Presidential campaigns released their fundraising totals for the third quarter of 2015 on Thursday. The results included a few surprises, as the pace of the 2016 presidential primary gets ready to pick up in the fall. Most notable were the stunning take from Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, the surprisingly low-budget campaign of Donald Trump and the continuing financial advantage that top Democratic candidates had over their Republican rivals.
The two Democratic frontrunners, Hillary Clinton and Sanders, each out-raised all of their Republican rivals. Clinton raised $29.4m, edging Sanders who had$26.2m. Both far outpaced Ben Carson, the top GOP fundraiser at $20.8m, in the past quarter and were even further ahead of other top Republicans as well.
Unsurprisingly the two Democratic candidates raised this in entirely different ways. An eye-popping 77% of Sanders’ contributions come from small donors and the frugal socialist’s campaign ended the quarter with $27.1m cash on hand. Sanders had more than 650,000 donors of whom only 270 have given the maximum amount of $2,700. Further, his campaign said it was keeping up its frenetic fundraising pace. Sanders has received 97,800 contributions totaling some $3.2m since the first Democratic debate on Tuesday.
The only candidate to end with more cash available than Sanders was Clinton, who had nearly $33m available. However the former secretary of state relied heavily on high-dollar donations with more than 80% of her donors giving over $200, the reverse of the ratio for Sanders.
Among their Democratic rivals, the former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley raised $1.28m – a disappointing total for a candidate with a professional campaign organization who was long pegged as a rising star on the left. In contrast former Virginia senator Jim Webb and former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafeeposted numbers that jibed with their anemic campaign effort. Webb, who boasted of killing an enemy soldier in combat in Thursday’s debate, raised $696,972.18and Chafee, a self-proclaimed “block of granite”, raised a laughable $15,457.90 including $4,121 that he gave his own campaign. In addition, Harvard professorLawrence Lessig, who is running a campaign based on the promise to promptly resign after enacting campaign finance reform, raised just over $1m.
On the Republican side, the candidates were far more competitive. The leading fundraiser was Ben Carson, who had raised $20.8m in the third quarter. However he had spent $14.2m in the process, more than any of his other rival Republicans had even raised. Much of the money went for direct mail as the insurgent candidate seemed to be reliant almost entirely all small donors giving incremental amounts.
Surprisingly, frontrunner Trump ran a relatively frugal campaign. The New York billionaire reported that he donated just over $100,000 to his campaign this quarter and raised $3.82m in addition. However, Trump spent $4.16m, more than he had taken in, and was left with a mere $254,000 on hand at the end of the fundraising period.
Florida governor Jeb Bush raised $13.38m but spent $11.46m , leaving him with a total of $10.27m on hand. Bush’s campaign has collapsed in the polls in recent months as the former frontrunner has dealt with the surge of outsider candidates like Trump. However, with a strong quarter combined with the presence of his Right to Rise Super Pac, which has raised over $103m so far this year, Bush is still in good shape to mount a comeback.
Bush also voluntarily released a list of “bundlers”, most wealthy individuals who raised at least $17,600 from friends and associates to allow them to exceed the usual $2,700 Federal Election Commission limit on individual donations to a campaign.
Among the names released was that of former House majority leader Eric Cantor, who unexpectedly lost his seat in his 2014 Republican primary to a Tea Partychallenger, and Jeb’s uncles Jonathan Bush and William HT “Bucky” Bush. Typical of the 341 bundlers named by the campaign, but without further financial detail provided, was Ed Forst, president of real estate brokers Cushman & Wakefield and a former Goldman Sachs executive.
Bush released his latest medical report too, showing he had lost a considerable amount of weight since going on a diet prior to the campaign, but was on medication to counter a family history of heart disease. Even healthier still however was Bush’s 2014 tax return, which showed he reported $8.3m in taxable income last year, mainly from consulting and speaking fees, on which he paid over $3m in tax.
Just behind Bush in campaign contributions on the Republican side was Texas Senator Ted Cruz. The ardent Tea Party conservative raised $12.22m in the past quarter but, due to a frugal campaign, was left with $13.78m in the bank. This was more than any other Republican, including Carson, who significantly outraised him.
Both Florida Senator Marco Rubio and former business executive Carly Fiorina had solid fundraising quarters buoyed by Super Pacs and dark money groups also working on their behalf. Rubio raised $5.72m and Fiorina raised $6.79m. The two candidates both remained in strong financial position with Rubio having nearly$11m in the bank and Fiorina with $5.55m on hand.
A late entry in the race, Ohio governor John Kasich, had a solid fundraising quarter with $4.38m raised. Kasich, a relative moderate whose campaign is concentrating on New Hampshire, has $2.64m in the bank.
Two GOP hopefuls once considered rising stars in the party had less than stellar fundraising periods. In his first finance report since announcing his candidacy,New Jersey governor Chris Christie raised $4.2m. For a New York area Republican with plenty of Wall Street ties this was a disappointing fall from grace for Christie who had long been touted as the future of the establishment wing of his party. However, his reputation has never recovered from the 2013 scandal around Bridgegate, when it was alleged he closed traffic lanes to spite a political enemy.
Among those candidates working to appeal to social conservative and evangelical voters, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee raised $1.24m, Louisianagovernor Bobby Jindal raised $579,000 and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum raised $387,985. And among those Republicans seeking to appeal to more moderate voters in New Hampshire, South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham raised $1.05m while former New York governor George Pataki raised$153,514.
The next campaign finance reports, which cover the period from 1 October to 31 December, are scheduled to be released on 15 January, just two weeks before the Iowa caucuses.