Sanders boosts Senate re-election war chest to nearly $4M

Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders. File photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., continues to pull money into his Senate campaign account ahead of what is expected to be an easy re-election in 2018 should he run for a third term.

Sanders raised nearly $216,000 in the first three months of 2017. His Senate account holds nearly $3.88 million, according to an April 15 report filed with the Federal Election Commission.

In comparison, during the first three months of 2011 — ahead of Sanders’ previous Senate run — he raised $767,517. His overall cash reserves were much lower in 2011, however, hovering at just over $1 million.

Sanders raised more than $5.5 million in his 2006 Senate run against Republican Rich Tarrant. But a top Vermont Republican Party official recently told Vermont Public Radio that fielding a candidate against Sanders in 2018 is “not really on our immediate radar.”

The senator enjoys enormous popularity in the Green Mountain State. According to recent polling, he is the highest-rated U.S. senator among constituents, with a 75 percent approval rating. The democratic socialist notched 86 percent of the vote in Vermont’s presidential primary in March 2016 and grabbed 18,000 write-in votes during the general election.

Even though it’s more than a year until the 2018 election, Sanders spent $127,931 in the first three months of this year. The biggest beneficiary was Revolution Messaging, a digital political agency that worked on Sanders’ presidential campaign. Between January and the end of March, the organization was paid $32,500 for digital fundraising and website services.

From January to March, Sanders also spent thousands on travel for political rallies across the country, including in Texas, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Utah and Georgia.

In early March, Sanders spent $919.51 for an “event site rental” at The Monocle, an upscale seafood and steak restaurant in Washington, D.C. It’s unclear whether the event was a fundraiser and who attended.

Sanders staffers did not return email and phone requests regarding the FEC financial reports.

Only two of the itemized donations in Sanders’ Senate report came from Vermont residents. The bulk of the money flowed from donors across the country, from Tennessee to California.

Sanders also received donations from two political action committees in the first quarter of the year. He took $5,000 from the America Works PAC, which is associated with progressive Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, and $1,093 from the League of Conservation Voters PAC.

FEC rules give flexibility with Senate campaign accounts, and Sanders could transfer money from his Senate account to his presidential account if he decides to run again in 2020. The Vermonter could also tap into his residual presidential campaign funds should he run for Senate re-election in 2018, though he would have to follow various FEC limits on donors.

Sanders’ presidential account is still active and holds more than $5.3 million. The account, called Bernie 2016, has ceased fundraising but continues to pay off campaign debts, including residual printing, travel, housing and software costs. Between Jan. 1 and March 31, Sanders paid $177,471 in debts.

A January investigation by the Center For Public Integrity found that Sanders’ presidential campaign had outstanding security bills with municipal police departments across the country. Sanders’ April 15 report shows nearly $450,000 in remaining debts, much of which is owed to police departments.

The amounts owed are often in the thousands of dollars. The city of Vallejo, California, for example, claims the Sanders campaign owes it $28,702 in security costs for a campaign event.

Vermont’s two other congressional representatives also have copious amounts of campaign cash for their potential re-election bids.

Democratic Rep. Peter Welch — who is up for re-election in 2018 — has nearly $1.92 million on hand, while Sen. Patrick Leahy — who won’t face re-election until 2022 — has just over $1.94 million in campaign funds.

In the first quarter of the year, Leahy raised $81,485, while Welch took in $28,095.

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Jasper Craven

About Jasper

Jasper Craven is VTDigger’s political reporter. A Vermont native, he first discovered his love for journalism at the Caledonian Record. He double-majored in print journalism and political science at Boston University, and worked in the Boston Globe’s Metro and Investigative units. While at the Globe he collaborated on Shadow Campus, a three-part investigative series focused on greed and mismanagement in Boston’s off-campus student housing market. The series was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize.
He also spent two years at MuckRock, a news sited dedicated to investigation and analysis of government documents. 

