A Mystery Firm, Maker of Nothing, Tops Super PAC Corporate Donor List

By Minyanville Staff  NOV 05, 2012 2:45 PM

Overall, corporate contributions to SuperPacs have equaled $75 million, while unions have donated about $60 million.


MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL The Center for Public Integrity is reporting that the biggest corporate donor to this year’s election cycle “doesn’t appear to make anything -- other than very large contributions to a conservative super PAC.”

The corporation is called Specialty Group Inc., and it’s located in Knoxville, Tenn, though apparently no one knows what the group’s specialty is.

In a 10-day period in early October, however, the “corporation” donated $5.3 million to Freedom Works for America, a super PAC backing Dick Armey, the former GOP House Majority Leader.

Specialty, which was incorporated only a month ago, has a principal office inside a private home in Knoxville. Reporters have not been able to find a website for the company and the only name associated with the firm is that of a lawyer -- William S. Rose, 61 -- whose phone line is disconnected. Rose's home is located about 30 minutes outside of downtown Knoxville and is said to be worth $634,000, however, according to a local report, it is also on a list of blighted properties up for purchase by the city.

Although other such corporations are on the donor lists for various super PACs, Specialty is considered the most mysterious and the biggest.

In all, companies have so far contributed $75 million to super PACs in the 2012 election cycle. By comparison, major labor unions have donated $60 million, but have also mobilized to bring out the white working class vote in support of Obama in key states, including Ohio. (See  "Are Unions Obama's Secret Weapon in Ohio?"  by the Atlantic's Molly Ball.)

The nine other corporate donors to super PACs on the Top 10 list are:  

Oxbow Carbon: $4.3 million
Contran Corp: $3.0 million
Reynolds and Reynolds: $3.0 million
Cooperative of American Physicians: $2.8 million
Crow Holdings: $2.5 million
TRT Holdings $2.5 million
Chevron Corp. (NYSE:CVX): $2.5 million
Weaver Holdings: $2.4 million
The Villages: $1.6 million

Most super donors to the super PACs are individual money managers and billionaires, like Sheldon Adelson, CEO and Chairman of Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS) who has given $5 million to the Congressional Leadership Fund. TD Ameritrade (NYSE:AMTD) founder Joe Ricketts has spent more than $12 million to block Democrats in the 2012 cycle.

Chevron Corporation, a Dow Jones (INDEXDJX:DJI) and S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) component -- which has also donated funds to the conservative group Congressional Leadership Fund -- is the largest public company to have contributed a super PAC. Contran Corporation, however, owned by billionaire Harold Simmons, is the holding company behind Valhi (NYSE:VHI)

Other prominent public companies donating to Republican super PACs include 7-Eleven parent company Seven & I Holdings Co (TYO:3382), B/E Aerospace (NYSE:BEAV) and QC Holdings (NASDAQ:QCCO).

Although members of the Walton family have famously supported Republican and conservative causes with their donation money, Samuel Rawlings Walton, grandson of the Wal-Mart (NSYE:WMT) founder, has given $300,000 to Priorities USA, the super PAC backing President Obama. Caesars Entertainment (NASSAQ:CZR) has given $150,000 to Majority PAC, a group focused on helping Democrats retain a senate majority.

Only two unions -- the AFL-CIO and the United Auto Workers -- have made the Center for Public Integrity’s Top 10 Super PAC donors list.

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