Political Donations by News Media

We wanted to explore the political donation patterns of the most influential US media companies that call themselves news based on their traffic and viewership.






Only 14.5% of executives, funders, and owners of major news media openly give to political parties, based on FEC data. We found this number surprisingly low (60 of 412), even if encouraging to think that owners/execs/funders of news outlets may stay out of political giving. The political donors came from 35 of the 90 news outlets we studied. (Some outlets had multiple donors.) Unfortunately, Super PAC donations are very difficult to track and we are left wanting for more information and data around Super PAC donation patterns from those who own or fund the US media.




We searched 412 executives, board members, investors, and owners of 90 Top Us Media News Organizations ranked by monthly traffic.

  • We found only 60 of 412 US Mainstream Media owners and execs at these 90 media orgs donated to political campaigns through FEC individual donation rules. That is, 14.5% donate over $2,000. We found the number of people giving surprisingly low.
  • Executives at over a third (35) of the 90 media organizations had given openly to politicians, traditional PACs and parties.
  • The 60 donors came from 35 of the media orgs as some organizations had more than one executive who donated to political parties with over $2,000.



  • List 90 of the top US Media in our 2021 Ownership Index (176 media properties ranked by traffic).
  • Select a mix of owners, CEOs, key shareholders or donors, and editors to a total of 412 individuals.
  • Searched all 412 people on the FEC site to track political donations.




2020 Political Ad Spending

Insider reported in October 2020 that The 2020 presidential and congressional elections will be the most expensive in history, with campaigns and affiliated organizations expected to spend $10.8 billion overall, per new data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics as cited by CNBC. That money had to come from somewhere.


Super PAC spending (per OpenSecrets.org)

"Super PACs" are a relatively new type of committee that arose following the July 2010 federal court decision in a case known as SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission.

"Technically known as independent expenditure-only committees, super PACs may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates. Unlike traditional PACs, super PACs are prohibited from donating money directly to political candidates, and their spending must not be coordinated with that of the candidates they benefit. Super PACs are required to report their donors to the Federal Election Commission on a monthly or semiannual basis—the super PAC's choice—in off-years, and monthly in the year of an election," OpenSecrets.org.

As of July 30, 2021: 

  • 2,276 groups organized as Super PACs have reported their numbers.
  • total receipts of $3,427,543,995 in the 2019-2020 cycle.
  • total independent expenditures of $2,128,047,603 in the 2019-2020 cycle. 



Thank you to Harvard rising sophomore Riley Kunz and Tufts rising senior Allie Birger for helping to compile this data over the summer of 2021. As always, thanks to Liz Salazar at IQSS for helping to build this site.