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The 10 richest Americans are just beginning to take sides in the 2020 presidential race

Ben Werschkul
DC Producer

The 10 richest Americans have a combined wealth of well over half a trillion dollars.

And we might only be beginning to feel the influence of all that buying power in the 2020 campaign.

Michael Bloomberg sits at No. 6 on this elite list and of course is running for president himself. He’s already spent hundreds of millions and is promising to spend over a billion before it’s all over (more on that below). 

Credit: David Foster

Oracle (ORCL) co-founder Larry Ellison sits at No. 4 on Forbes’s list with an estimated fortune of $62.5 billion. He is set to jump into the 2020 fray in a big way with a fundraiser on Wednesday featuring President Donald Trump at the Oracle founder’s estate in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

According to a copy of the invitation, the golf outing this Wednesday will cost donors either $100,000 or $250,000 with funds being disbursed among Trump's primary and general election accounts, the Republican National Committee, GOP state parties, and the Republican National Convention.

Here are the different ways the 10 members of the 0.000003% are publicly engaging in the 2020 campaign.

All in for Trump (or at least the Republican party)

Ellison is the first top billionaire (and one of the only tech leaders) to go all in on Trump.  

The Oracle co-founder only recently joined the Trump train. During the 2016 campaign, he gave millions to Marco Rubio and to super PACS that supported the Florida senator. Over the years, Ellison has given money to both parties with a focus on Republicans. 

In years past, he gave money to Democrats like Joseph Crowley, the New York City Congressman who was unseated in 2018 by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Ellison has also given money to Senators Harry Reid of Nevada and Ron Wyden of Oregon. 

Oracle chairman of the board and chief technology officer Larry Ellison delivers a keynote address during the 2019 Oracle OpenWorld on September 16, 2019. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Through the end of 2019, based on Federal Election Commission data, Ellison has never given a cent to Trump.

Charles Koch, CEO of the conglomerate Koch Industries, is another top billionaire in the top 10. His wealth, according to Forbes, is estimated at $50.5 billion. Along with his late brother David, the Kochs have directed hundreds of millions of dollars towards a range of Republican and Libertarian causes over the years.

The Kochs have had a complicated relationship with Trump and clashed with the president over issues like trade.

This time around, Charles Koch has still not directly indicated whether he'll support Trump, and if so, how much money he'll send the president's way. So far in the 2020 race, the Koch largesse has often been directed towards Senate races.

Jim Walton (the youngest son of Walmart [WMT] founder Sam Walton) has a personal fortune of $44.6 billion and is the 10th richest American in the country. He generally stays quiet on political topics but appears to have personally given money to a range of Republican groups over the years, including Trump.

A few links to the Democrats

Two billionaires on the list have been linked to Democratic campaigns.

Mark Zuckerberg (No. 5, $62.3 billion) has reportedly recommended several potential hires to former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s campaign. Zuckerberg visited South Bend in 2017 and appeared in a Facebook Live with then-Mayor Buttigieg.

Zuckerberg has also railed against other Democratic candidates, saying during a leaked meeting last July that an Elizabeth Warren presidency would be an “existential” threat to Facebook. Zuckberg met with Trump for what Facebook called a “constructive” conversation last year.

According to the FEC, Zuckerberg’s last personal political donation — outside of contributions to Facebook’s own PAC — was $10,000 to the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee in 2015. In 2014, he gave money to both Democrat Nancy Pelosi and Republican Paul Ryan.

Google (GOOG, GOOGL) co-founder Sergey Brin (No. 10 on the list, $49.8 billion) has also been linked to the Buttigieg campaign. His wife Nicole Shanahan reportedly hosted a fundraiser for Buttigieg last year. According to FEC data, Shanahan gave $2,800 to Mayor Pete last November and has contributed to a range of other Democratic politicians over the years. Brin himself gave to a get out the vote group in 2016 and to Barack Obama during the 2012 campaign.

Larry Page (L) and Sergey Brin (R), are the co-founders of Google. (Photo by James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images)

The other co-founder of Google, Larry Page, has a fortune of $50.8 billion and he’s stayed a bit quieter on the 2020 race. In the past, he’s indicated he’d rather give his money to people like Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

The top three billionaires are focused elsewhere, for now

The richest of the rich among the billionaire class have declined (or are still waiting) to weigh in.

Amazon (AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos is the richest person in the world. He’s given to Democrats and Republicans over the years but nothing so far in 2020. The Amazon founder reportedly did ask Mike Bloomberg if he would consider running for president. Bezos — thanks largely to his ownership of the Washington Post — has not been on the friendliest of terms with Trump.

On Monday, Bezos pledged $10 billion to fight climate change.

Microsoft (MSFT) co-founder Bill Gates, the second richest person in the world, has also tended to spend his money outside of the electoral process. He’s used his fortune to make the Gates Foundation the largest private foundation in the world.

Gates has offered only limited commentary on the 2020 field: criticizing a proposal for a wealth tax from Warren and saying he wouldn’t rule out supporting Donald Trump. In 2016, he told Stat news that he would approach any administration with an “open mind” but mentioned that Hillary Clinton had more experience with global health.

Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A, BRK-B) CEO Warren Buffett (#3) backed Clinton in 2016 and harshly criticized Donald Trump during that race. He hasn’t endorsed a candidate in 2020 but has indicated a fondness for Michael Bloomberg in the past.

The multi-billionaire in the race

The multi-billionaire with the biggest 2020 footprint is, of course, Michael Bloomberg.

The sixth richest American has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on his candidacy. He’s said he’s open to spending billions whether he wins or loses.

Through an ad campaign that has blanketed the country, he has surged in polls and he’ll appear for the first time on a presidential debate stage on Wednesday night.

Democratic presidential candidate former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg during a campaign rally in Nashville. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Bloomberg has also repeatedly trolled Trump for not being as rich as him. The president is ranked No. 715 in the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires with a fortune estimated at $3.1 billion. Bloomberg has questioned the president repeatedly about his qualifications and even whether he’s actually a billionaire.

A recent speech in Texas was just one example. “Do we really want a general election between two New York billionaires?” Bloomberg asked the crowd before delivering the punchline: “To which I say, who’s the other one?!”

Ben Werschkul is a producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.

Read more:

Presidential campaigns are paying millions to Big Tech companies (while also bashing them)

Bloomberg's new plan to crack down on Wall Street includes a financial transaction tax

Trump to attend fundraiser at Oracle chairman Larry Ellison's estate

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