Editor’s Note: At the end of each week, The Stacks rounds up the most important takeaways from campaign finance reporting around the country.
The release of the redacted Mueller report on Thursday quickly pushed most stories out of the news cycle—including the first quarter FEC reports published on Monday. But with the filings signifying the symbolic beginning of most presidential campaigns, we decided to focus this week’s Binge Read on the most important takeaways from the reports, specifically those of Democratic presidential hopefuls.
Historically, the media and public zeroed in on who raised the most. However, 2016 marked a significant change—both in how the media covered political contributions as well as how candidates marketed their fundraising. Gone were the days of parties and PACs being the center of attention. At the end of that year’s Democratic presidential primary, people across the country began celebrating candidates (such as Bernie Sanders, whose average donation was $27) running without big money, instead relying on “grassroots” efforts made up of small dollar donations.
Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris Lead the Democratic Money Race [The New York Times]
The Times looked at the numbers for 16 Democrats and asked: “Who has the most campaign cash on hand? Who spent about as much money as they raised? Who relied heavily on personal loans and past political accounts?”
Here are the topline stats of the five leading candidates:
They also looked into the percentage of donations received from small donors, or those giving $200 or less. Unsurprisingly, Sanders led with 84% while Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg followed with 70.3% and 64% respectively.
7 winners from the first big presidential fundraising reports [Vox]
Vox’s article of winners from the FEC reports included two points that we felt should be highlighted:
First, Harris’s $12 million finds her in second place behind Sanders. And while Sanders is buoyed by small donors, Harris enjoys the biggest support among big donors, having “raised $7.6 million in itemized contributions ($200 or more), nearly twice as much as any other Democrat running.”
Second, Buttigieg is in it to win it—the previously unknown candidate pulled in $7.1 million in the first quarter, putting him in fourth with regard to money raised. His campaign also claims to have 158,000 unique donors, with 64% supposedly coming from small donors. Many pundits will identify his CNN town hall appearance in mid-March as his major introduction to the national stage.
Democrats Who Really Like More Than One Presidential Candidate Have Found A Temporary Solution: Give Them All Money [Buzzfeed News]
According to an analysis conducted by Buzzfeed News, nearly 1,600 donors gave more than $200 to multiple Democratic presidential candidates. Harris led the way with 722 mult-candidate donors, followed by Buttigieg with 512 and Warren with 420. Harris and Buttigieg shared the most donors with 170; and when it came to three-way ties, Harris, Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand shared the most with 33.
What does this all suggest? Per the subhed: the “analysis shows that donors are willing to give to multiple Democratic presidential candidates, suggesting that voters aren’t worried about a drawn-out primary.”
Have a look yourself: they included a link to the data, code, and methodology supporting the analysis—the outputs are where we’d tell you to start. We pulled the following overview from the “notebooks” folder:
Democratic 2020 Candidates Promised to Reject Lobbyist Donations, But Many Accepted the Cash Anyway [The Intercept]
While refusing donations from lobbyists, PACs and corporations is all the rage, running a presidential campaign solely off of small donors alone is rather difficult—and a handful of candidates found lobbyist money too tempting to turn away:
Beto O’Rourke accepted donations from “a federal utility-company lobbyist and a top Chevron lobbyist in New Mexico.”
Harris accepted donations from “registered corporate lobbyists in South Carolina, New York, and California. Several technology lobbyists from San Francisco have given to her campaign. Another Harris donor, Robert Crowe, from the firm, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, is a federal lobbyist who has worked to influence Congress on behalf of pipeline firm EQT Corporation and Alphabet, the parent company of Google.”
Booker accepted donations from “lobbyists registered under state and municipal lobbyist registration laws, but who do not appear in federal disclosures.”
FWIW: The most ■■■■■■ important report ■■■■■ of ■■■■■■■■■■ the week [ACRONYM]
Acronym, “a values-driven organization focused on winning elections through innovative digital advertising and organizing programs,” looked at how each campaign leveraged their war chests—from digital ads to consultants to tools.
Of the several telling infographics in the newsletter, we want to highlight the cumulative digital investment of each campaign which shows both Warren and Bernie having spent over $1 million on Facebook and Google ads since entering the race:
In terms of the percentage of Q1 expenses directed towards digital strategies (including fees, tools, and other investments) O’Rourke leads with 75%, followed by Inslee with 61% and Buttigieg at 48%.
Where the 2020 Candidates Stand on Campaign Finance [Sludge]
Finally, to put all of this in context, Sludge is tracking campaign finance pledges made by the candidates, updating when promises are broken:
Head over to Sludge for the full tracker.
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