Sanders, undermining super-PACS?

An interesting report notes that Bernie Sanders is attracting small donors and the possible effects this has on super PACS “Donna Mae Litowitz, a Miami Beach retiree, likes Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont so much that three months ago she sent his presidential campaign $10,000. His campaign sent back all but $2,700 because it was more than he was allowed to take under federal election law, but she wishes he had kept it all. “I like what Sanders stands for, and he says what needs to be said,” said Ms. Litowitz, who gave money in 2008 to Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. “And I don’t like Hillary Clinton.” In an election dominated by million-dollar donations to “super PACs,” Ms. Litowitz qualifies in Mr. Sanders’s insurgent campaign as a big donor. Unlike almost all of the other major Democratic and Republican candidates this year, Mr. Sanders has refused to accept support from super PACs, relying instead on supporters like Ms. Litowitz as well as tens of thousands of small donors giving as little as $5 or $10″.

The report goes on to mention “The average donation, according to campaign officials, is $31.30. The result is a campaign built on populist issues like income inequality that appears to be drawing even more rank-and-file support than Mr. Obama did in 2008, when he used a network of smaller donors to win the White House”.

Interestingly it makes the point that “About a quarter of Mr. Obama’s donors over the course of that campaign gave a total of $200 or less, according to a study by the Campaign Finance Institute. While direct comparisons are difficult at this early stage in the 2016 race, Mr. Sanders’s small-dollar support appears significantly higher than Mr. Obama’s in 2008, and more than any other candidate this cycle. Mr. Sanders has raised more money in gifts of $200 or less than any candidate, Democrat or Republican, an analysis of campaign finance reports shows. A huge chunk of his money — $11.4 million, or about 75 percent of all his contributions — has come from small donations routed through ActBlue, an online site that facilitates contributions to Democrats, records show. The influx of support has helped Mr. Sanders build a formidable war chest, with his campaign raising $15.2 million as of the most recent filings with the Federal Election Commission in July. Campaign officials say he has raised millions more since then and will far surpass that total this quarter. That still puts him far behind Mrs. Clinton’s fund-raising juggernaut, but Mr. Sanders said in an interview that he was unbowed”.

Democratic strategists are beginning to take notice.

Crucially the report mentions that “Sanders’s fund-raising strategy will test the prevailing notion in Washington that no candidate can successfully compete on the national stage without tapping into the many millions of dollars that have poured into super PACs since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010. Super PACs supporting Mrs. Clinton have already raised more than $20 million, records show; on the Republican side, two super PACs backing Jeb Bush raised about $108.5 million. Yet when a Vermont legislator, Chris Pearson, offered to set up a super PAC to support the Sanders campaign, Mr. Sanders told him to “kill it,” Mr. Sanders said, because did not want to be beholden to “the millionaires and billionaires.” Mr. Sanders said that it was “a difficult decision” to opt out of such a powerful and quick way to raise money. In doing so, he said, “we’re giving up millions and millions of dollars, no doubt, but we will sink or swim based on what we get from the middle class of the country.” Nor has Mr. Sanders held many of the kind of fund-raisers that presidential candidates traditionally devote much of their time to. He has held only five, and they have been more like political rallies, held at places like a Washington, D.C., brewery and a Seattle tavern, with a contribution of $100 or less sometimes required”.

The piece ends “Even so, Mr. Sanders in the last quarter raised less than a third as much as Mrs. Clinton, whose campaign reported contributions of $47.5 million in the spring quarter. But Mr. Sanders and his aides say they can blunt the effect of Mrs. Clinton’s financial advantage by running a more frugal campaign, even as they build campaign operations in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. So far, the more-with-less approach is holding up. In his filings to the election commission, Mr. Sanders reported spending only about $3 million — or less than 20 percent of the money he had raised. Mrs. Clinton, in comparison, reported spending at about twice that rate, or about $18.7 million — nearly 39 percent of her contributions — on things like catering at fund-raisers and slick media productions. (Her campaign asked for approval from the election commission this month to allow donors to pay for their own food, drinks and valet parking at some events.) Mr. Sanders was left with $12.1 million in cash on hand at the end of June, and Mrs. Clinton had $28.9 million”.

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