The president of a medical marijuana wholesaler, an investor whose son lobbied the White House on behalf of Venezuela and Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge’s wife made the list.
So did the CEO of an L.A.-based video game company, a wealthy student in Oregon and a Texas retiree who made over 1,400 distinct donations in 2017.
Twenty-seven new donors broke onto the scene last year by giving at least $100,000 to political causes after contributing no more than $20,000 from 1989 to 2016. It’s an eclectic group to say the least.
The only obvious through line between these top donors is that the vast majority — 23 of the 27 — gave to Republican causes.
Top 27 new donors (2018 cycle)
|Donor||Occupation / Employer||2017||1989 – 2016||Diff.||Top Recipient(s)|
|Greg Lindberg||Eli Research||$622,500||$7,900||$614,600||North Carolina Republican Party|
|Austin Marxe||AWM Investment||$350,050||$11,275||$338,775||Senate Majority PAC|
|Lianbo Wang||Thompson Education Center||$339,500||$6,050||$333,450||Trump Victory|
|R.W. Habboush||Habboush Group||$334,000||$0||$334,000||RNC|
|Lily Kin||Lawrence Consulting||$301,300||$12,500||$288,800||Trump Victory|
|Adam Pritzker||Assembled Brands||$300,000||$2,000||$298,000||Future Now Fund|
|Tom Gates||Espejo Energy||$294,000||$9,500||$284,500||Team Ryan, MacArthur Victory|
|Daniel & Michelle Ainge||Boston Celtics||$255,400||$18,000||$237,400||Conservative Utah|
|Yu Kevin Guan||N.A. Trucking Associations||$235,625||$0||$235,625||Trump Victory|
|Adam Kidan & Tracy Schneider-Kidan||Chartwell Staffing Solutions||$146,200||$7,700||$138,500||NRC|
|David & Debra Magerman||Six Points Restaurant||$122,750||$2,000||$120,750||Congressional Republicans|
|James & Julie Brookshire||S&B Engineers & Constructors||$121,200||$16,000||$105,200||Team Ryan|
|Lorna Auerbach||Auerbach Realty Holdings||$117,910||$8,076||$109,834||NRCC, McCarthy Victory Fund|
|Patricia Walker||Retired||$116,758||$0||$116,758||DNC, End Citizens United|
|Bo Li||Thompson Education Center||$115,435||$170||$115,265||RNC|
|Charles & Kimberly Marshall||Beacon Marshall Companies||$110,800||$15,381||$95,419||Drain the Swamp Ohio|
|Justin Alexander||Student||$109,700||$0||$109,700||Trump MAGA|
|Tina Carolan||Retired||$100,201||$3,560||$96,641||MacArthur Victory Fund|
|Michael Robinson||Ridgeview Asset Management||$100,000||$0||$100,000||Citizens for a Strong America, United for Progress|
|Pavan Agarwal||Sun West Mortgage||$100,000||$0||$100,000||California Victory 2018|
|John Foley||Wayzata Investment Partners||$100,000||$0||$100,000||American Jobs & Growth PAC|
|Larry Davis||LNS CAPITAL||$100,000||$0||$100,000||Trump Victory|
|Marc Merill||Riot Games||$100,000||$0||$100,000||Centrist Project Election Fund|
|William Brothers||Arizona Facilities Supply||$100,000||$250||$99,750||Trump Victory|
|Ben Kante||SeneGence International||$100,000||$1,500||$98,500||California Victory 2018|
|John Garcia||World Wide Medical Services||$100,000||$10,000||$90,000||American Victory Fund 2010|
Chart includes donations made from Jan. 1, 2017 to Dec. 31, 2017
At top of the list: Greg Lindberg, a North Carolina “bootstrap entrepreneur” who cut a $500,000 check to the North Carolina Republican Party. Lindberg gave just over $10,000 to a Democrat in the statehouse — the rest went to Republicans — but his lawyer insists he is “very nonpartisan.”
R.W. Habboush, the international investor, dropped six-figures on both the Republican National Committee and Trump’s inauguration.
Habboush’s son, Wadie, reportedly visited the White House twice last year to discuss the U.S. lifting sanctions on Venezuela. The meetings didn’t stop the U.S. Treasury Department from announcing it would impose new sanctions on Venezuela.
William Brothers, the president of an Arizona-based medical marijuana wholesaler, gave $100,000 to Trump Victory.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is no friend of cannabis: Under his tenure, the Department of Justice has cracked down on marijuana by rescinding lenient Obama-era prosecution guidelines for states with some form of legalization.
Ben Kante is an executive of SeneGence, a popular multi-level marketing makeup company that claims one of its products “helps reduce Dark Circles by 122%.”
In March, Trump appointed Scott Gottlieb commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, which oversees cosmetic manufacturing and labeling. Its oversight includes whether cosmetics are “improperly labeled or deceptively packaged products,” as Romper noted. Gottlieb has accused the FDA in the past of over-regulating products.
Kante hadn’t made federal contributions until 2017, when he gave $250,000 to the Trump inauguration and $100,000 to California Victory Fund.
Lianbo Wang and Bo Li of Thompson Education Center, a proposed private higher education campus in New York, gave over $450,000 combined to Trump Victory and the RNC, which Trump Victory is affiliated with.
Thompson Education Center is the latest real estate venture of Long Island businesswoman Sherry Li, who previously proposed a Chinese Disneyland in the Catskill Mountains that aimed to attract wealthy Chinese investors through a federal program that reserves visas for charitable foreign investors. Sherry Li herself made major contributions to both Trump Victory and the RNC in 2017.
Michelle Ainge, whose husband is the general manager of the Boston Celtics, gifted $250,000 to Conservative Utah, a super political action committee (PAC) that supported her son’s unsuccessful primary bid for a U.S. House seat.
The top new liberal spender was Wall Street investment banker Austin Marxe, who gave to the Senate Majority PAC. Marxe donated just over $11,000 to political causes in the last 14 election cycles but gave $30 million to his alma mater in 2016.
Patricia Walker, the Texas retiree, gave over $100,000 in small donations — many of those $50 or less — through ActBlue, a liberal PAC that bundles and transmits earmarked contributions from individuals raised on their website to specific candidates.
Many Democratic candidates have relied increasingly on grassroots fundraising and small contributions. ActBlue has raised nearly $4 million dollars in the 2018 election cycle.
Marc Merill is the CEO of Riot Games, the developer of “League of Legends.” Merril gave $100,000 to Centrist Project Election Fund, a nonpartisan PAC which, according to its website, is dedicated to solving problems by “making the political process work better.”
Trump Victory was the most popular cause for five donors, who combined to contribute almost $1.1 million in 2017.
Researcher Alex Baumgart contributed to this story.