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Bad Day for GOP Super Donors

Biggest contributors to super PACs in 2012 election backed losing candidates

by Rachael Marcuse and John Dunbar

Money can't buy happiness, nor can it buy an election, apparently.

Sheldon Adelson’s (Photo: Associated Press) The top donors to super PACs in 2012 did not fare well — casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the No. 1 super PAC contributor with more than $53 million in giving, backed eight losers at this writing.

Adelson was top backer of the pro-Mitt Romney Restore Our Future super PAC, with $20 million in donations. Romney lost to President Barack Obama. In addition, Adelson's contributions to super PACs backing U.S. Senate candidates in Florida, Virginia and New Jersey were also for naught.

He was not the only conservative billionaire who had a bad night.

Contran Corp. CEO Harold Simmons, (No. 2), homebuilder Bob Perry (No. 3) and TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, (No.4), also bet on Romney. Collectively, the trio gave $13.4 million to Restore Our Future, and Ricketts’ super PAC, Ending Spending Action Fund, spent an additional $9.9 million helping Romney’s failed bid.

The super donor winner of the night was Newsweb Corp. CEO Fred Eychaner (No. 5). Eychaner gave $3.5 million to pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action through the most recent filing period, which ended Oct. 17, according to Federal Election Commission records.

In Florida, Republican Rep. Connie Mack lost his challenge to the popular Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who won with 55 percent of the vote. Adelson gave $2 million to the pro-Mack super PAC Freedom PAC, and Simmons and Perry gave a combined $255,000 to the group.

The hotly contested Senate race in Virginia attracted $2.5 million from Adelson and Perry, both giving to Independence Virginia, the super PAC supporting former Republican Sen. George Allen. His opponent, Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine, won the seat with 52 percent of the vote.

Adelson also invested in the re-election of Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., in Florida’s 18th District, who was trailing in his battle with Democratic newcomer Patrick Murphy at this writing.

The casino billionaire’s $1 million to Patriot Prosperity, a New Jersey-specific super PAC supporting the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Joe Kyrillos, and the Republican candidate for U.S. House in the state’s 9th District, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, also did not pay off.

During the primary season, Adelson’s $16.5 million in contributions to the super PAC Winning Our Future was not enough guide former House Majority Leader Newt Gingrich to a Republican presidential nomination, though it is credited with keeping him in the race longer than expected. Nor were Adelson’s contributions enough to help Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst win the GOP primary for Texas Senate earlier this year, a cause to which gave at least a quarter-million dollars.

Adelson did score one point with his $2 million contribution that helped sink a Michigan ballot initiative seeking to enshrine collective bargaining in the state’s constitution. Adelson runs the only non-union casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.

 Win-Loss Rundown:

(Giving to candidate-specific super PACs in the federal election)

Sheldon Adelson, Republican, $53.7 million*

  • Mitt Romney — loss
  • Connie Mack (Florida Senate) — loss
  • George Allen (Virginia Senate) — loss
  • Allen West (House, Florida’s 18th) — too close to call, but leaning toward loss
  • Joe Kyrillos (New Jersey Senate) — loss
  • Shmuley Boteach (House, New Jersey’s 9th) — loss
  • Newt Gingrich (GOP presidential primary) — loss
  • David Dewhurst (GOP primary, Texas Senate) — loss

Harold Simmons, Republican, $26.9 million*

  • Mitt Romney — loss
  • Connie Mack (Florida Senate) — loss
  • Rick Santorum (GOP presidential primary) — loss
  • Newt Gingrich (GOP presidential primary) — loss
  • Rick Perry (GOP presidential primary) — loss
  • David Dewhurst (GOP primary, Texas Senate) — loss
  • Orrin Hatch (GOP primary, Utah Senate) — win

Bob Perry, Republican, $21.5 million*

  • Mitt Romney — loss
  • George Allen (Virginia Senate) — loss
  • Connie Mack (Florida Senate) — loss
  • Rick Perry (GOP presidential primary) — loss
  • David Dewhurst (GOP primary, Texas Senate) — loss

Joe Ricketts, Republican, $12.9 million*

  • Mitt Romney — loss

Fred Eychaner, Democrat, $12 million*

  • Barack Obama — win

Tuesday marked the first presidential election under the new campaign finance regime installed following the 2010 Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court decision. The ruling paved the way for super PACs and nonprofits, allowing them to accept unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations and unions, which could be spent on advertising backing or opposing candidates.

*As of Oct. 17, 2012 for the 2011-2012 election cycle. Source: Center for Responsive Politics and Center for Public Integrity analysis of Federal Election Commission records. Totals include contributions from individuals, family members and corporations that are controlled by the individual super donor.

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