The Brookings Institution think-tank has just released a list of the 25 US billionaires with the most political power. You can access an interactive graphic on the Brookings Institute website.
The list is a part of Brookings Institution Governance Studies Director Darrell West’s forthcoming book Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust. The book argues that the wealthy are more politically engaged than the general public. Research has found that 99 percent of the top 1% of wealth holders vote in presidential elections, nearly double the rate of the general public.
This is likely due to the fact that the super wealthy know that political engagement matters, and being involved in politics yields results. While the general public is busy turning a cynical eye to elections, seeing little difference between Democrats and Republicans, the ultra rich are buying up our government and influencing domestic and foreign affairs.
Hover Over a Billionaire’s Photo (Click to See More Details)
Copyright Brookings Institute, 2014
||Charles & David Koch
||Bill and Melinda Gates
||John and Laura Arnold
||Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos
||Pierre and Pamela Omidyar
||Peter G. Peterson
West notes that much of the debate of how wealth influences politics suffers from an ideological fallacy.
Progressives raise alarm when conservative billionaires are politically active, yet are quick to praise the efforts of the left-leaning rich. Alternately, conservatives fear when liberal billionaires put money into elections but celebrate the advocacy efforts of their own billionaires and special interest groups. West argues that each side misses the challenges raised by billionaire activism for the entire system. The extensive resources and advocacy efforts of the super wealthy provoke concerns about “political influence, transparency and accountability.”
During this time of “high income concentration and dysfunctional political institutions” it is important that the general public understand just how much money impacts politics.