With $5.2M on hand, Sanders outpaces rest of delegation in election fundraising

Vermont Congressional delegation
Vermont’s congressional delegation, from left: Sen. Patrick Leahy, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

WASHINGTON — Vermont’s junior senator led the state’s congressional delegation in fundraising in the second quarter of the year.

The latest campaign finance reports show that Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., netted the most money among Vermont’s representatives in Washington. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., had a solid quarter, while Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who secured his eighth term in the U.S. Senate in November, brought in modest collections.

The latest quarterly reports, required by the Federal Election Commission, were due July 15.

Sanders, whose Senate seat will be up for re-election next year, raised almost $1.3 million in the second quarter of 2017. With that, he had nearly $4.9 million in his congressional election coffers as of June 30, should he seek re-election.

Sanders appeared to be buoyed by his supporters across the country.

The report filed by Friends of Bernie Sanders, the campaign committee supporting his Senate re-election, chronicles more than 2,000 receipts between April 1 and June 30. Many contributions ranged between $4 and $500.

While some of those donations came from Vermonters, the bulk were from residents of other states, including Massachusetts, Florida and California.

Expenditures for the period totaled $207,900. The money went toward paying for Vermont-based infrastructure, like rent in Burlington and office supplies. The committee also spent money on airplane tickets and event planning in Arkansas, Louisiana and California.

Retired Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis anticipates that Sanders’ coffers will grow to between $6 million and $7 million by the end of this year.

“Sanders will want to have as big a war chest as possible late this year or early next year to scare off any possible opponent,” he said.

Those figures are “far more than he needs” to defeat potential challengers in Vermont, Davis said. A recent Morning Consult poll found that Sanders is the senator with the highest popularity among constituents, winning approval from 75 percent of Vermonters polled.

The committee behind Sanders’ presidential run reported $5.2 million cash in hand at the end of this period, having collected only a few hundred dollars through the three-month period.

Sanders has not had a strong challenger since he won his seat in 2006 in a hot race against Richard Tarrant, founder of IDX.

Senate incumbents in contested races in other states have war chests of $3 million to $5 million, according to The Hill, a Washington, D.C., news source. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., for example, has $4.7 million salted away, and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, has $6.7 million set aside so far for 2018.

FEC rules would allow Sanders to transfer money from his Senate account to his presidential account if he decides to run for the White House again in 2020. He could also tap his presidential campaign funds for the Senate race next year, though he would have to follow various FEC limits on donors.

Welch had nearly $2 million in cash at the end of June, according to the filing from the committee that supports his candidacy.

The state’s lone House member brought in $101,605 through the quarter.

According to the report, many donations to Welch were four figures and came from political action committees associated with groups representing hotels, hospitals and restaurants. PACs representing Google, Hilton and other corporations also donated.

Davis said the contributions to Welch are fairly typical for the congressman, who tends to pick up more donations in election years.

Meanwhile Leahy, months into his latest six-year term, brought in about $42,300 this quarter, $32,229 of which was contributed by individuals or political committees. At the end of June, Leahy had $1.9 million in cash on hand.

VTDigger reporting intern Cyrus Ready-Campbell contributed to this report.

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  • John French

    Hopefully, the citizens of Vermont will accept the fact that our liberal representatives are part of the coup d’etat that is happening in this country. If they do,no amount of money will keep these people in office.

  • Jim Manahan

    What does this tell you about our electoral system that he’s now sitting on $5M?

    • Edward Letourneau

      And if he doesn’t run again, he gets to keep the 5 million for anything he wants. Its all about bernie.

      • Dennis Works

        Edward Letourneau: I’ve heard the same thing from you, and others, in the past – and it’s simply not true. The Ethics Reform Act of 1989 made it illegal for federal lawmakers to pocket campaign dollars after bowing out of a race or upon retirement. There are a number of ways they can legally use the money: Paying off any campaign debts, donate it to their designated party, contribute the funds to charity, or return the money to contributors. But, they CANNOT keep the money for personal use.

        • Dan DeCoteau

          And of course there’s no way around that law, right? Farming it out to other family members on your campaign is one. The crazies are running the asylum and no one is watching when the money moves around. A dirt poor carpenter goes to Washington and returns as a millionaire to rest in one of his 3 homes on beautiful but dirty Lake Champlain. Nice work if you can get it.

