Aptyp_koK /ShutterstockCasino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, dropped more than $57 million on super-PACs in this election, becoming America's most famous conservative megadonors (besides the Kochs). So what did they get in return for their investment? A look at the groups they funded and the races they tried to influence shows that overall, their return on investment was about 40 percent: Only two out of every five races these super-PACs spent on had the outcome the outside spending group desired. The two biggest Adelson-backed losers were Republican presidental hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, to whose super-PACs the couple gave a total of $40 million. In the congressional races that Adelon-backed super-PACs spent on, the results were decidedly mixed. (A few of those races remain undecided.)
Charles and David Koch arguably have been liberals' biggest bogeymen of the 2012 election. Just as conservatives have come to see George Soros as the mastermind of a shadowy leftist network, the billionaire brothers have become synonymous with the dark-money machine working to defeat Barack Obama. By their own admission, the Kochs have been raising millions to sway voters. At a closed-door gathering of like-minded megadonors in 2011, Charles Koch declared that the upcoming election would be a battle "for the life or death of this country" and that "we gotta do better than" the president's expected $1 billion war chest.
So just how much money have the brothers poured into the election? That's a tricky question, as we'll see in a moment. But first, how much are the Kochs, their companies, and Americans for Prosperity (the dark money group they're connected to) known to have spent so far? Click on a state for a detailed breakdown.
In total, Koch Industries and its affiliates Georgia-Pacific and Flint Hills Resources have given more than $2.2 million to candidates and parties during this election cycle. Koch Industries recently asserted that its support for candidates "is not based on party affiliation, and we support both Republicans and Democrats who support market-based policies and solutions." Yet 95 percent of its corporate donations in 2011 and 2012 have gone to Republicans. Charles and David Koch have given a combined total of $411,000 to federal and state candidates and parties during this election cycle, all of it to Republicans.
Those figures establish the Kochs and their companies as significant, but not extraordinary, conservative donors. That's where the accounting of their actual influence becomes tricky. As mentioned above, the Kochs have committed to raising millions to defeat Obama. However, most (if not all) of that money is going to outside-spending groups that don't have to disclose their donors. The primary vehicle for this spending is Americans for Prosperity, a nonprofit that operates a foundation (started by David Koch in 2004) and a 501(c)(4) that has played an active role in the Wisconsin recall election and has been running anti-Obama ads across the country. The Kochs say there is no link between AFP's two sides, yet the Center for Responsive Politics reports that they share staff and overhead costs. The Obama campaign has accused AFP of being a "front group."
So far, AFP has disclosed $36.7 million in election spending, 95 percent being spent against Obama. That includes $12.6 million on ads in key markets including swing states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Nevada. (It doesn't include what AFP has spent on promotions such as giving away reduced-cost gas to "highlight Obama's failing energy policies.)
Just how much the Kochs have given AFP or other dark-money groups is unknown. Earlier this year, the Huffington Post reported that Charles Koch has pledged to give $40 million to unseat Obama while David Koch has pledged $20 million. (Their friends and allies have also pledged to help them raise additional millions.) Neither brother has donated to super-PACs (which must disclose their donors), so presumably that money has gone to dark-money groups such as AFP. Which means that the $411,000 in disclosed donations is just the tip of an iceberg of undisclosed campaign money.
The $60 million the Kochs have reportedly vowed to spend isn't much when you consider their total wealth. Eachbrother is worth an estimated $31 billion, according to Forbes, giving them a joint spot as America's fourth richest individuals.
Charles and David Koch aren't the only Koch brothers to have backed up their political beliefs with big money. Theirsibling William has given $2.75 million to Restore Our Future, the main pro-Romney super-PAC. (The donations were given directly by his company, Oxbow Carbon.) He is not part of Koch Industries and has not been involved in his brothers' political fundraising efforts. He's worth $4 billion, and like his brothers, he has plenty of money for his passions—though politics may be one of his less expensive ones.
