Blog

A Long List of Democratic Candidates Requires a Large Catalog of Their Funders

By Sam Haut

As the first debates for the Democratic primary begin, and the list of candidates has grown to 24, it can be difficult to contextualize where each candidate has received funding from over the course of their time in office. What follows is a list of the Democratic candidates and the top sources for how much money they’ve made and where those top sources come from. Candidates with the highest polling numbers are at the very top. The data was compiled using information from Open Secrets, Follow the Money, and the FEC website.

 

For the most part, someone like Biden, who is currently polling at the top of primary, has raised the most money, followed by Sanders who usually polls second, having raised the second most over his career. While Biden is at the top, the money he has raised gets a little muddled when it comes to the 2008 and 2012 elections. While figures from his time in the Senate are simple to quantify, when running with Obama his figures were conflated with the Obama Victory Fund, which existed to elect and then re-elect Obama and Biden in 2008 and 2012. The biggest donations for most candidates came from unitemized donations or uncoded ones. Usually following that were large donations from a category of donors called Lawyers and Lobbyists. Several times the law firms that donated the most to several candidates were places that had a connection to said candidates, whether they had worked there in the past (Gillibrand and Klobuchar), had spoken at a fundraiser (Booker), or were a firm with some kind of connections to the candidate (Buttigeig and Harris).

 

  • Joe Biden

There are several different numbers for Biden: one of his biggest is from while he was a candidate from 1989-2010, with MBNA Corp (bank holding company owned by Lloyds Banking Group) donating $212,575, while the second biggest came from Pachulski, Stang et al  $208,425. It’s worth noting that not only has this law firm donated to a plethora of other democratic candidates like Klobachur, Booker and Harris, they have also given to many Republicans like Cruz, Rubio and Graham. Despite their variety of donors, while Biden was running in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008, he received the most money from the firm out of anybody. While he was a candidate in the 2008 Dem. primary the largest amount was from Young, Conaway et al (a law firm) donating $54,720, who donated even more, $176,561, while he was running for the Senate. Biden also received large amounts from the Law Offices of Peter G Angelos (a law firm based in Baltimore, Maryland) donating $54,600, which is also eclipsed by the amount they gave in the years prior, $142,200. When he was a possible candidate in the 2016 election the PAC Draft Biden 2016 listed a bunch of donors, and of the ones that are publicly available, the biggest donor was from Law Offices of Peter G Angelos, that same office mentioned before, who have donated to many Democrats running for office, and will pop up again later down the list, donating $272,000. Interestingly enough Biden also received a sizable amount from the Rollins Foundation, $100,000, the philanthropy arm of the Rollins family, who you may know as the parent company of Orkin, the pest control company. Along with those donations, there are the much larger numbers for Biden during his re-election with Obama in 2012 which, as might expected of a presidential campaign, has extremely large donations for Uncoded, which accounted for $298,454,710, followed by Unitemized totaling $292,849,728. These are followed by the slightly lower haul from the Joint Campaign Committee, in this case being from the Obama victory fund in 2012, which received a total of $140,653,739. There were also sizable donations from the more concrete categories of Lawyer and Lobbyist, which gave $18,057,945, and the Education category, which gave $11,076,008. Also worth noting is that Biden’s 2008 campaign was subjected to an audit for several errors in recording the money it received, resulting in several fines. All told, from 1975 to the end of Biden’s failed 2008 presidential bid, the former vice-president raised a total of $18,907,687 through the Citizens for Biden campaign committee, which will be what Biden is going to use for his 2020 run.

 

  • Bernie Sanders

Sanders received a wide variety of donations from a variety of specific sources. These donations, like from Alphabet Inc. totaling $399,941, aren’t from Google but from people who have listed the organization the work for as Alphabet Inc. The same holds true for the $358,993 from those working for the University of California and the $176,258 from Microsoft corp. Worker for the U.S. Postal service donated $151,918 along with money from Apple Inc. for $142,938. All of these specific donors pale in comparison to the donations he get from both Unitemized donations, $196,058,619, and Uncoded donations for $86,345,206, with the majority of those donations being from Sander’s failed 2016 bid. The Bernie Sanders Campaign Committee, the committee that funded Sanders during the 2016 primary and will be helping fund his 2020 campaign, contributed significantly less at $4,000,000. Rounding out some of the categories for Sanders are from Education, which donated $1,980,240 and Computer Equipment & Services, for $1,227,391. Sanders often refrains from receiving PAC money, and the numbers for the most part show that. The most money he’s gotten is from the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail & Transportation Union, $95,100 in total over the course of several campaigns.

