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There’s Top-Heavy Super PACs, And There’s Super Top-Heavy Super PACs

Most of the 2016 presidential candidates have at least one super PAC supporting them. And while almost all of those super PACs have raised the majority of their money from a small group of big contributors, there are still some differences among the donor bases.


The 5 percent of donors who gave the most money to these super PACs account for more than 50 percent of the money raised to support each candidate.1 In most cases, the number of donors in the top 5 percent is exceedingly small.2

The super PACs backing Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, for example, raised $38 million in the first half of the year, from 45 donors. More than 80 percent of that total came from just four donors. The super PACs backing former Texas Gov. Rick Perry raised nearly $13 million from 41 donors, and 91 percent of that was from just five donors.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, on the other hand, saw the super PAC that’s supporting him, Right to Rise, raise $103 million, from nearly 4,000 donors. By relying on a bigger donor pool, Right to Rise, in addition to having more money, may be in a better position if some of its large donors don’t continue to send in checks.


  1. I’ve only included super PACs that either individually or with other super PACs supporting the same candidate raised $1 million or more.

  2. To determine which donors were in the top 5 percent for each candidate and how much they donated, I ranked the donors by the amount they gave and then calculated the dollar amount at which 95 percent of donors fell below. Then, for each candidate, I included the donors who gave a total of at least that amount to super PACs supporting the candidate.

Aaron Bycoffe is a computational journalist for FiveThirtyEight.