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Democrats lead GOP in tapping the wealthy

WASHINGTON - For as often as Democrats attack the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch for their heavy spending on politics, it's actually the liberal-minded who shelled out the most cash on the just-completed midterm elections.

WASHINGTON - For as often as Democrats attack the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch for their heavy spending on politics, it's actually the liberal-minded who shelled out the most cash on the just-completed midterm elections.

At least, that is, among those groups that must disclose what they raise and spend.

Among the top 100 individual donors to political groups, more than half gave primarily to Democrats or their allies. Among groups that funneled more than $100,000 to allies, the top of the list tilted overwhelmingly toward Democrats - a group favoring the GOP doesn't appear on the list until No. 14.

The two biggest super PACs of 2014? Senate Majority PAC and House Majority PAC - both backing Democrats.

In all, the top 10 individual donors to outside groups injected almost $128 million into this year's elections. Democratic-leaning groups collected $91 million of it.

Among the 183 groups that wrote checks of $100,000 or more to another group, Democrats had a 3-to-1 cash advantage. The biggest player was the National Education Association, at $22 million. Not a single Republican-leaning group cracked the top 10 list of those transferring money to others.

Overall, for the campaign season that just ended, donors who gave more than $1 million sent roughly 60 cents of every dollar to liberal groups. Among the 10 biggest donors, Democrats outspent Republicans by almost 3 to 1.

"They're total hypocrites when it comes to this subject," said Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus. "They've made a living off campaign talking points when, in reality, they've been raking in more money from millionaire donors than Republicans for quite a while."

That's true, but only among those groups that have to tell the Federal Election Commission about all the money that's coming and going.

Left undisclosed are the specifics of the fund-raising and spending of politically minded nonprofit groups, such as the Koch-backed conservative network of Americans for Prosperity or the environment-minded League of Conservation Voters.

Because they are not technically political, they do not face the same disclosure rules as overtly political groups. That leaves a hole in the effort to follow all the money in politics.

Biggest Donors At a Glance

WASHINGTON - Big-dollar donors helped inject hundreds of millions into the 2014 midterm federal elections. A look at some of the biggest donors of the election cycle:

Top Democrats

Tom Steyer, a retired San Francisco hedge fund billionaire who sought to make climate change an issue in 2014 via his group, NextGen Climate Action. He gave a total of almost $74 million to his super PAC and others.

Michael Bloomberg, a former Republican-turned-independent who served three terms as mayor of New York City before returning to the media company that carries his name. Bloomberg gave at least $20 million.

Fred Eychaner, founder of Chicago-based alternative-newspaper publisher Newsweb Corp. and a major fund-raiser for Democrats. Eychaner gave almost $8 million this cycle to help liberal groups that report their fund-raising.

George Soros, a liberal billionaire investor and long-time Democratic patron who is among Republicans' favorite subjects for criticism. Soros gave less than $4 million to help Democrats.

James and Marilyn Simons, a New York-based couple who have given away large parts of their billion-dollar fortune. James Simons is founder and chairman of investment firm Renaissance Technologies, and Marilyn Simons is an economist who chairs the family's science foundation. They gave Democrats more than $3 million this cycle.

Top Republicans

Paul Singer, a New York hedge fund billionaire who is among the most reliable donors to establishment-minded Republicans. Singer gave more than $9 million this cycle to outside groups that disclose their donors.

Robert Mercer, another Renaissance Technologies executive and a leader whom James Simons recruited from IBM to join the investment firm. Mercer is a frequent donor to outside groups and gave more than $8 million.

Joe Ricketts, the founder and top executive of Omaha, Nebraska-based TD Ameritrade and driving force behind the nonprofit Ending Spending Fund and its affiliated super PAC, Ending Spending Action Fund. Ricketts gave almost $7 million to outside groups that disclose their donors.

Sheldon Adelson, owner of the Las Vegas Sands casinos and the biggest patron of Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential bid. Along with his physician wife Miriam Adelson, the casino giant with an estimated self-worth of $29 billion gave $5 million to political groups this campaign.

Richard Uihlein, the founder of Wisconsin packing-material giant Uline and a supporter of outside groups that are among the GOP's most conservative. Uihlein gave more than $4 million.

SOURCE: A Center for Responsive Politics review of Federal Election Commission reports filed through Nov. 16.