Money plays a key role in US election campaigns. It is spent on advertising, consultants’ salaries and PR firms. In addition, the Democrats’ strategy shows that funding goes towards street protests. Since their confrontational approach is adopted in advance and involves provoking people into mass protests, it is a technique that also requires serious investment.
Let us explore the different fundraising mechanisms for election campaigns and the interests of various financial groups (individuals).
Political action committees
Since 1976, political action committees (PACs) have been used in the US to raise funds for advertising and propaganda during election campaigns. After 2010, when the US Supreme Court lifted restrictions on political donations, new versions of these committees began to emerge called Super PACs Unlike conventional political action committees, which cannot accept contributions of more than $5,000 from a single individual and contributions from corporations or unions are illegal, super PACs can accept unlimited contributions. Super PACs are also actively engaged in anti-propaganda and disinformation against political opponents.
More than 2,000 Super PACs were registered in the previous US presidential election in 2016.
This is the most transparent fundraising mechanism, since regulatory authorities keep track of every cent.
Trump’s Super PAC is called America First Action, while Joe Biden’s is called Priorities USA.
Republic senator Seth Moulton’s Super PAC has also been active during the current election campaign.
Woman Vote, which is completely geared towards the female half of the electorate, is working for the Democrats.
There are also other PACs and Super PACs involved in these elections for both sides.
Trump and Biden’s donors
From the beginning of 2019 through to July 2020, Trump managed to raise around $1.1 billion, $800 million of which was already spent by September. In July, Trump replaced Brad Parscale, his now former campaign manager, with Bill Stepien, instructing him to work more efficiently and spend less money.
According to Forbes magazine, 9 per cent of US billionaires, who together are worth a total of $210 billion, have given money to cover Trump’s 2020 campaign expenses either directly or through their spouse. In total, Trump has received support from around one hundred billionaires.
More than half of Trump’s donors live in three states: Florida, New York and Texas. Three quarters of them are self-made; the rest inherited small fortunes and turned them into bigger ones. Their business is related to real estate, energy, sport, and so on. A fifth of the donors got rich on finance and investments. This group includes people like Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, hedge fund owner John Paulson, and former chief of Franklin Templeton Charles B. Johnson. Around 10 per cent of the donors earned their money in real estate, including Trump’s fellow New York billionaire Richard LeFrak.
Texas banker Andrew Beal has given more than anyone else to the Trump Victory Committee. Casino owners and brothers Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta have also donated millions to this committee.
Joe and Marlene Ricketts (TD Ameritrade) have donated more than $1 million. They did not give anything in 2016.
Andrew Beal has given approximately the same amount. $1 million has been donated by Dennis and Phyllis Washington (whose business is mining and construction). Diane Hendricks (roofing) has given a little less than $1 million. Kenny and Lisa Troutt (telecom) – $925,000. Jeffery and Melinda Hildebrand (oil) – $775,000. Isaac and Laura Perlmutter (Marvel comics) – $721,000. Peter Thiel from Palantir – $250,000. It should be noted that Peter Thiel has stakes in Facebook and donated the same amount to Trump’s 2016 campaign.
It is interesting that some billionaires donated fairly small amounts in the thousands and even hundreds of dollars.
One major donor who used to give regularly to the Republicans – Las Vegas magnate Sheldon Adelson – has refused to back Trump.
Biden has the support of Wall Street and Silicon Valley. He has also raised a large amount of money thanks to small contributions. In terms of the number of wealthy donors offering support, Biden has overtaken Trump, receiving money from 131 billionaires.
Biden’s largest donor has been George Soros, who has spent more than $8 million over the whole election cycle (to cover various needs). New sponsors of Biden include Facebook’s Sean Parker and Dustin Moskovitz, Twitter co-founder Ev Williams, and Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson.
eBay’s Jeff Skoll has been pouring money into both Biden and the Democrats in the Senate. Mark Pincus, who is involved in online gaming, has donated $626,000. Barry Diller, who made his money in online media – $620,000.
