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Donor profile: Fred Eychaner

Quick stats on the biggest financial backers of Election 2012

By

 Updated:

Ranking: 4

Total contributions to super PACs: $14.1 million*

  • $4.5 million to Priorities USA Action (pro-Barack Obama)
  • $4.3 million to Majority PAC (pro-Democratic)
  • $4.25 million  to House Majority PAC (pro-Democratic)
  • $750,000 to Women Vote! (pro-Democratic)
  • $200,000 to America Votes Action Fund (pro-Democratic)
  • $50,000 to LPAC (pro-lesbian)

Notable federal hard money, soft money and 527 contributions**:

  • Nearly $6.5 million to 527 committees since 2004 including:
    • $1.6 million to Americans Coming Together
    • $1.3 million to EMILY’s List
    • $1.1 million to America Votes
    • $660,000 to the Democratic Governors Association
    • $50,000 to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund
  • More than $7 million in soft money contributions to Democratic Party organizations between 1997 and 2004
  • Hard money contributions include $66,600 to the Obama Victory Fund since 2011, the maximum contribution to President Barack Obama’s campaign ($5,000) and the Democratic National Committee ($61,600)

Corporate name: Newsweb Corp.

Total spent on federal lobbying (2007-2012): None found

Lobbying issues: N/A

Biography:

Chicago media mogul Fred Eychaner may hold the distinction of being the first super PAC donor.

As the Center for Responsive Politics first reported, in January 2010, months before the political committees called super PACs were officially christened, the Democratic group EMILY’s List transferred $175,700 that Eychaner had given its 527 committee into a nascent group called “Women Vote!” This political committee used the money to run ads in the special election to replace late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.

While EMILY’s List’s efforts to help elect Democrat Martha Coakley proved fruitless, other Democratic super PACs have since turned to Eychaner for financial support.

Eychaner, who has long been active as a Democratic donor, is the president and CEO of Chicago-based Newsweb Corp., a business that specializes in printing community, college and ethnic newspapers. Newsweb also works with clients in public relations, event planning and the fine arts. And the company owns several radio stations in the Chicago area and a television station in Colorado.

Eychaner himself is a life trustee of the Art Institute of Chicago, and he serves on the executive committee of Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet. Eychaner, who is openly gay, is the founder and president of the Alphawood Foundation, which provides grants to nonprofits in the areas of domestic violence prevention, the environment, gay rights, AIDS/HIV issues, the arts and architecture preservation.

During the 2012 election cycle, Eychaner raised more than $500,000 for Obama, the Democratic National Committee and Democratic parties in battleground states, making him a bundler. He also donated to the Presidential Inaugural Committee ahead of Obama's second inauguration. Such loyalty often leads to certain perks.

In September 2010, Obama appointed Eychaner to a position on the board of trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. And according to official visitor logs, Eychaner has visited the White House and met with the president more than a half-dozen times since Obama took office.

Last updated: Jan. 30, 2013

*2011-2012 election cycle. Source: Center for Responsive Politics and Center for Public Integrity analysis of Federal Election Commission records. Totals include contributions from individuals, family members and corporations that are controlled by the individual super donor.

**Sources: Federal Election Commission; Internal Revenue Service