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.

Elizabeth Hewitt

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