UPDATE: What about George Soros, you ask? The liberal financier and 12th-richest American has spent $2.6 million during this election cycle; $2.5 million of that has gone to four liberal super-PACs. Some of those groups, such as Priorities USA Action, the main pro-Obama super-PAC, have disclosed more spending than Americans for Prosperity. According to the New York Times, he was also going to give $1 million to America Votes, a liberal super-PAC/501(c)(4) outfit. Even if he made that undisclosed gift, unless Soros is matching the Kochs in under-the-radar spending, they're in an entirely different league of megadonors.
Correction: An earlier version article stated that Charles and David Koch have donated more than $628,000 to candidates and parties in 2011 and 2012. They have donated $411,000.
Barack Obama's presidency has been an inspiration to many Americans—especially nutjobs. Ever since the first-black-president-to-be appeared on the national political stage, a cottage industry of conservative conspiracy theorists has churned out bizarro, paranoid, and just plain racist effluvia—some of which has trickled into the political mainstream. Below, we've charted some of the Obama-baiters best (i.e., worst) work. (Scroll down for more detailed descriptions of the conspiracy theories in the diagram.)
The Conspiracy Theories
Disclaimer: It should go without saying that none of these are true. Follow links at your own risk.
Obama is a secret Muslim: This one began right after he took the stage at the 2004 Democratic convention, with chain emails alleging his "true" religious affiliation. The rumor soon found its way onto the popular conservative online forum Free Republic, and took on a whole new life in the years to come. Related: Obama secretly speaks Arabic, attended a madrassa as a kid in Indonesia, referred to "my Muslim faith" in an interview, and was sworn in on a Koran.Steve Brodner
Obama is bringing 100 million Muslims to America: Avi Lipkin and his PR outfit Special Guests claimed to have evidence of a scheme to bring roughly 100 million Muslims from the Middle East into the United States, converting the country into an Islamic nation by the end of Obama's second term and making it easier to obliterate Israel.
Obama once aided the mujahideen: Harlem pastor and professional race-baiter James David Manning contended that in his younger days, Obama went undercover as a CIA agent to facilitate the transfer of cash and weapons to the Afghan mujahideen in the '80s, thereby aiding what would become the Taliban.
Obama is in the pocket of the Muslim Brotherhood: Billy Graham's son Franklin wants you to know that Obama is allowing the Muslim Brotherhood to take over the federal government.
Obama redecorated the Oval Office in Middle Eastern style: Driven by his fierce sense of anti-American interior design, Obama got rid of the red, white, and blue decoration scheme in his White House office.
Obama married a Pakistani guy:World Net Daily correspondent and conspiracymonger extraordinaire Jerome Corsi posted a videoin which he claimed to have "strong" evidence that Obama was once married to his college roommate from Pakistan. The smoking gun: Photos of the chums in which the future president is "sitting about on the [Pakistani roommate's] lap." Related:For years Obama wore a gold ring on his left hand. Was it his gay-wedding ring?
Obama's ring has a Koranic verse on it: The very same ring, which Obama now wears as his (straight) wedding band, is allegedly emblazoned with a key phrase in the Islamic declaration of faith: "There is no god except Allah." (It's not.)
Obama was funded by a Saudi prince: Another fairy tale courtesy of Corsi: In late-'70s Chicago, Obama secured political and academic funding from a variety of sketchy Arab sponsors, including a Saudi prince. Which may explain why President Obama bowed to the Saudi king when they met in 2009.
Michelle's "whitey" tape: During the 2008 campaign, rumors surfaced that a video of Michelle Obama using the word "whitey" would be released to sink her husband's campaign. It's never materialized. Related: The time Glenn Beck called Barack Obama a racist.
Obama is the son of Malcolm X: Because, you know, black people. This charmer popped up on Atlas Shrugged, Pamela Geller's anti-Muslim website. (Geller is also known for obsessing over Shariah turkeys she believes are destroying Thanksgiving.)
