Selfless acts only come from the Divine…not Ego.

  3. Just took a quick look at the Market Watch report. Had to get to the 107th name of donors before I saw a woman’s name. There is perhaps more to this report than was intended.

  4. “We’ve got to be as clear-headed about human beings as possible, because we are still each other’s only hope.” James Baldwin

  5. The FEC doesn’t report on those who donate to super-pacs, which then donate mostly to Republicans. Why not? It’s not required that the super-pacs list their donors. That needs to change.


  6. Todd sums it up correctly. Oligarchs support those they perceive to be in favor of their own interests, while we the confused and propagandized frequently vote for their and not our own interests as well, but this is nothing new. Consider Southern cotton growers and Yankee shipbuilders and their narrow interests who got together and gave us a Constitution prior to the Civil War (though English-hulled ships were necessary to transport slave-picked cotton from the South to the looms of Leeds and Manchester prior to the Revolution).

    Thus we should not be further confused today in thinking those who contribute to Democrats are champions of the common good; that’s not the way things work, and never has been, from the agoras in Athens to the hordes of lobbyists today who are working for their clients’ common good which, coincidentally, may be aligned with the common good or in contravention of the common good (e.g., the recently passed Trump-Ryan tax bill allegedly passed as a tax reduction for ordinary Americans but which was transparently designed to further enrich the already rich). The old saws that things aren’t what they seem and that you can’t tell a book by its cover have application in this connection where Republicans under Trump have openly and nakedly sold out to the plutocracy in return for the wherewithal to stay in office, thus rendering the common good a mirage. We can repudiate such Second Gilded Age of corruption if sufficiently enraged to vote through voter suppression and gerrymandering to elect Democratic reformists November 6, so let’s do it.

  7. CITIZENS UNITED V. FEC gives these guys carte blanche, and as Peggy says, they are not required to list to whom and how much they donate.

    On the day that Barack Obama was inaugurated the first time, the Koch brothers held a secret star chamber gathering in Palm Springs to evoke a pledge by the billionaires present to never, ever support Obama on anything and to give as much money as possible to Republicans. They followed the Lewis Powell script to the letter.

    So, what isn’t mentioned here is that there is evil intent among the right-wing oligarchs. It’s not evil in the sense of conjuring up Satan, but evil in its insidious attack on democracy. Then, that’s what right-wing politics has always been about: Pander to the stockholders and private income without regard for those who are making them rich. Their Achilles heel is that they think the golden goose will keep laying those shiny eggs forever.

  8. Democracy can be messy. Worse yet, a democratic republic. Poop can be dropped so deep in the corners, a broom just makes it messier. On the other hand, I have lived and worked in countries with far less access to opportunity and tranquility much less freedom to even have this conversation. We can do better and we still have a chance. Get out the vote. Vote for Constitutional intent and integrity. But vote!

  9. Clearly politics are complicated and the more, and more influential, special interests become the more difficult it is to untangle.

    I believe that much dysfunction would go away if we had a simple law that said all Federal election campaign advertising would be by the Federal Government according to an algorithm based on office sought. Period.

    That would rid the system of the dysfunctional part of both national committees who have become advertising agencies like the NRA and fake news entertainment media, and put candidates on a level playing field AND rid the airways of mega hours of noxious advertising as well as allowing regulation requiring truth whole and nothing but in what could be claimed – more about each candidates qualifications and less about their opposition.

    That’s lots of birds with one stone.

  10. Vernon Turner does a service for those of us with bad memories. Ten years ago, the Koch Brothers did indeed declare they would do everything they could to keep Obama from accomplishing anything. What I remember is that their spokesman was Senator Mitch McConnell would do everything in his power to throttle Obama. And my guess is that he took great pride in doing nothing for 8 years.

    It might be very interesting to make a list of all of McConnell’s accomplishments while Obama was President. It surely can’t take more than a half sheet of paper.