 

  • Elizabeth Warren

Warren has gotten large donors from a few ideological organizations like EMILY’s List, a pro-choice PAC that tries to elect female candidates, at $635,027 ($5,000 of which was listed as PAC money), and from Moveon, a group advocating progressive policies and liberal candidates, that gave $475,428 ($328,977 of which was listed as PAC money). Besides ideological groups, Warren has also gotten donations from Harvard University equaling $460,786, as might be expected considering Warren taught at Harvard law school from 1992 until she was elected to the Senate in 2012. However, Harvard wasn’t the only college Warren received donations from as those who work for the University of California gave $187,506 along with people from MIT donating $160,700. Like Sanders before and many of the candidates after, the donations listed as Unitemized and Uncoded made up a much greater share of Warrens contributions, $42,281,432, and $28,765,238 respectively. There are also several different committees that Warren has which have contributed to her campaigning. There’s the Elizabeth Warren Campaign Committee which is what she is using for her current 2020 bid, which has raised $10,415,000. There’s the Elizabeth Warren Action Fund, used for raising money for her 2018 Senate re-election that raised $3,686,270 and there’s also the Cantwell-Warren Washington Victory Fund, a joint fundraiser between Senators Elizabeth Warren and Maria Cantwell, which was closed at the beginning April 2018, that contributed the much lower sum of $138,741.

  • Kamala Harris

For Harris’s biggest specific donors, the data comes from her 2016 Senate race with Time Warner donating $127,725, while the second biggest donor was from 21st Century Fox that donated $89,325. Interestingly there’s Harris’s third largest donor, a company called Venable LLP. While many probably haven’t heard of them, it’s likely that Harris has, as they are a law firm that has Harris’s husband, Douglas Emhoff, as their west coast managing director. They have given $86,575 to Harris’s 2016 campaign. The fourth biggest came from a company called Creative Artists Agency, donating $85,683, that also have connections to Harris. While they are a talent and sports agency based in Los Angeles, they have had Harris speak for a take action day they hosted in 2017. As with all the candidates, while they may have donations from several specific sources, the money they’ve gotten from the less specific sources are where a majority of their funding comes from. For broader donations the biggest is from Uncoded donations that gave $18,820,290, followed by Unitemized donations that donated $7,647,851, followed by Lawyers and Lobbyists that gave $4,116,596. While the last three categories are ones the majority of candidates have in their top three, the next one is unique to Harris, with the TV/Movie Production/Distribution category, with several Creative Artists Agency members present, donating $1,159,482 and ending with the rare, but not unique, category of General Trade Unions (several from California, the biggest from the United Long Term Care Workers Local 6434 and Northern California Carpenters Regional Council that each donated $53,000) that gave $971,178.

 

  • Pete Buttigieg

The data for Buttigieg mostly comes from either the current 2020 race or a race he lost in 2010 for Indiana’s treasurer. Buttigieg is unique in that he is the only one with a single person, Indiana philanthropist Ann Stacks donating $19,000, as his biggest specific sources of revenue. While Stacks donated both in 2010 and for the 2020 campaign, the rest of the more specific donors are from 2020 with venture capital firm Wicklow Capital donating $16,800, followed by a more connected donation from Barnes & Thornburg for $14,425. This law firm is based in Indiana and was provided some assistance by Buttigeig’s administration in setting up their new office building in South Bend. Another entity with some connection to Buttigieg is the multinational risk management firm Willis Towers Watson, whose managing partner co-hosted a fundraiser by Buttigeig in late April. They have donated $13,700. Less connected are donations from Alphabet Inc. for $13,675, but there are also donations from University of Notre Dame for $13,300. Notre Dame is interesting because it is the university that Buttigeig’s father taught at/worked for from 1980-2017. On the whole, he’s gotten the biggest donations from Unitemized, $4,539,381, and Uncoded donations, $2,363,081, with the third biggest going to Lawyers & Lobbyists $68,562. also has Securities and Investment donating a total of $47,310, and has General Trade Unions donating $31,880.

