Small donors account for 76 percent of Bernie Sanders’ campaign contributions, report shows

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders speaks in Des Moines at Drake University about why he is running for president on June 12, 2015. Photo by John Pemble.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks in Des Moines at Drake University about why he is running for president on June 12, 2015. Photo by John Pemble.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is the winner when it comes to grass-roots fundraising, according to his first presidential campaign finance report filed Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission.

Since Sanders entered the presidential race, a few things are clear: One, that the first half of the year saw the highest spending on record for so early in a presidential race, with $48 million spent across all candidates. And second, that the massive crowds of fans that seem to flock to wherever Sanders appears, has translated to cash donations, mostly in small denominations.

“More people have contributed to our campaign than to any other candidate running for president, Democrat or Republican,” his campaign said in an email to supporters.

Rally in support of Bernie Sanders on July 1, 2015 taken by Flickr user Jen Wegmann-Gabb (terralily.)

Rally in support of Bernie Sanders on July 1, 2015. Photo by Flickr user Jen Wegmann-Gabb (terralily)

While his total reported, $15.2 million, doesn’t touch the top three fundraisers who filed, the bulk of his support – $10.5 million – came from donations of less than $200 each. The money was collected since he declared his run April 30, according to the filings. He formally announced his bid on Burlington’s waterfront on May 26.

The accumulated total includes $1.5 million that Sanders transferred from his Senate campaign, which is inactive as he pursues the presidency.

A fundraising graphic on the Washington Wire blog showed Sanders in second place in terms of donations raised by candidates, eclipsed only by Hillary Clinton, who generated $47.6 million.

But he comes in sixth place for contributions overall. He was outpaced by candidates with support from super PACs, which have no cap on contribution amounts. (Individuals are limited to donating $2,700 each.) GOP candidates Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rick Perry all surpassed Sanders for overall fundraising.

“Our campaign is a strong grassroots movement supported by middle-class Americans from working families, not billionaires trying to buy elections,” Sanders said in a news release. “I am proud that we have more than 284,000 individual donors and that the average contribution was about $35,” he added.

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The campaign pulled in 390,730 donations, and the campaign spent $2.9 million during the second quarter giving it a burn rate – or the percent at which it is spending versus pulling in money – of 20 percent. By comparison, Clinton’s camp has spent $18.7 million, running at a burn rate of 39 percent. Sanders had $12.2 million cash on hand as of June 30, the release stated.

In his statement, Sanders reiterated his aim to undo the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling on Citizens’ United, which paved the way for the creation of Super PACs.

“The current corrupt campaign finance system … now allows the super-wealthy to buy elections,” Sanders said in the release.

His campaign said the ruling “gutted laws limiting campaign funding that allows billionaires to pour money into campaigns and essentially pick the president they want. “That’s not democracy,” Sanders said. “That’s oligarchy.”

A California-based Sanders supporter Wednesday established a super PAC to help bolster senator’s Democratic run. Eric Jacobson, a Los Angeles lawyer who created Billionaires for Bernie, hopes to improve the chances that the anti-super PAC candidate has to win – whether he likes it or not.

“I’m hoping to facilitate a level playing field where a billionaire of conscience can write a check … and I’m going to encourage them to do it,” Jacobson told a Washington Post blogger. Jacobson will need to change the name to keep it legally apart from the senator, and the blog reported Jacboson saying,”It will be a ‘very unaffiliated effort.'”

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Jess Wisloski

About Jess

Jess Wisloski (Martin) is a freelance reporter and editor at VTDigger.
Previously she worked as the Weekends Editor for New York City's groundbreaking news site, DNAinfo.com, and prior to that was the New York City editor for Yahoo!, managing homepage news, rolling out new online experiences, and writing features. Jess graduated from New York University, cut her journalistic teeth at area weeklies, including working under the tutelage of Wayne Barrett at The Village Voice.
Her first long-term job was as a staff writer for the NY Daily News in 2005, where she reported on land use, business and schools in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens. She now lives in Essex Junction with her family.

Email: [email protected]

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