Feedback
Politics

With Three Weeks To Iowa, Top GOP Donors Remain on The Sidelines

The Iowa Caucuses are less than three weeks away and some of the biggest donors in Republican politics are still sitting on the sidelines.

The uncertain forecast in the Republican primary has some major financial heavyweights waiting for the race to solidify. Businessman Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz compete for the anti-establishment vote, traditional Republican candidates like Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Governors Chris Christie and John Kasich remain clustered together in the polls with no clear leader.

Of the five top donors who spent more than $100 million dollars combined in 2012, only two have pledged their support to a candidate this election cycle. And only five of the top ten Republican donors have picked a candidate. There is no evidence that the other high-dollar donors have placed their bets.

Those figures are based on the most recent data available from the Federal Election Commission. At the end of January, the FEC will release filings from campaigns from the last three months and the last six months worth of Super PACs' donations, which will give more insight.

Clinton Feeling the Pressure from Sanders 1:43

The biggest donors, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson who spent more than $90 million dollars four years ago, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, have yet to get behind a candidate. The casino moguls from Las Vegas are believed to like Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, but there is no indication that they have yet decided.

The next biggest Republican donor is John Joe Ricketts, the Chicago Cubs owner and founder of TD Ameritrade. Ricketts was involved in this year's race early, giving $5 million to the super PAC backing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, but Walker dropped out in early September after quickly burning through his stock of cash. Ricketts hasn't backed another candidate.

Other top donors who have not yet gotten involved include investor Peter Thiel, a Ron Paul supporter four years ago who spent more than $4 million. Jerrold and Margaret Perenchio, owners of Univsion, also spent more than $4 million in 2012 and have not yet thrown their money behind a candidate.

Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, whose network spent more than $400 million in 2012, have also stayed out of the 2016 presidential race so far. And whoever wins their endorsement could reap huge benefits. They have pledged to spend $750 million this cycle, but it's still not certain if any of that will be used to sway the Republican primary. Of the candidates, they have said they favor Bush, Rubio, Christie, Sen. Rand Paul and former CEO Carly Fiorina.

Bobbie Kilberg, a GOP fundraiser specializing in "bundling" together groups of donations for candidates said that donors up and down the economic scale, not just limited to the single big-money contributors, are playing the waiting game.

"People are saying call me the day after New Hampshire," Kilberg told NBC News.

With so many people in a race dominated by insurgent Donald Trump, potential donors and fundraisers don't want to put their money on a losing bet. New Hampshire voters head to the polls one-week after Iowa's caucus, which tends to favor the religious conservative candidates. New Hampshire is considered the state that will narrow the field, especially among the four establishment candidates who are working to break out there. Whoever does well there is expected to receive a financial influx.

"It's no secret that New Hampshire is important," Ray Washburne, Christie's financial director, said.

Many of the top donors who have invested in a candidate this year, however, support Cruz. The Texas Sen. has won the support of four of the five top donors from 2012, including former hedge fund owner Robert Mercer, Florida investor John Childs, Texas' owner of TRT Holdings Robert Rowling and Houston Texans owner Robert McNair.

Rounding out the top ten major donors of 2012 is Oracle owner Lawrence Ellison, who is backing Rubio. Rubio is also being backed by New York investor Paul Singer and Chicago's' Ken Griffin. The three spent $8 million combined in 2012.