On Sunday night we got a look at the 2015 campaign reports for US presidential candidates as the deadline for FEC filings came and went.
There were a number of notable donations, but the headline grabber was George Soros who in the second half of last year gave $6 million to Hillary Clinton’s super PAC, bringing his total donation to $7 million.
Clinton’s “Priorities USA” pulled in $25.3 million in H2 and ended the year with more than $35 million in the bank. Hollywood billionaires Cheryl and Haim Saban gave $1.5 million each and producer Tom Tull chipped in a million. As CNN notes, two other groups supporting Clinton, American Bridge and Correct the Record, brought in an additional $6 million total.
Soros - a longtime Democratic supporter - is keen on ensuring Donald Trump doesn’t end up in The White House. “By fear mongering, he’s doing the work of ISIS,” Soros told a dinner in Davos last month. “He wants people to turn against the Muslim community and make the Muslim community think there is no alternative to terrorism.”
"We're heading into the first caucuses and primaries with an organization second to none thanks to the support of hundreds of thousands of people across the country," Robby Mook, Clinton's campaign manager boasted. "We will have the resources necessary to wage a successful campaign in the early states and beyond." All told, Priorities USA got 80 contributions in H2. 31 of those were for $100,000 or more.
In stark contrast Bernie Sanders has eschewed the super PAC. The senator raised $20 million in January alone ($34 million during Q4) from small donors. The average donation: $27.
The Sanders campaign says Bernie is “built for the long haul.” "As Secretary Clinton holds high-dollar fundraisers with the nation's financial elite, our supporters have stepped up in a way that allows Bernie to spend the critical days before the caucuses talking to Iowans about his plans to fix a rigged economy and end a corrupt system of campaign finance," Sanders' campaign manager said in a statement.
Sanders isn’t the only one upending the traditional campaign finance system. Trump is of course self-funding his campaign - something he’ll happily tell you all about if you ask him. The GOP frontrunner raised $13.6 million in Q4. $10.8 million of that total came in the form of a loan from .. Donald Trump. He spent $6.8 million during 2015’s final quarter, leaving him with nearly $7 million on hand.
His campaign’s biggest expense: hats.
Trump spent $941,000 on “Make America Great Again” baseball caps.
The brazen billionaire also paid $908,000 for air travel. Of course that doesn't really matter because $827,000 of the total went to Tag Air, a company Trump owns, so he's effectively paying himself to fly around the country.
“He’s running on his own terms, and he’s not backed by big corporations,” one 20-year-old sophomore graphic-design major from Drake University who plans to caucus for Trump told WSJ.
For his part Jeb Bush is effectively finished as donors jumped ship to Marco Rubio in Q4. Bush raised just $7.1 million in the quarter while Rubio pulled in $14 million. Rubio's super PAC ("Conservative Solutions) raked in $16 million in H2 as donors increasingly believe the senator is now the most viable mainstream candidate able to mount a serious run at Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.
Trump is depending on a strong turnout from first time caucus goers. "Some 39% of likely GOP caucus-goers who haven’t turned out in past contests prefer Mr. Trump over his rivals," WSJ writes, "10 percentage points higher than the portion of past participants who favor the front-runner. That poll found Mr. Trump leading the GOP field."
“The bigger the turnout, the better it is for Trump,” Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, said.
Right. And the same thing goes for Bernie Sanders. “My prediction is that if tomorrow night there is a large voter turnout we win,” Sanders said on Sunday.
So strap in, because come Tuesday we'll know if Trump and Sanders have managed to stage a coup by mobilizing previously inert portions of the American electorate and remember, billionaires can give millions to the political aristocracy, but they can only vote once.
We close with a quote from Alec Bognor, 18, a Drake student who spoke about Trump to WSJ:
“I’m not sure I could be this excited about another candidate. I wouldn’t sit in line for three hours for Marco Rubio.”
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