The chief executives of America’s top corporations have thrown their financial support to Mitt Romney over President Obama by more than a 4-1 margin, according to a review of federal records conducted by NBC News.
The presumptive Republican nominee’s presidential campaign has received almost $322,000 in direct donations from the CEOs of the companies listed on the annual “Fortune 500” list of the biggest U.S. companies.
By comparison, the Obama campaign has raked in $75,500 in contributions this election cycle from CEOs of the companies included on the list, according to records through the second quarter of 2012 on file with the Federal Election Commission.
While the sums are but a drop in the bucket relative to the hundreds of millions of dollars raised by both campaigns, they paint a picture of where the upper echelons of corporate America’s sympathies might lie at this point in the campaign. Overall, the Obama campaign has raised about $300 million in total, and the Romney campaign has collected roughly $153 million.
Federal records indicate that 147 CEOs have made some level of contribution directly to either the Obama or Romney campaign. Eighteen of those individuals contributed to Obama; 129 gave to the Romney campaign. Many of the CEOs – though not all of them – donated the maximum $5,000 to their candidate of choice, hewing to laws limiting contributions to $2,500 each for the primary and general election campaigns.
"People who support Mitt Romney do so because they support his pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda for the country," Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said. A spokesman for the Obama campaign declined to comment for this story.
These donations only paint a small part of a broader portrait of how the business community has sized up the election. Some of these donors have contributed thousands more to joint fundraising committees for either Obama or Romney, which funnel donations to the respective national party infrastructures and to state parties. These funds weren’t included in NBC’s tally because they aren’t directly under the control of either presidential candidate, and conceivably could be used for other candidates, like Senate races.
Romney’s advantage with these CEOs isn’t surprising. This same group of 500, not all of whom were CEOs of their respective companies in 2008, also favored Republican presidential nominee John McCain over Obama that year by a nearly 2-1 margin, $205,800 to $93,300. Fewer of the CEOs on the 2012 Fortune 500 gave in 2008; 112 total donated, 31 of whom gave to Obama and 81 of whom gave to McCain.
While Republican presidential candidates have traditionally raised more money from corporate America than Democratic ones, some business leaders have complained about the federal health-care law and Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform pushed by the Obama administration. What’s more, Romney is a familiar figure to many in the business community and has stressed his business background at Bain Capital as one of his chief credentials in his current White House bid.
To that end, some of Obama’s 2008 CEO donors have, so far, declined to cut a check for him this cycle. But a sizable chunk of McCain’s 2008 chief executive donors haven’t given to Romney, either.
There are some executives who switched sides, too. Three of them – Massachusetts Mutual's Roger W. Crandall, Norfolk Southern's Charles W. Moorman IV and Baxter International's Robert L. Parkinson Jr. – switched from supporting Obama in 2008 to Romney in 2012.
One CEO, Paul E. Jacobs of Qualcomm, supported McCain in 2008 but has donated only to Obama in 2012.
While the two presidential campaigns have received almost $400,000 in direct support from the CEOs, it’s likely that corporate involvement in the presidential election is even more extensive. In addition to donating the maximum to Romney or Obama, some of the CEOs have contributed additional thousands to victory committees, which distribute additional funds to the national parties and several state party organizations.
The ascendancy of super PACs – which can accept unlimited contributions – in the time since the 2008 election opens the door to greater corporate involvement, too.
For instance, Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson checks in at No. 278 on the Fortune 500 list, though existing FEC records reflect no direct contributions to the Romney campaign this cycle through June.
That isn’t to say that he hasn’t impacted the 2012 election. Adelson singlehandedly contributed $5 million to the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future (this after investing even more in a super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich during the Republican primaries). Adelson has suggested he’s willing to spend as much as $100 million to defeat Obama this fall.
Many super PACs have also established twin, nonprofit groups as so-called “social welfare organizations” that, under existing federal law, can spend and receive millions on advocacy work, as long as they don’t directly support or oppose a candidate. There’s no way to know how much these groups – like Crossroads GPS, the 501(c)(4) arm of the conservative American Crossroads super PAC or the pro-Obama Priorities USA – have received from these CEOs or other corporate titans. Additionally, a corporation itself can give directly to these groups.