Craven covered Vermont’s U.S. Congressional delegation for the Times Argus in the summer of 2014, and worked as a Metro reporter for the Chicago Tribune before joining the staff of VTDigger.

Email: [email protected]

Follow Jasper on Twitter @Jasper_Craven

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  • Jamie Carter

    Food for thought: His republican opponent (whomever that may be) will get a higher percentage of votes versus Sanders than did Hillary Clinton.

  • Pete Novick

    Do the Clintons still control the Democratic Party? Their surrogates seem to be everywhere on watch, looking to stop another Bernie run – improbable as it may seem today.

    They have powerful allies. Think of Terry McAuliffe, as DNC chairman, trying to shut down Howard Dean during the latter’s run for the Party’s 2004 nomination.

    And just look where McAuliffe landed. Anybody out there remember who stumped for him in Virginia?

    And how about Representative Wasserman Schultz. During her time running the DNC, Republicans gerrymandered their way to a congressional majority that could last for a generation. Did she notice?

    And where did she land – feet first – after resigning from the DNC?

    And now Tom Perez. Precociously bright, top schools, a series of lightweight jobs, virtually zero experience in elected office (OK,OK so he served on the Montgomery Country Council in Maryland…). Obama-lite.

    Where was the DNC when James Thompson really needed the support in his run for the open House seat in Kansas? Did the DNC shower his campaign with millions of dollars like the RNC rained on Ron Estes? Show me the money.

    With the Supreme Court’s 5-4 conservative majority restored, no one should have any doubt where fairness and equity in judicial outcomes, particularly electoral process outcomes, is headed.

    In November 2016, United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin ruled that the Wisconsin Legislature’s 2011 redistricting of state legislative districts was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

    The case is Whitford v. Gill:


    There is no doubt the case is headed to the Supreme Court in the 2017-2018 term, and with it, the future of democracy in America.


  • Lester French

    Bernie, part of the one percent, and when the poles are asking the left of course he is popular.

    • Steve Baker

      Three Homes and Millions in the Bank…..Sounds like a man of the People. At least he maintenance a VT address.

  • Dan DeCoteau

    People (politicians) running for federal and state offices in Vermont should not be allowed to accept out of state money for reelection or initial election runs. Senators and congressmen/women are supposed to represent the people of Vermont and the state as a whole and not a partisan ideology. Why should money from California or New York be allowed to affect the representation of Vermonters? This should apply to every state. Does anyone believe that all this money given to Sanders, Welch and Leahy is from Vermonters? Time to change the rules and even the playing field for challengers who take on the bought and paid for incumbent politicians. Leahy 42 years, Sanders over 25 years and Welch over 10 years in congress and you wonder why nothing gets better for us little people!

  • Louis Meyers, M.D.

    Nearly all of Senator Sanders’ campaign contributions come from out-of-state, including large PAC contributions. He spends most of his time speaking and campaigning across the country, missing an above-average number of Senate votes in the process. He rarely visits Vermont anymore and generally refuses to speak with the Vermont-based press. So the question is: Do Vermonters want a Senator who represents Vermont and its interests, or do they want a Senator-in-abstentia who is now perpetually fund-raising and running for President?

    • Steve Baker

      What exactly has Bernie done for Vermont since
      leaving Burlington years ago? Our Politicians have all sold out. They talk a get game of social justice, but meaningless words don’t feed or educate.

  • Matt Young

    Pretty amazing, Chittenden county elected Bernie to do a job and he almost never shows up. He complains about wealthy people and “leveling the playing field,” if he were serious, he would give away a couple of his houses. Where did all of Bernies money come from?!

  • David Dempsey

    Time for Vermont to join the other 5 states that ahve a Resign-To-Run law. If we had one, Bernie would have to make public his plans. Vermont deserves a full time Senator, not one that is traveling around the the country promoting his socialist agenda while not giving a single interview to any Vermont media outlets for around 2 years.