Sanders has no super PAC — but he might have something better
Share Now on:
Throughout his insurgent run for the White House in 2016, Bernie Sanders’ campaign has had an old-fashioned, populist bent: the long-serving congressman is one of the only candidates without a SuperPAC, and he leads the field in donations below $200. Eighty-eight percent of the $40 million he’s raised so far came from small contributions.
But the way he’s raising all that money isn’t quite so old-fashioned. About three-quarters of Sanders’ fundraising from July through September — more than $19 million — came from ActBlue, a nonprofit that makes it easy for left-leaning donors to kick Democratic candidates a few bucks.
It used to be Republican campaigns used to be characterized by small donors, New York Times noted this week in a report on ActBlue, but online fundraising has given Democrats an edge. Most of the establishment GOP candidates enjoy support from SuperPACs — which are in turn funded by a handful of wealthy families — as campaigns continue to rely on costly analog fundraising methods.
Let’s do the numbers:
Sanders’ closest competitor for small donations is another outsider: Ben Carson. The retired neurosurgeon and newly-minted Republican frontrunner has raked in more than $23.1 million in small donations, 74 percent of what he’s raised so far. But the Times notes those dollars might not go quite as far: Carson is raising most of that money from mailers, which are more expensive than online fundraising. Last quarter alone, mailers cost the Carson campaign $3 million.
That’s the total Donald Trump has raised from contributions under $200, which puts him near the lead for small donations. According his most recent Federal Election Commission filing, Trump — who had repeatedly touted a self-funded campaign and billions in the bank — accepted around 74,000 donations averaging $50. The campaign noted the contributions were unsolicited.
Ted Cruz is something of an outlier in the GOP, the Times notes: of the $12.2 million he raised in small donations last quarter, $4.2 million came in online. He has a signature fundraising site called CruzCrowd, which encourages grassroots support by allowing users to pool their donations, crowdfunding style. So if one wanted to make a $4,000 donation on behalf of a student group, for example, one could solicit smaller donations and bundle them together. It’s worth noting that earlier in the year Cruz lead the field in super PAC donations of $1 million or more.
Of the $133.3 million war chest Jeb Bush and his PACs have raised so far, just $1.5 came through small donations to the Bush campaign. Bush has among the smallest portion of small donations to his campaign — 6 percent, ahead of only Chris Christie and Jim Gilmore.
Finally, Democratic frontrunner and establishment candidate Hillary Clinton raised slightly more than Sanders in the third quarter — $29.9 million to his $26.2 million — but she trails in small donations: just a fifth of the $77 million she’s raised so far has come from contributions under $200.
If you’re a member of your local public radio station, we thank you — because your support helps those stations keep programs like Marketplace on the air. But for Marketplace to continue to grow, we need additional investment from those who care most about what we do: superfans like you.
Your donation — as little as $5 — helps us create more content that matters to you and your community, and to reach more people where they are – whether that’s radio, podcasts or online.
When you contribute directly to Marketplace, you become a partner in that mission: someone who understands that when we all get smarter, everybody wins.