Obama is the son of Frank Marshall Davis: The conspiracy film Dreams From My Real Father espouses the theory that Davis, a leftist activist, was not only Obama's ideological mentor but his biological father. Related: Obama got a nose job to make his nose look less like Davis'.
Obama's mom and dad were communists: That would be his real father, Barack Obama, Sr. And you know that communism is an inherited condition.
Obama's ghostwriter was Bill Ayers: Conservative commentators claimed they uncovered evidence that ex-Weatherman Bill Ayers was the true author of Obama's 1995 memoir Dreams from my Father. Beyond their shared radicalism, Obama asked Ayers to help because he had writer's block.
Obama trained to overthrow the government: In 2008, leading Obama conspiracy theorist Andy Martin declared on Fox News' Hannity's America that the then-presidential candidate had trained for "a radical overthrow of the government" during his time as a community organizer in Chicago.
Obama wouldn't say the Pledge of Allegiance: During the '08 campaign, Obama was rumored to have refused to say the pledge during a town hall meeting. A photo of the incident was actually taken while the national anthem was being sung.
Obama removed the flag from Air Force One: …and replaced it with his campaign logo.
Obama ordered soldiers to swear allegiance to him: In April 2009, a clearly satirical report detailing how secretary of defense Robert Gates was growing "extremely frustrated" with the White House's plans to scrub the Constitution from the military oath of loyalty made the rounds on the right-wing blogosphere.
Obama secretly gave away American islands to Russia: Texas House candidate Wes Riddle endorsed this theory and noted the relinquishment as grounds for impeachment. However, the seven Arctic islands were actually given away in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush.Steve Brodner
Obama caused the recession—in 1995: According to a recent Daily Caller story, Obama's efforts to force banks to lend to African Americans in the mid-'90s led to the subprime mortgage crisis that killed the economy in 2008.
Obama's coming for your guns: Extreme gun-rights outfits, along with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), alleged that the Obama administration is supporting the (nonexistent) United Nations Small Arms Treaty, which would lead to nationwide gun confiscation. Unfounded fears of gun confiscation have multiplied since the Newtown massacre.
Obama's coming for your gold: This theory was floated by Glenn Beck—and the gold company he shilled for.
Obama is planning FEMA concentration camps: Again with the camps. This theory got a big boost from Glenn Beck (who claims he didn't mean anything by it). Related: An executive order titled, "National Defense Resources Preparedness," was issued in the middle of March 2012. Conservative commentators saw it as a martial law power-grab that allowed the president to commandeer farmland, steal everyone's food, and draft any American into slave labor for a war of aggression against Iran. Also, he has a "secret vault" at Interpol's headquarters for imprisoning Americans. (Chuck Norris is on the case.)
Obama caused the BP oil spill: Conspiracy-minded radio host Alex Jones promoted the theory that the Deepwater Horizon spill was all part of the administration's plans of oil nationalization and global government.
Obama was behind the Aurora massacre: In July, Gun Owners of America blasted out a press release claiming that the mass murder at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, was suspiciously timed. "Someone in Washington" was probably behind it, paving the way for Obama-led firearm confiscation and "government genocide."
Obama personally caused Hurricane Sandy: It wasn’t global warming that made Sandy so intense; it was Barack. Alex Jones' site reported the president engineered the storm using a Pentagon weather modification project. The mayhem caused by the hurricane would afford Obama the opportunity to score points by briskly managing disaster relief a week before the election.
Obama had Andrew Breitbart killed: In March 2012, conservative media impresario Andrew Breitbart died of heart failure. Less than a month prior to his death, he had announced that he had uncovered footage of Obama's formative years as a radical. So obviously, Obama had him offed. (The tapes were later revealed to contain things like a young Obama hugging a black college professor.) Related: People—like a Rod Blagojevich fundraiser and an Obama impersonator—died between 2008 and 2012. Obama was in office between 2008 and 2012…coincidence?!?!