  • Cory Booker

Like many candidates, some of the biggest donations Booker got from specific groups were law firms, in this case Paul, Weiss et al, receiving $303,670. Though for this specific law firm Booker has some connection, having spoken at one of their past diversity networking receptions. Booker has also gotten a decent amount of money from NorPAC, a PAC working to strengthen the United States–Israel relationship, which donated $203,471, though $4,827 is listed as PAC money. Then there’s Gibbons PC, where Booker also has a connection. They are a New Jersey based law firm where Booker hosted a for fundraiser in 2015, with Gibbons donating $176,900, $10,000 of which was PAC money. Less connected to Booker but equally connected to many politicians are the law firms Sullivan & Cromwell, donating $173,060, and  Greenberg Traurig LLP, donating $113,160. Once again, broad donors lead to lots of money from Uncoded donations, $15,781,771, and Unitemized donations, $3,015,152, with the Lawyer and Lobbyist category lagging further behind at $947,149. Going even further down the list, there’s donations from  Securities and Investment, $663,350, and money from the Candidates Committee for $504,110. When looking at the committee group, most of the money, $481,669 of it, comes from the Booker Senate Victory committee from 2014, the same one he’s using to finance his 2020 campaign, but there are a few other sources of note in this category. Booker has taken money from several different Leadership PACs, like $5,000 from the LOBO PAC, a committee that donates to a variety of candidates through less direct means, and $2,000 from the Keystone America PAC, who get their money from sources like Comcast and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

 

  • Beto O’Rourke

Most likely due to being from Texas and liked by the liberal crowd, O’Rourke has a large donor group from the University of Texas, whose faculty and staff have donated a total of $509,922, while the second biggest donor is Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc. that have donated a total of $252,588. After those two come a different donor, one that no other candidate shares this high on their list, JStreetPAC. This group is the PAC arm of the group J Street, who support ending the conflict between Israel and Palestine, which isn’t inherently wrong, but gives an hint towards what O’Rourke will support. JStreetPAC has donated $193,684. Less unique are donations from the University of California, giving $168,805, and AT&T Inc. donating $137,238, which comes from a variety of employees of AT&T donating money. Of note is that $4,000 of that money is from a PAC. Large donations come again from Unitemized, $41,681,252, and Uncoded, $40,059,383, followed by the Lawyer and Lobbyist at the much lower amount of $1,473,035. Bringing up the rear is Education and Computer Equipment and Services, accounting for $645,939 and $496,700 respectivily.

 

  • Tulsi Gabbard

Many of Gabbards specific donors are a little less intuitive, with American Spraytech LLC,  that manufactures spray products like hairspray and sunblock, donating $48,399 and At Last Sportswear, designs casual wear, giving $45,200. Slightly more expected is the State of Hawaii donating $43,213, but they are followed by the less expected Star Pipe Products, that manufactur various iron-based products like pipes and joint restraints, donating $40,401 and Mosaic Media Group, a marketing and design firm, that donated $39,500. None of these companies are from Hawaii. While many of her donations total are a lot lower than those polling higher, Gabbard still gets the bulk of her donations  from Uncoded for $3,438,415 and Unitemized at $2,779,917. The Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo Campaign Committee has also provided for a great deal of her funding at $2,500,000. This campaign committee is the one Gabbard was using for re-election in Hawaii and had funds transferred to the 2020 campaign Tulsi Now. After those three, the amount for donations in other categories drops significantly, with General Trade Unions giving $240,100 and Lawyers and Lobbyists giving $175,613. While she may not have gotten as much money from unions, there are still many that have donated. There’s the National Automobile Dealers Association (a trade organization representing around 16,500 car/truck dealerships across the US) that has donated $31,000, followed by the Air Line Pilots Association that have given $30,000, the International Association of Bridge Structural Ornamental & Reinforcing Iron Workers and the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace workers. Perhaps to give some details into the donations from the Mosaic Media Group, Cheryl Nakao-Miller has given $32,000. Nakao-Miller seems to be a producer or entertainment manager at Mosaic Media.

