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October 28, 2012

POWER GIVERS Corporate titans bankroll key races as restraints loosen on political spending

Click HERE for an interactive list of the 17 largest donors.

Unleashed by a controversial Supreme Court ruling, top corporate power players in Massachusetts are pumping millions into Bay State campaign coffers as the White House and a coveted U.S. Senate seat hang in the balance.

A trio of big name business leaders, including a sneaker tycoon, a top Bain Capital executive and a biotech entrepreneur, have pumped more than $1 million each into the presidential campaign, the hard-fought Brown-Warren race for Senate and other contests, according to a review of campaign records by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting.

NECIR analyzed a newly created, comprehensive data base that combines federal contributions with contributions from seven states, including Massachusetts. Overall, two dozen Bay State executives have contributed $200,000 and up during the last two years to state and federal candidates in Massachusetts and across the country.

The data reveals a more complete picture of the true scope of Massachusetts donors’ political reach than previously disclosed, showing that deep-pocketed donors give more to federal, not state, causes and candidates. Despite its reputation as the “bluest state.” contributions from Massachusetts were fairly bipartisan.

The surge of spending has been fueled in part by a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that has given executives and companies the ability to dole out unlimited amounts of cash for the political causes they support, campaign finance experts say.

In fact, some top executives are now funneling most of their campaign dollars not to the candidates but rather to the so-called super PACs that have become major players in the nightly political ad wars on TV.

“It is a terrible ruling that has opened the floodgates to unlimited amounts of money to be spent in our elections,” said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause of Massachusetts, a group dedicated to battling the influence of money in politics. “The result is a distorted election and increasing opportunities for corruption in our political system.”

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