Obama spiked the jobs report: "Jobs truthers" (like former GE CEO Jack Welch and Florida tea party congressman Allen West) accused the Obama administration of cooking the September unemployment numbers to manufacture a rosier picture of the economy and boost the president's chances of reelection.
Obama faked bin Laden's death: Since no photographs of Osama bin Laden's corpse were produced, the Al Qaeda leader must still be out there. Fox News' Steve Doocy and Andrew Napolitano entertained the idea that Operation Neptune Spear was merely a ploy to revive Obama's sagging approval ratings. Related: Obama was photoshopped into the iconic killing-OBL White House photo.
Obama's plan to fake an assassination attempt: A false-flag operation would create urban tumult and give Obama the pretext to declare martial law, thus suspending democracy, postponing the 2012 election, and prolonging his stay in office. The theory was flagged by Tenn. State Rep. Kelly Keisling, among others, after circulating online.
Obama's planning a third term: The dust from the 2012 election had barely cleared when this one popped up.
Obama the brainwashing hypnotist: As a master of neurolinguistic programming, Obama convinced Americans to vote for him via subliminal messages. Related: Rush Limbaugh pondered if hypnosis was the reason that so many Jewish voters were in the bag for Obama. In October, Georgia GOP lawmakers held a briefing on the president's secret mind-control plot.
Obama's teleprompter: Obama's eloquence is a myth! The 44th president is incapable of speaking in public with his teleprompter.
Obama had a ghostwriter for everything: Jack Cashill over at WND had a hot scoop on how Obama's love letters to his college girlfriend were ghostwritten.
Obama's anti-Semitic poetry: However, according to the American Thinker, Obama's ghostwriters did not write his youthful poem "Underground," which compares Jews to fig-eating underwater apes and echoes Koranic verse.
Obama's exiled lover: Obama was supposedly fooling around with an attractive young staffer from his 2004 Senate campaign. Michelle Obama had the temptress packed off to the Caribbean before the '08 campaign.
Obama is gay: Which explains why he joined Rev. Jeremiah Wright's church. No, really. (Via Corsi, of course.)
Obama's crack cocaine/gay sex/murder orgy cover-up: In 2008, a small-time conman named Larry Sinclair and his kilt-wearing lawyer held a press conference to tell the world of the future president's murderous, drug-and-sodomy-fueled crimes.
Obama's campaigns were funded by drug money: During an October conference call organized to oppose pot legalization, a writer from Lyndon LaRouche's magazine asked about "reports [that both Obama's] 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns have been financed in part by laundered drug money."
Obama is the Antichrist:Obviously. Related: If you play his 2008 Democratic nomination acceptance speech backwards, you can hear him instruct listeners to do Satan's bidding.Steve Brodner
Obama is a lizard overlord: According to codes hidden in Biblical verse, Obama is a reptilian humanoid. This idea has found its way on to some right-wing radio shows, and two Daily Caller reporters recently published a (satirical?) e-book on the topic titled, The Lizard King: The Shocking Inside Account of Obama's True Intergalactic Ambitions by an Anonymous White House Staffer.
Obama's adventures on Mars: As a teen, Obama participated in a CIA initiative to teleport to Mars using a top-secret "jump room." Self-described time travelers William Stillings and Andrew Basiago claim to have met the future POTUS at American space bases on the Red Planet. In early 2012, a spokesman for the National Security Council actually acknowledged these claims, and issued a fairly convincing denial.
David Lesar, Halliburton: Halliburton launched the first US commercial fracking operation in 1949. At a 2011 conference, CEO Lesar asked his CFO to demonstrate the safety of the company's CleanStim fracking fluid by taking a sip of it. The exec reported that it "tastes like beer."
More MoJo coverage of the fracking industry's political influence:
Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil: Since 2006, Tillerson has been CEO of the nation's top natural gas producer. Fracking concerns, he says, are hyped by "lazy" journalists and groups that "manufacture fear," and one of his company's challenges is educating "an illiterate public" about fracking.
