While Omidyar has made donations to various Democratic candidates and party organizations over the years, this is believed to be his first contribution to a super PAC. Such organizations were made possible by the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
Billionaire businessman Donald Trump currently leads rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich in the race for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, although forces such as NeverTrump PAC have recently been working to thwart him. Omidyar’s contribution shows that liberal-leaning donors may also be willing to pony up funds to influence the GOP presidential contest.
Omidyar, 48, is number 163 on Forbes’ list of the world’s billionaires, with an estimated net worth of $7.8 billion. The Hawaii resident made his fortune from eBay, the popular online auction site, where he still serves on the board. He and his wife, Pam, are major philanthropists, and have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into projects centered around human rights, economic development, government transparency and media, among other areas.
Omidyar’s dislike for Trump is no secret. He has made his antipathy toward the candidate clear on Twitter.
“I can’t be contrarian about Donald Trump anymore,” he tweeted on March 13, quoting a Vox story, as Trump blamed Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders for violence at Trump rallies. “He’s terrifying.”
“Trump is a dangerous authoritarian demagogue,” Omidyar wrote in one tweet a few days later.
“Endorsing Donald Trump immediately disqualifies you from any position of public trust,” he wrote in another.
Reached via phone, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks declined to comment.
The Center for Public Integrity receives funding for its money in politics work from the Democracy Fund, a private foundation funded by Omidyar. The Democracy Fund invests in “organizations working to ensure that our political system is responsive to the priorities of the American public,” according to its website.
The group further notes that “The public’s voice is increasingly drowned out as political leaders become ever-more dependent on a relatively small group of large donors and special interests.”
Democracy Fund president Joe Goldman said Friday that the group is strictly nonpartisan: “As a private foundation, we do not support or oppose candidates and no Democracy Fund resources were used in the course of this gift,” he said.
“Pierre has no editorial involvement with the journalism groups he funds,” said Gina Lindblad, an Omidyar spokeswoman.
The super PAC reported the contribution in a filing Friday. It reported a little more than $150,000 in contributions with $50,000 coming from Keith Rabois, a technology investor and former PayPal executive. He’s currently with Khosla Ventures, a venture capital firm.
The Omidyar Network, a philanthropic organization that invests in numerous for-profit and nonprofit ventures, has also funded other Center for Public Integrity projects.
Center for Public Integrity CEO Peter Bale said the Democracy Fund, while founded by Omidyar, “is an independent entity” and that donors “exert no influence on Center story choice or reporting.”
So far, NeverTrump PAC has paid nearly $50,000 to Tusk Digital, a Washington, D.C.-based company, for online advertising. The super PAC is linked to Republican digital consultant Patrick Ruffini. The group’s website features a pledge that says signers “will do our part to deny Donald Trump the Republican nomination and ensure that he never becomes commander-in-chief. Never means never.”
According to the website, the pledge has so far been signed by nearly 25,000 people.
A super PAC is a political committee that can raise unlimited amounts from individuals, labor unions and corporations that must be spent independently from a candidate.
Earlier this month, Ruffini told The Hill newspaper that the group was relying on small dollar donations to run targeted ads in New York districts where Trump could be denied delegates.
Omidyar has not been a major donor in the super PAC era, although he and Pam have given more than $500,000 to federal candidates and groups — nearly all of them Democrats — since 1999, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of records filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Pierre and Pam Omidyar have combined to give nearly $200,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee over the years and about $150,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Both Pierre and Pam Omidyar supported Democrat Hillary Clinton during her 2006 U.S. Senate re-election campaign. Pam Omidyar donated to both Clinton and Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential race, while Pierre Omidyar did not donate to any presidential candidate that year. Neither has yet made a personal contribution to any 2016 White House hopefuls, according to FEC records.
High-profile Democratic candidates to whom Pierre Omidyar has donated in the past include House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. His most recent federal political contributions came in 2010, records indicate.
Pierre Omidyar has given money to only a handful of Republicans including former President George W. Bush, former U.S. Rep. James Greenwood of Pennsylvania and former U.S. Rep. Jeb Bradley of New Hampshire. Between 1999 and 2010, he also donated $55,000 to the political action committee of eBay, which supported a number of Republican and Democratic candidates.
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