 

  • Kirsten Gillibrand

Reappearing on the donor are more law firms, the first one being Boies, Schiller & Flexner, one Gillibrand used to work at as a partner, that donated $819,033, followed by another law firm, Davis, Polk & Wardwell, that also Gillibrand worked at, as an associate, that donated $696,020. Popping up again is the law firm Paul, Weiss, that has given to many camapaigns like Biden and Harris, whose employees donated a total of $302,255. After the law firms is a lesser known glass company, Corning Inc, that donated $267,466 ($22,500 of which was PAC money) and a more well known company, Morgan Stanley, donating $222,070 ($23,500 of which was from PAC money). For broad donations, again there’s Uncoded at $25,532,978, though it’s instead followed by Canidate Committees donations. This is money raised from Gillibrand’s previous campaigns which have transferred $9.6 million into her 2020 bid, but in total have donated $9,881,883. Then there’s the usual suspects of Unitemized, at $9,295,914, Lawyers and Lobbyist at $3,387,916 and Securities and Investment at $1,672,108.

  • Julián Castro

While Castro doesn’t have data listed on Open Secrets from his past campaigns as mayor or HUD Secretary, it does list donations made so far in the 2020 primary. Despite having relatively smaller donations, Castro still had some connection to his biggest so far, Stris & Maher. This law firm is headquartered in Los Angeles and it also turns out their founder is the current senior external adviser to Castro. They’ve donated $27,600 this cycle, while another firm with perhaps less of a connection is MAS Law Firm that gave $19,400. Castro also got $12,271 from the University of California, like many other candidates. Those donors listed as Uncoded and Unitemized contributed $826,898 and $394,529 respectively, while Lawyers and Lobbyists only gave $39,650.

 

  • Michael Bennet

It may be a surprise, but for Bennet, his biggest donor is not a law firm or financing firm but the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental advocacy organization, donating $340,147, though $19,391 is PAC money. After that however, comes the investment firm, Oaktree Capital Management, that have given $179,050 and a law firm, Brownstein, Hyatt et al, donating $177,004, which gave $15,500 in PAC money. While they don’t seem to have a more personal connection to Bennet, their founding partner has said that a big dividing line for them when it comes to supporting a candidate is whether they support Israel, which. Just like Castro, Bennet had his biggest from Uncoded, $10,424,881, Unitemized, $3,703,022, and Lawyer and Lobbyist, $2,467,866, though the numbers were a little higher because he’s run for Senate.

 

  • Amy Klobuchar

Like Warren, Klobuchar’s top donor is EMILY’s List, that PAC helping to elect Democrats that support pro-choice, the PAC has donated $391,258, with $15,594 from PACs. And like Gillibrand, Klobuchar got donations from a law firm she used to work at, Dorsey & Whitney, for $214,960 and $27,950 of that money was from PACs and, like many other candidates, getting money from a college, in this case University of Minnesota giving $197,129. There is another firm with connections to Klobuchar, this time from Robins Kaplan LLP, that had one of their lawyers become the Minnesota attorney general after Klobachur recommended him, that donated a total of $152,341, with $27,000 being PAC money. No surprise for general donations with Uncoded and Unitemized contributions at the top with $11,049,493 and $6,857,056 respectively. Mixing it up a bit is donations from Candidate Committees, with most of the money, $4,274,651 of $4,337,151, from the Amy Klobuchar Campaign Committee, which is followed by the usual Lawyer and Lobbyist category donating $1,420,835.

 

  • John Delaney

While not associated with any law firms, Delaney makes up for that with donors from investment firms like is CapitalSource Inc, donating $140,900. This firm is particularly relevant, because it was founded by Delaney back in 2000, and while he has stepped down from the companies board, he still owns millions in their stock. A more familiar face comes from JPMorgan Chase & Co that has donated $73,300 to Delaney, while a company called Alliance Partners has donated $61,875. This company also has connections to Delany, in the form of BancAlliance, founded by Delaney, manages the assets of Alliance Partners. With the lack of law firms comes a difference in where the greatest donations comes from, with Candidate Contributions equaling $20,003,579, followed by Uncoded at $3,376,924. As Delaney received the most from investment firms, he received much from Securities and Investments at $578,251.

