At around noon Eastern time the International Olympic Committee is set to vote on the host city for the 2016 Summer Olympics. The final candidates are Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo. The White House originally stated that President Obama would not attend the Copenhagen vote to lobby for Chicago’s bid, due to pressing work on health care reform, but announced earlier this week that he would attend after all. In recent years major heads of states have successfully lobbied for their country’s cities, and it’s kind of difficult to imagine the IOC disappointing the world’s most powerful man. Update: Chicago was eliminated in the first round of today’s vote.
It has been noted in various places that Chicago 2016, the committee of political and business leaders organizing Chicago’s bid, is a powerful bunch with close ties to the White House, and that this might have something to do with Obama’s last-minute change of heart. Yesterday the Huffington Post reported that the committee’s 13-member board bundled at least $1.95 million for Obama in 2008, based on bundling estimates from OpenSecrets.
Ever since OpenSecrets opened its data earlier this year, we’ve been working on a useful little tool to let our analysts import campaign contribution data from OpenSecrets straight into LittleSis. This tool allows users to quickly determine which political candidates a given person has donated to since 1990, and how much has been given to each. It’s easy, for example, to see exactly how Senator Rockefeller likes to spread the wealth. We’re still putting the finishing touches on it, but we decided to take it for a spin and do some analysis of our own on the Chicago 2016 Committee. (The numbers below should be considered lower bound estimates because, well, names can be tricky sometimes, and these folks make so many contributions that inevitably some are overlooked.)
Members of the 400-strong bid committee have given $42.5 million in campaign contributions since 1990. In 2008 alone, 135 committee members gave $1 million to Obama and 61 gave $1 million to McCain. That’s an average of $7.5K and $18K per donor, respectively, by regularly exploiting a convenient loophole in campaign finance law. Twelve committee members gave more than $30K to Obama in 2008. Another five gave more than $20K, and another eight gave more than $10K. To put that in perspective, $1 million is more than Goldman Sachs gave Obama in the 2008 election, and more than Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley gave to McCain.
Who are these people? The committee itself is an fairly broad array of business and civic leaders from Chicago, plus a sprinkling of famous Olympians. As you can see their political giving is impressively bipartisan. But there are other interesting patterns. At least 13 are affiliated with Northwestern University, 8 with the University of Chicago. They sit at the Business Roundtable and hang out at the Commercial and Economic Clubs of Chicago. Dozens are executives and board members of huge Chicago-based companies like Boeing, Motorola, Walgreen, and Abbott Laboratories. Many have worked for Mayor Daley. They include top regional executives from the nation’s biggest banks. They serve at the helm of prestigious philanthropies and cultural institutions like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Museum of Contemporary Art. They’re notable lawyers, publishers, and athletes. And in between them all are a number of community leaders fighting for a voice in what could be Chicago’s biggest bonus yet from the Obama presidency.
Poke around and see what else you might discover about the Olympic spirit. It’s fascinating stuff.