Biden’s donors also include Nicole Shanahan, the wife of Google’s Sergey Brin ($25,000), and Merryl Zegar, the wife of Charles Zegar (Bloomberg LP).
In September 2020, Biden managed to raise a record $383 million. The previous record was less than $200 million, raised by Barack Obama in September 2008.
Not all representatives of Silicon Valley are backing the Democrats, however.
Bill Gates is supporting Donald Trump. It is a pragmatic choice. A while ago, the White House Administration helped Microsoft win a tender to create servers to support the Pentagon, although Amazon, which had previously been awarded a contract from the CIA for cloud servers, also fought for the tender. The dispute caused a scandal in the US Defense Department in 2019.
Elon Musk has also given his support to Trump, citing Biden’s dementia. In addition, Trump has the backing of Oracle founder Larry Ellison.
One important detail should be mentioned here, which is that there are signs of a deep schism in US society that has affected not just the financial elite, but also family relations. For example, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has supported Trump, but his wife Connie has donated $500,000 to a Super PAC for Biden.
The US defence industry and indirect influence
Traditionally, the US military stays out of election campaigns, although Donald Trump has actively supported the military from the very start of his presidency. It is significant that, in one of his speeches, Joe Biden talked about the possibility of increasing military expenditure, which was regarded as an attempt to influence the preferences of the security forces.
However, besides candidates’ attempts to win over the military, there is an interesting mechanism worth noting that reflects certain counter interests of the military and think tanks, when the latter serves political groups.
The fact is that the US military-industrial complex (meaning the leading manufacturers of weapons systems and related products, often civilian, as well as structures of the Defense Department) funds various US think tanks on an ongoing basis.
The top five donors are Northrup Grumman, Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Airbus. Along with these contractors, money is also transferred from the Defence Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, the US Air Force and the US Army. Each year, around $1 billion is given to various centres for programmes and research. Think tanks that deal with defence, security and military strategy issues are the usual recipients. However, the list also includes a number of organisations that are on the globalist spectrum, such as the Council on Foreign Relations and the Stimson Center.
The top ten centres that received grants between 2014 and 2019 (inclusive) are:
RAND Corporation – $1,029,100,000;
Center for a New American Security (CNAS) – $8,956,000;
Atlantic Council – $8,697,000;
New America Foundation – $7,283,828;
German Marshall Fund of the United States – $6,599,999;
CSIS – $5,040,000;
Council on Foreign Relations – $2,590,000;
Brookings Institution – $2,485,000;
Heritage Foundation – $1,375,000; and
Stimson Center – $1,343,753.
Besides the well-known Council on Foreign Relations, this list also includes the CNAS, which is actually a pro-Democrat centre. It was established by former Under Secretary of Defense (2009–2012) Michèle Flournoy and former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (2009–2013) Kurt Campbell. Both represent the Democratic party.
The New America Foundation positions itself ideologically as a liberal and left-of-centre think tank. Eric Schmidt once held one of the top jobs there. Its current president and CEO is Anne-Marie Slaughter, who served as director of policy planning in the Obama administration.
It is telling that the centre launched the 2020 Matching Campaign to raise money to reorganise the country’s political system. The campaign ends on 30 October – just before the presidential election.
The Atlantic Council is NATO’s think tank.
In fact, the above-mentioned donors are also indirectly funding political propaganda, since they are paying for these centres’ activities, and, as “independent” experts on various issues, their employees speak on television and write articles in leading newspapers and magazines. Thus, they shape public opinion.
Funding street protests
Since the Democrats have relied on mass protests, an important factor for them is searching for funds to stimulate various support groups.
Antifa, BLM and various leftist organisations, including anti-globalists, are all important protest groups for the Democrats.
Antifa has been linked to the Trotskyists. In February 2016, the International Committee of the Fourth International published a statement that said: “The new anti-war movement must be anti-capitalist and socialist, since there can be no serious struggle against war except in the fight to end the dictatorship of finance capital and the economic system that is the fundamental cause of militarism and war. The new anti-war movement must therefore, of necessity, be completely and unequivocally independent of, and hostile to, all political parties and organizations of the capitalist class.”