  11. Paul and Vernon; I keep seeing those who say Trump is not the problem, which is a half truth. The Republican Congress (privately owned and operated) prevented President Obama from accomplishing almost half of his set goals and campaign promises. They have pushed Trump forward, far beyond even his expectation of unlimited power; supporting and encouraging his unstable actions, endangering this country and those in other nations as he manages to come up decisions with dire consequences…including a looming nuclear war. This is the reason the November 6th mid-term election is vital; as President Obama said recently, it is the most important election in many years. He also spoke of the candidates; telling us, “Don’t be looking for a Messiah.”

    When the “Money And Trust” faction has pushed us to the limit of humanity and common decency; bankrupting those whose physical labors and tax dollars support them, who will be left to turn to for their financial support? Who will be left to fight their wars?


  12. Back in late late 2015, I read an article that blew apart the “so called” good plutocrats vs the bad plutocrats.

    Some plutocrats were considered “Liberal” because they supported gay rights, women’s rights or human rights to a narrow degree and donated to democrats. Their own corporate agenda of capitalism was masked, by a veneer of social liberalism, but they were all on board against any hint of the economic class warfare that has taken place for roughly 50 years, i.e., the 1% vs the Proles.

    Others like the Koch Brothers had a non social political agenda, it was all about using their wealth to achieve their corporate goal of a small – deregulated government.

    President Agent Orange has blown the lid off of the Plutocrats and Oligarchs in general. He has revealed their ugly faces: Tax Scams, Money Laundering, etc. What these Plutocrats and Oligarchs have in common is the preservation of their wealth, by what ever means necessary.

  13. Paul,

    Yes, McConnell has been living in the Koch brothers’ bathhouse for 20+ years. He bragged about his most important accomplishment: “My best accomplishment in all my years of government was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and told him he wouldn’t be getting a SCOTUS Justice”. How’s that for nihilism and arrogance?

    It’s also an overt abuse of power and an equally overt flaunting of the Constitution for political reasons. Mitch McConnell is actively – still – leading this nation down the sordid path of third-world, banana republic status run by a moronic, egotistical maniac. He must be so proud.

    But then, when listening to ALL Republicans, one must come to the realization that they all are seditious bastards, bought and paid for by corporate America. Patriotism? Hah! Only if it pays to get re-elected. THIS IS WHAT VOTER APATHY CAUSES.

  14. I have yet to find anyone with any argument much less a convincing one that Merrick Garland wasn’t better qualified than Kavanaugh.

  15. This post speaks to THE reason I think many people don’t vote — they don’t have enough $$$ to influence anyone & so they figure “Why bother?” Unless Citizens United is overturned and campaign finance is reformed in a substantive way, more & more of us “lower class” working folks will figure there’s no point because “Money talks and BS walks!”

  16. Votes can always overcome dollars, if voters actually show up to vote. That’s why the GOP power brokers work so hard at voter suppression. They want to hold onto power anyway possible, and they are not willing to share it with the poor and middle class except for the occasional drop that trickles down.

  17. When I ran for City-County Council, I was confronted by a voter who asked: “I know the incumbent is a lobbyist who isn’t looking out for our interests, but how do I know you are any better?”
    I tried to explain to him the power of the vote. If he elected me and didn’t like what I did, he would vote against me next time. Eventually, elected officials would learn that if they wanted to stay in office, they needed to work in his interests. The important thing was to vote and to reject people who did not work in his best interests. I suspect he voted for my opponent, the lobbyist.

    The other argument is the one put forward by the Freakonomics authors (I forget which one). Elections don’t usually come down to a single vote, so my vote doesn’t matter. I have always thought that this falls into the category of a Zeno paradox, in other words, balderdash, or at least really fuzzy thinking.

    Nancy has it right – votes overcome dollars.

  18. I voted by email on Monday to AZ. It’s still a red state so hopefully, my blue wave votes will make a difference. We must overturn Citizens United.

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