In the news today I saw a clip of Harry Reid saying,

The negative is Citizens United—that has made it so the fights are unfair. We have now 15 people in the country who basically control most of what goes on in politics. They give huge amounts of money—the Koch brothers and others. Not everyone can go out as I did and compete with them. http://www.cnbc.com/id/102588166

Like probably everyone else, I've read much about how Citizens United has tipped the political playing field in favor of the rich, so this statement is hardly a shocker. A recent Princeton University study suggests the US is an oligarchy, to pick one example. However, it's the first time I've heard such a specific (and small) number stated.

Likely Reid is just trying to be provocative in picking this particular number, however it does beg the question: If Citizens United has brought us a world where it is a few rich men - and not us voters - that decide our government, then who are the top 15 most (monetarily) influential people? What are these individuals' political goals? Do they directly collaborate together or are they just random ultra-rich people? Are these people self-made billionaires from humble roots, or the scions of wealthy families?

Edit: This isn't a red-vs-blue issue. We're given two choices the same way your mother let you choose between broccoli or carrots. Half of us peons are conditioned to identify with one group, half to the other (and we end up cancelling each other's votes out... conveniently enough). The bigger question is, who is deciding for us what our two choices will be, and what do they want out of all of this?

  • The terrible irony is their motto: "Dedicated to restoring our government to citizen control." I guess they didn't mean majority of citizens. – PointlessSpike Apr 17 '15 at 13:38
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    I don't think this is answerable short of Harry Reid popping in here to give us his list. – user1530 Apr 17 '15 at 19:49
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    I can name at least one: George Soros. Somehow I doubt Harry Reid wanted him included. – user4012 Apr 17 '15 at 21:16
  • DA, sure it is; the answer below already gives a link to top donors. – Bryce Apr 17 '15 at 22:18
  • @Bryce as geobits points out, 'top individual donors' really has no bearing with Citizens United. They were top donors with or without citizens united. – user1530 Apr 18 '15 at 3:54

Finding an exact list will likely vary some. Here is one list of donors.

  • 5 of the top 15 were majority Democrat donors, but 3 of the top 5 are Democrat donors.
  • ~$115.9 million was donated to Democrats, ~$56.6 million to Republicans.

The effects of Citizens United are greatly overstated by Democrat critics. This ruling just made it easier for corporations to donate, there were already ways they could funnel money to candidates. What this is really about is that union donations were treated differently than corporate donations, which gave Democrats a huge advantage to raising money.

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    The list you link is a list of individual (not corporate) donations, which the Citizen's United ruling doesn't have any effect on. It's useless if you are trying to measure influence, unless you think union/corporate donations (disclosed or otherwise) don't have any influence. – Geobits Apr 17 '15 at 18:52
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    Citations would help with the commentary. – user1530 Apr 17 '15 at 19:54
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    @Geobits your question asked for people so i linked individual listing. There is an organization list they have as well, for 2014 9/10 are majority democrat donors and 1 that is roughly 50/50. At least three are unions, the Koch industries boogeyman is only 14. The organization list isn't entirely corporate, though as PACs seem to be listed separately and unions are listed. – Ryathal Apr 17 '15 at 20:43
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    @Ryathal If John Smith donates $5m and SmithCorps donates $15m, then you can't only count the individual donation as "Smith's influence". I'm not arguing for or against either side, I'm just saying it's not the right list to look at, and I doubt there is one. – Geobits Apr 17 '15 at 22:01
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    Point being that those lists simply don't reflect the full picture nor do they really address the specific question being asked (who are the 15 people Harry Reid is referring to) – user1530 Apr 18 '15 at 4:01

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