Arts benefactors rank among the top conservative donors pouring funding into the political circuit ahead of the U.S. mid-term elections.
Ken Griffin, Larry Ellison, and Stephen A. Schwarzman are each among the top 10 political donors backing Republican fundraising ahead of Tuesday’s election, according to recently released data by OpenSecrets, which tracks political funding. Together, the three have contributed $135 million to conservative-leaning groups.
Campaign spending for the 2022 midterm is expected to be the most expensive on record surpassing an estimate $9.3 billion, up around 30 percent from its 2018 high watermark, according to Bloomberg. Abortion rights, economic strain and immigration are among the topics shaping the political debate around next week’s elections.
In addition to their influence in the political realm, Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman, Citadel’s Ken Griffin and Oracle founder Larry Ellison, the latter two who have each appeared on ARTnews list of Top 200 collectors, each have major footprints as public figures in the arts.
Last year, Griffin made headlines when he outbid a 17,000-person DAO group of crypto enthusiasts to win a rare copy of the U.S. Constitution for $43 million at auction. The acquisition, which Griffin lent to the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art in Arkansas this year, added to his already formidable collection, which includes works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Paul Cézanne, Jackson Pollock and Jasper Johns. Since 2015, he’s donated more than $260 million to museums and art spaces in the U.S., including the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, where a gallery is named for him.
Schwarzman, a Giving Pledge signatory who donated to Trump’s election in 2020, holds a trustee position at The Frick Collection. According to the museum’s website, Schwarzman is currently backing a program to match public donations to the institution’s annual fund this fall. As well as being an underwriter for the Met Costume Institute’s “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” he backed a revamp of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs’s fashion galleries. A building at the New York Public library, which holds an art collection, is named for him.
Ellison, a tech mogul, has since 2010 planned to open a yet-unrealized private museum to house his collection. While he is less visible in the museum space, he has leveraged his private collection in the public sphere. In 2021, he lent two van Gogh paintings to a traveling exhibition in the U.S. and has shown his holdings of Asian art at a museum in San Francisco.
Elsewhere on the top of the Opensecrets ranking is Midwest shipping supply magnate Richard Uihlein, who has funded far-right causes and is a donor to Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History. Another is banking heir Timothy Mellon, who previously served as a longtime trustee of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, one of the country’s largest distributors of arts-related grants.