Trotskyists of every kind, including financial speculator George Soros, are actively supporting radical Antifa groups around the world. In July 2017, their resources helped mobilise more than 100,000 anti-globalists and Antifa members for protests in Hamburg during the G20 summit.
But since Antifa has been recognised as a terrorist organisation in the US, it is successfully mimicking, and recently merged with, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in order to avoid problems with the authorities.
BLM is presented in the global media as a movement for the rights of black people in the US who are victims of police brutality, institutional racism and so on. The reality is somewhat different, however. The expression #BlackLivesMatter first appeared in the form of a Twitter hashtag in 2013. It is believed that the movement was organised by radical left-wing activists Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. The slogan “Hands Up – Don’t Shoot!” was popularised by black activist Nelini Stamp, one of the organisers of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement (financed by George Soros), following the murder of Michael Brown in August 2014. She also represented the Working Families Party, which was one of the founders of the Dream Defenders organisation. The Dream Defenders Advisory Board includes Angela Davis, a former leader of the Communist Party USA.
Alicia Garza also has links to the National Domestic Workers Alliance, People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER), the School of Unity and Liberation (SOUL), the Right to the City Alliance, and Forward Together, all of which have been supported by various donors.
BLM also receives funding indirectly, through various structures, from the Democracy Alliance – a special fund set up in 2005 to “build a progressive society” in the US, including support for sexual minorities and people of colour. The fund is considered to be the country’s most powerful liberal donor club, and it was initially financed by George Soros, businessman Peter Lewis, and gay software developer Tim Gill. As well as Soros’ direct involvement, the club also includes billionaire Tom Steyer.
The money is not just spent on teaching and the pseudo-scientific construction of new “values”, however. Typical colour revolution techniques are used to encourage its frontline activists and mobilise the BLM. One of the most effective ways is the direct financing of protest participants. It is known that street protesters were paid $5,000 a month to incite and maintain civil unrest in Ferguson. There is also a connection here with the higher establishment. One of the organisations involved in financing the civil unrest in Ferguson in 2014 was Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE), a former branch of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), which went bankrupt in 2010. Barack Obama used to work for ACORN and represented it in court as a lawyer.
Although the media limits information on Black Lives Matter to protests against police violence and the fight for Afro-Americans’ rights, the movement’s objectives are actually much broader. BLM is seeking to replace the fundamental cornerstones of American society: 1) to abolish the Judeo-Christian concept of the traditional nuclear family, which is the basic social unit in America; 2) to abolish the police and dismantle the prison system; 3) to mainstream transgenderism and delegitimise so-called heteronormativity (the belief that heterosexuality is the norm); and 4) to abolish capitalism (a free economy) and replace it with communism (a government-controlled economy).
The Democrats also have the support of relatively high-profile anti-globalists. Among others, Naomi Klein has called for people to join the fight against Trump. However, this paradox – that Antifa and anti-globalists are working in the interests of globalists – is not being reported by America’s conservative media outlets.
In the media sphere, Biden has the support of The Intercept news organisation.
It was initially set up and financed by eBay founder and owner Pierre Omidyar through the Omidyar Network Fund.
The Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, is also siding with the Democrats by constantly criticising Trump. However, neither Jeff Bezos nor Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg are openly backing Trump or Biden. Some believe that they are secretly financing both.
The complexity of predictions
It is difficult to make an accurate prediction in this election, since the Democrats are calling for a postal vote. Although the US postal service is a government agency, this method is highly vulnerable to fraud in the US, and there is no proper mechanism to verify and control the process itself. Trump’s team has already warned of the risk posed by this element of the voting system.
According to the most recent data based on the average ratings from Cook Political Report, Inside Elections and Sabato’s Crystall Ball, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are currently considered to be the states that will largely determine the outcome of the election.