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The 20 Biggest Donors of the 2012 Election (So Far)

The casino mogul betting $5 million on Newt Gingrich, Wall Streeters investing in Mitt Romney, Obama's Hollywood pal, and the other 1 percenters trying to sway the race.

| Tue Jan. 10, 2012 7:00 AM EST

11. J.W. and Donna Marriott (Bethesda, Maryland)

For the past four decades, J.W. "Bill" Marriott Jr. has served as CEO of Marriott International, the hotel franchise and property management company founded by his father. (In December 2011 he announced his intention to step down.) He is reportedly worth $1.3 billion. His brother, Richard, is also in the hotel business and is a major political donor. Bill chairs the President's Export Council, which advises the executive branch on national and global trade. In the 2012 election cycle, he and his wife, Donna, have donated $500,000 to the pro-Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future.
Total giving for 2012 race: $657,687
• Giving to outside-spending groups: $510,000
• Giving to candidates and parties: $147,687

 

12. John and Josephine Templeton (Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania)

John heads the John Templeton Foundation, a nonprofit focused on answering "the Big Questions of human purpose." (Critics say it seeks to lend scientific legitimacy to matters of faith.) The foundation was started by his late father, Sir John, a mutual fund billionaire. In 2009 it reportedly had $1.7 billion in assets. In the 2012 election cycle, John and his wife, Josephine, have donated $232,000 to the College Republican National Committee, $200,000 to the anti-Obama super-PAC Raising Red, $100,000 to Rove's American Crossroads, $55,000 to the Republican Governors Association, and $5,000 to Rick Santorum. Bonus: Charles Koch named them as part a list of elite donors who have pledged $1 million to his and his brother David's conservative fundraising machine.
Total giving for 2012 race: $633,000
• Giving to outside-spending groups: $597,000
• Giving to candidates and parties: $36,000

 

13. Louis Moore Bacon (New York City)

Worth a reported $1.7 billion, the media-shy founder of Moore Capital Management has a reputation as one of the world's top hedge fund traders. In the 2012 election cycle, Bacon has given $500,000 to the pro-Romney Restore Our Future.
Total giving for 2012 race: $580,300
• Giving to outside-spending groups: $500,000
• Giving to candidates and parties: $80,300

 

14. Richard and Nancy Marriott

Richard has split his father's hotel-industry fortune with his brother Bill. Worth a reported $1.4 billion, Richard runs Host Hotels, the world's biggest lodging investment trust. In the 2012 cycle, Richard and his wife, Nancy, have given $500,000 to Restore Our Future.
Total giving for 2012 race: $556,200
• Giving to outside-spending groups: $510,000
• Giving to candidates and parties: $46,200

 

15. Jim and Anne Davis (Newton, Massachusetts)

The Davises serve as chair and vice chair, respectively, of the New Balance shoe company. Reportedly worth $1.8 billion, Jim is one of the founders of Major League Lacrosse and is a major donor to collegiate athletics programs. In the 2012 election cycle, he has given to $500,000 to the pro-Romney Restore Our Future. New Balance has issued a letter explaining that Davis' donation to Restore Our Future "was a private donation and not a contribution from New Balance" and distanced the company from Romney's stance against gay marriage.
Total giving for 2012 race: $542,300
• Giving to outside-spending groups: $500,000
• Giving to candidates and parties: $42,300

 

16. Stephen Bing (Los Angeles)

Bing is a film producer (Shine a Light), script writer (Kangaroo Jack), and the founder of Shangri-La Music. He inherited a $600 million real estate fortune when he turned 18. Described as one of Bill Clinton's "best friends," Bing has donated millions to the Clinton Global Initiative and paid $200,000 to fly the former president to North Korea to bring home two detained American journalists in 2009. Bing was worth an estimated $590 million in 2009; a movie producer told the Daily Beast that he "treats money as if there are no consequences to losing it." A major donor to Democratic causes, in the 2012 election cycle he has given $250,000 and $150,000 to the liberal super-PACs Majority PAC and American Bridge 21st Century, respectively.
Total giving for 2012 race: $495,800
• Giving to outside-spending groups: $410,000
• Giving to candidates and parties: $85,800

  

17. H. Gary and Renee Morse (The Villages, Florida)

Gary is the developer behind The Villages, a master-planned retirement community in central Florida. Described as a "mystery man" by the Orlando Sentinel, he is a longtime Republican donor. He has said "excessive and inefficient regulation" is the main obstacle to his business. He has thrown his support behind Mitt Romney; in turn, Romney has campaigned at The Villages, a common stop for GOP candidates. Gary and his wife, Renee, have contributed $250,000 to Restore Our Future and $5,000 to the Romney-affiliated PAC Free and Strong America.
Total giving for 2012 race: $425,000
• Giving to outside-spending groups: $265,000
• Giving to candidates and parties: $160,000

 

18. Foster and Lynnette Friess (Jackson, Wyoming)

The Friesses founded the investment firm Friess Associates in 1974; in 2001, they sold a majority share for $247 million. At a celebration of his and Lynn's 70th birthdays in Jackson Hole, they astounded guests by handing out $7.7 million to the nonprofits of their choice. With their son, the couple runs a family foundation focused on "encouraging private-sector solutions." Foster has said, "If you look at the solutions that government comes up with, they're almost always an unmitigated disaster." During the 2012 election cycle, the couple has given to Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, and Tim Pawlenty—and $250,000 to the conservative Movement Fund. Bonus: Charles Koch named them as part a list of elite donors who have pledged $1 million to his and his brother David's conservative fundraising machine.
Total giving for 2012 race: $403,100
• Giving to outside-spending groups: $270,000
• Giving to candidates and parties: $133,100

 

19. Howard and Susan Groff (Northridge, California)

The Groffs own Northwest Excavating, a Southern California construction equipment rental and digging company. The couple maintains a low public profile but has contributed heavily to Republican federal candidates since the mid-2000s. In the 2012 election cycle, they have given $100,000 to Restore Our Future.
Total giving for 2012 race: $392,900
• Giving to outside-spending groups: $110,000
• Giving to candidates and parties: $282,900

 

20. Robert and Diana Mercer (Long Island, New York)

Robert Mercer is co-CEO of the $15 billion hedge fund company Renaissance Technologies. In 2009, according to the New York Daily News, he accused a builder of overcharging him $2 million for a construction project in his mansion—a "museum-quality" model train display "about half the size of a basketball court." During the 2010 midterms, Mercer was outed as the funder behind $300,000 worth of attack ads targeting Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.). In the 2012 election cycle, he and his wife Diana have given $150,000 to the Republican National Lawyers Association and $100,000 to the free-market super-PAC Club for Growth Action.
Total giving for 2012 race: $384,100
• Giving to outside-spending groups: $260,000
• Giving to candidates and parties: $124,100


Source of donation data: Center for Responsive Politics. Outside spending groups include super-PACs, PACs, and 527 groups.

Front page image of Sheldon Adelson and Jeffrey Katzenberg: Wikimedia Commons; Fortune Live Media/Flickr

Photo credits: 1. Wikimedia Commons; 2. Bob Perry; 3. Fortune Live Media/Flickr; 5. Joe Klein/ZUMA; 6. Childrens Memorial Hospital; 7. stnoyes1/YouTube; 8. Kstate/YouTube; 11. Ron Sachs/ZUMA; 12. John Templeton Foundation; 13. Jodi Jones/ZUMA; 14. Marriott; 15. New Balance; 16. Rick Mackler/ZUMA; 18. Voices Empower with Alice Linahan/Flickr; 19. Northwest Excavating 

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