    • Dennis Works

      Jim Manahan: It tells me that we should have a constitutional amendment that overturns the horrific ‘Citizens United’ Supreme Court decision and have ALL federal elections financed via public (read “tax”) funds, and disallowing ALL private campaign donations of any sort (be it with cash, gifts, trips, whatever). This would also mean no self-financing your own campaign – you would have to totally finance your campaign from the public coffers only – making a level playing field for all candidates. Obviously, we would have to work out a system so that candidates would have to meet some threshold (such as a certain level of voter signatures) to be able to access that pot of money, but at least those that do meet that threshold will have equal access to their voters’ attention.

      • Elise Eaton

        I could not agree more. The other game-changing amendment that is equally important to reducing if not eliminating the overt advantage incumbents enjoy (and I do mean ENJOY in cases like Bernie), is establishing term limits for Congress and SCOTUS.

        • Dennis Works

          Elise Eaton: I respectfully disagree with you regarding term limits for Congress, though I certainly understand your frustration. The reason is we DO have term limits already – it’s called the ballot box. Voters simply need to vote for someone else if they do not like the incumbent. And if we had public funding for federal elections, that prospect becomes more likely. I also disagree with you when it comes to term limits on SCOTUS justices. In Federalist 78 Alexander Hamilton explained the pros of having an independent judiciary with lifetime appointments. The founding fathers wanted to shield justices from the political pressures of their day. With longevity and semi-protected tenure the justices would also be less likely to be affected by populist fears that come and go over time. And there is nothing that the justices can rule that cannot be reversed by legislative action or constitutional amendment. That process may be somewhat labored, but that is rightly so in my opinion.

      • Jim Manahan

        I could not disagree more. We don’t need to waste tax funds on this nonsense and we certainly don’t need a constitutional amendment.

  • Ali Bernard

    Name a Republican that has ever cut spending? Bush, Reagan, and now Trump are ramping up useless military spending and aid to foreign terrorists. The only possible difference is that Democrats usually don’t put out a bunch of dishonest tax cuts when they increase spending. Which hurts our economy and makes us weaker and more in debt. Which makes our dollars worth less. Which is basically stealing from people that have saved up. Liberal Dem tax giveaways tho. Lolz.

  • Peter Chick

    5.2 million is nothing in a presidential campaign today. Will Bernie try running as a Democrat again? What a slap in the face that was.

  • Jay Eshelman

    Isn’t interesting…..describe Bernie’s affiliation with the political elite and listen to the ‘but the Republicans are worse’ activists come out of the woodwork.

    Yes, they’re all part of the big government establishment – ‘the swamp’ if you will…. the ‘deep state’. And they cost about 20% of GDP ($3.5 Trillion) annually.

    And that’s just the federal government.

    Bernie or Bush, it’s the classic good cop/bad cop routine. Unfortunately, the only way to stop it is to stop funding it. And that’s going to be a painful experience for everyone, at least in the short term.

    As Hemmingway described bankruptcy – it starts gradually and ends suddenly. The only question now is ‘when’ will it end? Not ‘if’ it will end.

  • Sally Cook

    Mike, Bernie has no values. Bernie is out for Bernie that’s all. He never had a real job in his whole life, and shirked the most important job he has ever had by never appearing in the Senate, except for once to vote during the past year. Would you keep an employee who did that?

  • Sally Cook

    Yes Peter! Bernie only made one vote in the Senate during the whole of last year, because of course he was campaigning for president as the last savior of the “poor.” But, he still collected his salary for the year!!!!

    He should be distributing perhaps at least his out-of-state gains to the so-called poor he proclaims to represent, and definitely encourage his wife Jane and her daughter to give back their ill-gotten megabucks millions gains from Burlington College to pay for the school’s bankruptcy. And the pair of them (Bernie + Jane) should go to jail for what they did, which is already on the news…even on national networks.

    • Steve Baker

      We certainly get the senator(s) we deserve don’t we. Bernie spends more time on FB, Campaigning, Flapping his Gums, and stirring the often violent Resist arm of the left then he does working for Vermont.