Campaign Donations: The Donors You Know, and the Ones You Don't

US gaming tycoon Sheldon Adelson with his wife Miriam (AFP  Getty Images)
US gaming tycoon Sheldon Adelson with his wife Miriam (AFP Getty Images)

Regardless of the outcome of Tuesday's vote, one thing is certain: This election cycle has created a slew of new celebrities. A year and a half ago, nobody knew anything about Foster Friess or Sheldon Adelson, the Koch brothers or Frank VanDerSloot. Today, these men are household names, the most visible members of a new class of deep-pocketed money men with enough cash to sway primaries, elections and -- possibly -- the presidency.

But while those super PAC supermen are certainly exciting, they are hardly the only folks giving money to political campaigns. From famous celebrities to well-known companies, to ordinary middle class Americans, millions of donors have poured money into this election cycle. What's more, thanks to a few websites, it's easy to find out which candidates your favorite store, your favorite actor, or even your next door neighbor has shelled out cash for.

The easiest -- and most attractive -- site for finding out about campaign donations is Money Monocle, a service provided by SigFig, a personal financial planning website. In addition to a simple, easy-to-use interface, the site also offers a quick rundown of some of the top celebrities and best-known companies that are putting money into this election.

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For those who want a little more depth, Open Secrets is the place to go for granular information on exactly where your favorite actors and top companies are putting their money. For example, while Money Monocle notes that George Clooney gave $35,800 to Democrats in this election cycle, Open Secrets explains that George Clooney, of Los Angeles, Calif., zip code 90024, a "self-employed" or "freelance" actor, gave $30,800 to the Democratic National Committee, as well as $5,000 directly to the campaign of Barack Obama -- maxing out his contributions to Obama as both a primary candidate for the Democratic nomination and as a Democratic candidate for president.

Admittedly, the Supreme Court's controversial "Citizens United" decision makes it hard to track all campaign contributions. Among other things, deep-pocketed contributors can pour millions -- or even billions -- of dollars into super PACs without leaving a trace. Still, the two sites offer some very surprising trivia. For example, Coca Cola Enterprises gave 100% of its political contributions to Republican candidates, while Pepsico hedged its bets, giving 53% of its contributions to Democrats and 47% to Republicans.

Ultimately, this might not affect your leanings when it comes to politics (or cola), but whether you want to vote for the real thing or consider yourself part of the Pepsi generation, it's nice to know whom your money is going to support.

Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.

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