Ah, the early 1970s. Remember them? The Vietnam War, glam rock, blaxploitation, Archie Bunker, and, erm, we ran out of steam? Oh, and, of course, the massive political corruption scandal that was Watergate?
We bring this all up because, according to a big new investigation from the New York Times, you'd have to travel back to the early 1970s to see the level of concentrated wealth currently fueling our political campaigns.
As the paper puts it:
Just 158 families, along with companies they own or control, contributed $176 million in the first phase of the campaign, a New York Times investigation found. Not since before Watergate have so few people and businesses provided so much early money in a campaign, most of it through channels legalized by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision five years ago.
That $176 million amounts to "almost half of all the seed money raised to support Democratic and Republican presidential candidates," the Times says.
The "before Watergate" part of the passage is important because it was the Watergate crisis that prompted the initiation of much of the regulatory structure for campaign finance. It's that same regulatory structure that's been under attack ever since. In recent years, a sustained effort by the Supreme Court has systematically weakened campaign finance restrictions, leading to the tsunami of money seen in the present day.
Read the Times' full breakdown of the people behind this orgy of cash here.