Hollywood And Labor Unions Pony Up for Obama Super-PAC’s Record Month


Dreamworks executive Jeff Katzenberg, left, and Steven Spielberg both gave $1 million to the pro-Obama super-PAC in September. Rose Palmisano/The Orange County Register/ZUMAPRESS.comDreamworks executive Jeff Katzenberg, left, and Steven Spielberg both gave $1 million to the pro-Obama super-PAC in September. Rose Palmisano/The Orange County Register/ZUMAPRESS.com

In the beginning, the super-PAC fighting to reelect President Obama, Priorities USA Action, couldn’t catch a break. Priorities was raising paltry sums each month compared to super-PACs backing Republican candidates. After one particularly negative story about Priorities’ struggles, co-founder Bill Burton wrote to one journalist, “If you didn’t read the story and just looked at the pictures…I feel like I came out pretty good.”

How times have changed. Last month, Priorities hauled in $15.2 million, a new monthly record for the group. Big donations came in from Hollywood director and producer Steven Spielberg ($1 million), Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeff Katzenberg ($1 million), hedge fund manager James Simons ($1.5 million), Chicago media mogul Fred Eychaner ($2 million), and attorney David Boies ($1 million).

The United Auto Workers, of which I’m a member, also waded into the super-PAC wars for the first time, giving Priorities $1 million. United Association, the plumbers and pipefitters union, chipped in $673,100, and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association gave another $250,000. Rob Walton, chairman of Walmart, a decidedly anti-union company, gave $300,000 to Priorities as well.

Since its inception in April 2011, Priorities USA Action has raised $50.8 million. The group will need a stellar October fundraising haul to reach its goal of $75 million for the 2012 election cycle. (Priorities also has a shadowy nonprofit affiliate which has yet to disclose how much money it’s raised.)

Restore Our Future, the super-PAC backing Mitt Romney, turned in a strong September as well. The group raised $14.8 million. ROF’s donor list is filled with familiar faces in the world of big-money Republican fundraising. With his $2 million donation last month, Texas homebuilding king Bob Perry has given a total of $9 million to Restore Our Future. Oxbow, the energy company run by Bill Koch, brother to Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries, gave another $1 million, as did Robert McNair, who owns the Houston Texans, and Stan Herzog, a Missouri businessman.

Nearly $4 million of Restore Our Future’s September donations came from corporations, such as airline interior supplier Greenpoint Technologies and rental company Penske Corporation. Restore Our Future has raised $111.5 million since its creation in March 2011.

Restore Our Future last week announced one of its biggest ad blitzes of the 2012 campaign. The super-PAC said it will spend $12 million on a nine-day ad spree in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Nevada, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

  • Andy Kroll is an investigative reporter at Mother Jones. For more of his stories, click here. Follow him on Twitter here. Send tips, scoops, and documents to akroll (at) motherjones (dot) com.

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