Did the Tea Party's Biggest Campaign Donors Tax Themselves?

Foster Friess
Foster Friess

Last week, Foster Friess (right), one of the biggest private contributors to the the Republican party, complained to The Los Angeles Times that super PACs -- the political organizations that are allowed to accept unlimited political donations -- are too secretive about how they spend their money. "You have no idea of the financial structuring of a lot of these outside groups in terms of how much went to the actual delivery of a message," he told The Times, "versus how many dollars were taken off as fees to the people running them."

While impressive, Friess' $5 million in donations pale beside the political contributions of many Republican donors. The 2012 presidential election was one of the most expensive in American history, with just over $1.6 billion in direct spending by the candidates and up to three times that amount contributed by various PACs. A large part of this money came from donors like Friess, many of whom were especially interested in maintaining -- or increasing -- tax cuts for the rich.

Had Romney won, this investment would have paid off mightily. For example, Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas billionaire who pledged to spend $100 million on the Republican candidate, would have saved an estimated $2.3 billion under Romney's tax plan.

But while things may not have worked out for many of these wealthy contributors, they may have worked out for the economy. After all, campaigns are labor-intensive affairs, resulting in boosts to short-term job creation, small-scale manufacturing, and other economic activities. In other words, the huge amounts of money that Friess and his fellow contributors passed along did exactly what government spending is supposed to do: They created jobs and stimulated the economy.

In light of that, it's worth asking what percentage of their incomes some of the top money men contributed to the campaign -- and how it compares with the tax rate that they could expect to pay if the Bush tax cuts expire. We've created a gallery of the top six Republican contributors, looking at the best estimates of their income and their political donations in the last year. Take a peek:

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