Hollywood And Labor Unions Pony Up for Obama Super-PAC’s Record Month

Dreamworks executive Jeff Katzenberg, left, and Steven Spielberg both gave $1 million to the pro-Obama super-PAC in September. Rose Palmisano/The Orange County Register/ZUMAPRESS.comDreamworks executive Jeff Katzenberg, left, and Steven Spielberg both gave $1 million to the pro-Obama super-PAC in September. Rose Palmisano/The Orange County Register/ZUMAPRESS.com

In the beginning, the super-PAC fighting to reelect President Obama, Priorities USA Action, couldn’t catch a break. Priorities was raising paltry sums each month compared to super-PACs backing Republican candidates. After one particularly negative story about Priorities’ struggles, co-founder Bill Burton wrote to one journalist, “If you didn’t read the story and just looked at the pictures…I feel like I came out pretty good.”

How times have changed. Last month, Priorities hauled in $15.2 million, a new monthly record for the group. Big donations came in from Hollywood director and producer Steven Spielberg ($1 million), Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeff Katzenberg ($1 million), hedge fund manager James Simons ($1.5 million), Chicago media mogul Fred Eychaner ($2 million), and attorney David Boies ($1 million).

The United Auto Workers, of which I’m a member, also waded into the super-PAC wars for the first time, giving Priorities $1 million. United Association, the plumbers and pipefitters union, chipped in $673,100, and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association gave another $250,000. Rob Walton, chairman of Walmart, a decidedly anti-union company, gave $300,000 to Priorities as well.

Since its inception in April 2011, Priorities USA Action has raised $50.8 million. The group will need a stellar October fundraising haul to reach its goal of $75 million for the 2012 election cycle. (Priorities also has a shadowy nonprofit affiliate which has yet to disclose how much money it’s raised.)

Restore Our Future, the super-PAC backing Mitt Romney, turned in a strong September as well. The group raised $14.8 million. ROF’s donor list is filled with familiar faces in the world of big-money Republican fundraising. With his $2 million donation last month, Texas homebuilding king Bob Perry has given a total of $9 million to Restore Our Future. Oxbow, the energy company run by Bill Koch, brother to Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries, gave another $1 million, as did Robert McNair, who owns the Houston Texans, and Stan Herzog, a Missouri businessman.

Nearly $4 million of Restore Our Future’s September donations came from corporations, such as airline interior supplier Greenpoint Technologies and rental company Penske Corporation. Restore Our Future has raised $111.5 million since its creation in March 2011.

Restore Our Future last week announced one of its biggest ad blitzes of the 2012 campaign. The super-PAC said it will spend $12 million on a nine-day ad spree in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Nevada, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

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WHO DOESN’T LOVE A POSITIVE STORY—OR TWO?

“Great journalism really does make a difference in this world: it can even save kids.”

That’s what a civil rights lawyer wrote to Julia Lurie, the day after her major investigation into a psychiatric hospital chain that uses foster children as “cash cows” published, letting her know he was using her findings that same day in a hearing to keep a child out of one of the facilities we investigated.

That’s awesome. As is the fact that Julia, who spent a full year reporting this challenging story, promptly heard from a Senate committee that will use her work in their own investigation of Universal Health Services. There’s no doubt her revelations will continue to have a big impact in the months and years to come.

Like another story about Mother Jones’ real-world impact.

This one, a multiyear investigation, published in 2021, exposed conditions in sugar work camps in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana—the conglomerate behind brands like C&H and Domino, whose product ends up in our Hershey bars and other sweets. A year ago, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from Central Romana. And just recently, we learned of a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into working conditions at Central Romana. How big of a deal is this?

“This could be the first time a corporation would be held criminally liable for forced labor in their own supply chains,” according to a retired special agent we talked to.

Wow.

And it is only because Mother Jones is funded primarily by donations from readers that we can mount ambitious, yearlong—or more—investigations like these two stories that are making waves.

About that: It’s unfathomably hard in the news business right now, and we came up about $28,000 short during our recent fall fundraising campaign. We simply have to make that up soon to avoid falling further behind than can be made up for, or needing to somehow trim $1 million from our budget, like happened last year.

If you can, please support the reporting you get from Mother Jones—that exists to make a difference, not a profit—with a donation of any amount today. We need more donations than normal to come in from this specific blurb to help close our funding gap before it gets any bigger.

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