New Report Shows Growing Trend: Billionaires Buying Federal Elections and Putting Democracy at Risk

America’s Wealthiest Pump Millions Into 2022 Anti-Democracy GOP Candidates and Lawmakers Who Oppose Fairer Taxes in Democrats’ Reconciliation Bill

Newark, NJ – July 14, 2022 – New Jersey Citizen Action released a new report today in coordination with Americans for Tax Fairness showing that America’s billionaires are pumping tens of millions of dollars into the 2022 midterm elections, mostly backing Republican candidates for Congress who will cut taxes for the ultra-rich and the corporations they own. Many of these same candidates and lawmakers are also undermining our democracy by supporting the Big Lie and the January 6th, 2021 insurrection to overthrow election results.

“Every day the gap between America’s two-tier tax system widens to the detriment of our democracy,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9), the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee. “As New Jersey’s only member of the House tax-writing committee, I am primary sponsor of bills to close the two worst billionaires’ loopholes in the entire tax code: carried interest and stepped-up basis. We must close these and other outrageous loopholes that let billionaires avoid supporting our country and increase the burden on regular Americans. Tax fairness must be a top priority in any reconciliation plan. Our great society cannot endure where the rich and powerful play by one set of rules and the rest abide by another.”

Many of the Republicans these individuals supported who are now in Congress are expected to oppose the current reconciliation proposal being considered. That proposal would close tax loopholes and raise taxes on millionaires and corporations while lowering prescription drug prices for seniors and making health care coverage more affordable for people with private insurance plans.

“With Income inequality and the cost of basic necessities – healthcare, childcare, housing, and more – at record levels, the ultra-rich continue to expand their wealth at the direct expense of our working families and democracy,” said Maura Collinsgru, NJ Citizen Action Director of Policy and Advocacy. “A handful of billionaires already control more wealth than half the American population and are buying the candidates and election outcomes they want to keep the rules rigged in their favor and destroy core democratic institutions.  Congress must enact tax reforms that hold the super wealthy accountable to the same rules as everyone else.”

“Inequality is on the rise and the ultra-wealthy are doing everything in their power to keep it that way. As the wealth of billionaires grows — at the expense of their workers and everyone else — they are using those riches to influence elections and rig the tax code in their favor,” added Sheila Reynertson, Senior Policy Analyst at NJ Policy Perspective. This is a race to the bottom for our democracy and economy that must be reined in by making billionaires pay their fair share in taxes.”

The report, BILLIONAIRES BUYING ELECTIONS: How the Nation’s Wealthiest Translate Economic Power Into Political Clout, shows that:  

  • Almost half—$89 million, or 47%—of the nearly $190 million raised by the House and Senate GOP super PACs in the first 16 months of the 2022 campaign cycle came from just 27 billionaires. Almost all of that money came from Wall Street tycoons, who particularly benefit from some of the biggest loopholes in the tax code.  
  • The Democratic counterparts of the two congressional GOP super PACs have received much less billionaire money: about 17%, or about $26 million out of $154 million. These billionaire contributions were much less concentrated by industry: while the most still came from finance and investment (35%), cryptocurrency (26%) and high-tech (18%) were also substantial sources. 

In addition to direct contributions to candidates who will keep laws rigged in their favor, the wealthy also leverage influence through the corporations they control. Many of those corporations also spend big on midterm elections, backing mainly GOP candidates who pledge to keep corporate tax rates low and support lawmakers and candidates that deny the 2020 election outcome.  The report highlights seven large corporations—AT&T, Chevron, ExxonMobil, FedEx, GM, Merck, and UPS—that together gave almost $1.5 million to election deniers this election cycle. In 2021, they paid an average 2.7% tax rate on a combined $78 billion in profits. Average American families pay about 13%

The United States has a growing number of billionaires, many of whom increased their wealth during the last two years of the pandemic even as average New Jerseyans struggled with health, financial security, and growing inflation. The six billionaires in New Jersey, for instance, increased their wealth by 21% from March 2020 to April 2022.

Legislation to tax the ultra-wealthy has been proposed by President Biden, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Jamaal Bowman. Billionaires’ income tax proposals would tax the increased value of rich people’s wealth more like workers’ wages. Right now, the wealthy pass no more in taxes when their wealth increases because of stock assets unless they choose to sell those assets. A billionaires income tax could raise between $360 billion and $550 billion over 10 years.