Aubrey McClendon,Chesapeake Energy: Cofounder of the Marcellus Shale's biggest player, McClendon calls fracking critics "modern day Luddites" who dream of "some fantasy world of no fossil fuels." He's reportedly worth $1.1 billion, but a weak economy led him to sell most of his 100,000 bottles of wine.
Charles and David Koch, Koch Industries: The brothers, worth around $25 billion each, have bankrolled energy industry front groups and raised millions to help defeat President Obama. Koch Industries and its subsidiaries (PDF) transport and trade oil from fracking operations and produce chemicals used in fracking.
Trevor Rees-Jones, Chief Oil: Rees-Jones has made billions fracking for natural gas in Texas and Pennsylvania. He emerged as a key GOP funder in 2008 and has since given $1.2 million to outside-spending groups, including Karl Rove's American Crossroads super-PAC.
Bob Dudley, BP: Dudley replaced CEO Tony Hayward (who presumably got his "life back") five months after the Gulf fiasco. Fracking is "not that complicated," he says. "But it sure has a bad reputation."
John Watson, Chevron: In May, CEO Watson said there are "legitimate concerns" about fracking, yet the gas boom is "a once-in-a-generation benefit" that should be reaped "with the proper precautions."
James Hackett, Anadarko: Hackett, Anadarko's chairman, has said frackers should fight "these very strident forces" aiming to "basically take us back to the Stone Age."
Earlier this week, the New York Times' Nate Silver wrote about the gaping "gender gap" at the heart of the presidential race, specifically the degree to which women are breaking for Barack Obama and men are breaking for Mitt Romney. On average, polls show Obama beating Romney by 9 points with women, while Romney has a 9-point advantage with men. All in all, that's an 18-point gender gap, a powerful indicator of just how much each candidate's chance of victory depends on one sex or the other.
(Update: Does a new AP poll mean the gender gap is gone? Not so fast.)
The red-blue gender gap has grown during the past two decades, but women and men's presidential preferences have often diverged. According to historical Gallup survey data, in 1952, women supported Republican Dwight Eisenhower by more than 5 points over men; likewise, men broke toward Democrat Adlai Stevenson by 5 points. (Total gender gap: 10 points.) By the '80s, women supported Democratic candidates much more solidly than men. In the 2008 election, 57 percent of women voted for Obama, compared with 50 percent of men; 50 percent of men voted for John McCain, while 43 percent of women did. (Total gender gap: 14 points.)
In short, women have been increasingly backing Democrats by the binderful. Nearly 30 years of exit-poll data tells the story:
The shift has been most dramatic among women 18 to 29 and single women. A new report from the the Voter Participation Center finds that the gap between married and single women's support for Democrats is profound. In 2008, unmarried women chose Obama over McCain by a whopping 41 points, while McCain carried married women by 3 points. This is big news for Democrats, especially considering that unmarried women made up 23 percent of voters in 2008. The gender gap helps explain why this year's race is so tight. A slice of recent swing-state polling by Public Policy Polling shows that it's very pronounced in key battleground states, including Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Iowa. (And that's just one pollster's results.)
So why are more women flocking to Democratic presidential candidates (and fleeing Republicans)? The answer doesn't seem too complicated, what with stuff like this, this, and this. A recent Gallup poll in 12 swing states found that more than half of female voters said that abortion or equal opportunity were their top election priority—issues that the president's campaign has repeatedly hammered Romney, Paul Ryan, and Republicans on.
Update, 10/25: According to a just-released AP poll, Romney has erased his 16-point disadvantage with women and his lead with men has shrunk to 5 points. However, this is is just one poll; it will be interesting to see if other nationwide tracking polls show similar shifts in the week ahead. As Nate Silver's post explained, nine major polls show a significant gender gap; the 18-point split he cited was an average of those. It didn't include AP. If you factor in the new AP poll, Obama has an average 8.5-point advantage with women; Romney's average advantage with men is 8.7 points.