Election 2016

Bernie Raised a Record-Breaking $3 Million in 24 Hours Following Iowa Caucus

The surging grassroots campaign powered by small donors has broken its one-day fundraising record.

Photo Credit: Crush Rush/Shutterstock

Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign had its best small-donor fundraising day yet following Monday night’s photo finish with Hillary Clinton in Iowa’s caucuses. The campaign brought in $3 million, and four out of 10 givers were new donors.

“I think the significance is, for folks who did not think Bernie Sanders could win, that we could compete against Hillary Clinton — I hope that that thought is now gone,” Sanders told CNN on Tuesday morning.

The fact that Sanders is not just raising the funds needed to compete in the next primary and caucus states, but apparently is growing his donor base signals the contest for the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nomination will continue well into March. More than 1,000 delegates are at stake the first Tuesday in March. 

Sanders has continually railed against the country’s corrupt campaign finance system, in which a handful of wealthy supporters reach out to their networks and expect their candidate, if elected, to mirror their interests. Sanders says that wealth- and class-based bias is why Congress does not pass domestic legislation favored by the working- and middle-classes. 

Sander, in contrast, is showing the country an alternative to that model—a national movement fueled by millions of donors giving an average of $29, the figure he cited in his Iowa caucus night speech. What’s especially noteworthy about his donor base is the vast majority of donors are nowhere near maxing out under the legal limit. They can keep giving in dribs and drabs, adding up to millions, as long as the Sanders campaign keeps making progress.

“Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign is funded by small donors who gave an average of about $29 each in the past year while Hillary Clinton has relied on the wealthy to bankroll her presidential bid, new financial disclosure reports reveal,” the campaign said in a press release accompanying its January 31 Federal Election Commmission report.   

“Only 649 of Sanders’ more than 1.3 million backers have donated the $2,700 maximum that an individual may give to a candidate to help fund campaigns in primary elections and caucus states,” the campaign’s statement said. “Only 2.3 percent of Sanders’ total money raised comes from maxed-out donors. With far fewer total donors, Clinton has tapped out more than 23,000 of her donors who have given to her campaign committee all that the law allows for the primary election and may donate no more. Her maxed-out donors provided nearly 60 percent of the primary money raised for her campaign committee.”

The campaign statement gave more numbers that show it is people-powered. “Another way to gauge support is to examine donations of $200 or more, the legal threshold for which donations must be itemized in FEC reports,” it said. “In Clinton’s case, 83 percent of her money came from donors who gave more than $200. In contrast, only 26 percent of the money raised for Sanders came from donors above the $200 threshold.”

The fundraising burst after the Iowa caucuses is not the first for the campaign. In addition to raising $20 million in January alone, late last year it raised $1 million after a fight with the Democratic National Committee over security breaches in the campaign’s voter database managed by the DNC.

Still, Clinton’s fundraising prowess should not be discounted. Before this week’s fundraising burst, Sanders was being out-raised two-to-one by Clinton, with her campaign and its allies raising $163.5 million, while he raised $75.1 million, as of January 31.

What’s also notable, as a chart of both party’s presidential candidates shows, is that Sanders is the only candidate without a super PAC (led by wealthy individuals murkily coordinating with the campaign) and that he has also run the most cost-efficient campaign. When looking at the amounts spent, the electoral result and the remaining cash on hand, Sanders’ campaign arguably manages its money better than the competition does.

Clinton has $38 million left as of the campaign's last FEC report, while Sanders has a reported $28 million in the bank. That was before the post-Iowa fundraising blitz.   




Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

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