Despite staying silent, the 100 wealthiest billionaires in the U.S. have a “secret influence” on politics, a new study shows.
The billionaires made “substantial” financial contributions to conservative candidates or officials who support things like tax breaks for the wealthy and privatizing or cutting social security.
The study, published by The Guardian and Northwestern University professors, used “several dozen carefully selected keywords” to search available public information on the billionaires’ “specific talk or actions related to any aspect of social security, any type of taxation, or anything related to abortion, same-sex marriage, or immigration policy.”
Despite what the 100 wealthiest said publicly, the study noted: “Among those who spoke out, more than half actually supported the estate tax. These include our usual suspects – Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Michael Bloomberg – who are very atypical of US billionaires as a whole.”
The study said that while 97% of the wealthiest billionaires remained silent about Social Security policy, they made large financial contributions to politicians that support cutting Social Security benefits.
This may be misleading to media consumers, the study said, because people like Buffett and George Soros who have spoken publicly about Social Security policies have shown support for a “generous” system, rather than privatizing it.
“Billionaires who favor unpopular, ultraconservative economic policies, and work actively to advance them (that is, most politically active billionaires) stay almost entirely silent about those issues in public. This is a deliberate choice,” the study said.
The study compares the billionaires to the Koch brothers, who gained media attention for donating large sums of money to conservative issues.
“Billionaires have plenty of media access, but most of them choose not to say anything at all about the policy issues of the day. They deliberately pursue a strategy of what we call ‘stealth politics,’” the study said.
The study shows that although the billionaires may remain silent, they may have a larger impact than people realize.
“Both as individuals and as contributors to Koch-type consortia, most US billionaires have given large amounts money – and many have engaged in intense activity – to advance unpopular, inequality-exacerbating, highly conservative economic policies,” the report said.