 

  • Andrew Yang

Because Yang has not run for office before, his list of specific donors falls short of many other experienced politicians. With this in mind, he has received the most from Google at $9,536, Medavante-Prophase at $8,100 and Microsoft Corp at $6,634. Of note is that Yang, according to his LinkedIn profile, he is the director of Prophase, which were consolidated into Medavante-Prophase.  Once again, the most donations came from Unitemized contributions at $1,434,705 and Uncoded at $324,066. Unique for Yang is getting money from Food and Beverage, giving $5,600, which is even more unique when looking at who gave donations. All of it came from someone named Chei C Yin, who is the owner of Yin’s McDonalds, though this category for Yang only has 9% of the available files so more money might appear when more files listed.

 

  • Tim Ryan

Biggest donor is Goodyear Tire & Rubber (the manufacturing company that makes car tires) that have donated a total of $94,080, with the second largest donor being from FirstEnergy Corp (an electric utility company based in Ohio) that have donated a total of $93,038, the third largest is the Machinists/Aerospace Workers Union (a union that covers much of North America with around 600,000 active/retired members) that have donated a total of $90,500, and the fourth largest donor is the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail & Transportation Union (a union that represents a variety of transportation/metal workers across North America with over 200,000 members) that have donated a total of $90,000. For broader donations the most is from Uncoded donations which accounted for $1,623,250, followed by General Trade Unions which accounted for $588,050, followed by Lawyers and Lobbyists which accounted for $364,382.

 

  • Jay Inslee

Inslee’s list of donors, compared to Hickenlooper, is uninteresting, though has more PAC money involved, with Microsoft Corp donating $440,415, though $63,500 of that is from PACs, and Amgen Inc donating $89,669, with $28,219 from PAC money. Like Hickenlooper, Inslee has Uncoded donation, at $8,409,377, followed by, not unitemized, but Party Committee, mostly from the Washington State Democratic Party, at $5,232,569 and Lawyers and Lobbyists at $2,155,969, which is then where Unitemized appears at $1,583,087.

 

  • Bill de Blasio

It doesn’t appear that De Blasio has specific donors listed on Open Secrets, though Follow the Money does. Like with Inslee, De Blasio’s donors start with Uncoded, totaling $12,254,777, and is not followed by unitemized, but instead from Public Subsidy, all of which comes from the N.Y.C. Campaign Finance Board, at $7,482,620, followed by Lawyers and Lobbyists for $868,649.

 

  • Steve Bullock

Like De Blasio, Bullock also doesn’t appear to have donors on Open Secrets but does on Follow the Money. Once again, donors have Uncoded at the top with $1,449,559 followed by Lawyers and Lobbyists at $984,154. While Bullock, unlike De Blasio, does have unitemized listed, it’s seventh down, and gets  Retired as his third largest at $440,773.

 

  • Seth Moulton

As Moulton has run for the House several times, his Open Secrets page is more complete, with his biggest donor, Democracy Engine, having donated $1,182,669 and money from Harvard University, where Moulton graduated in 2001, donating $143,608. Moulton also donations from Berkshire Hathaway, a multinational conglomerate holding company, totaling $58,300, $12,000 being PAC money. Moulton, like most, got the most donations from Uncoded with $3,914,979, though unlike most had large contributions from Computer Equipment and Services for $1,396,272 and the Liberal Policy Organization, which includes various organizations like ActBlue and Democrats Reshaping America, accounting for $1,191,676.

 

  • Marianne Williamson

Williamson, as a newcomer to politics, only has money listed from her current 2020 bid, which for specific donors is quite low, getting  $8,100 from Evolving Wisdom and $7,005 from Global Green USA. The former has Williamson listed as a faculty member for their e-learning classes while the latter had Williamson on their board of directors from 2010 to 2012. Returning to form, the two biggest donors are Unitemized at $1,434,793, and Uncoded at $1,320,477. While the lawyer and lobbyist category is high up on Williamson’s list,  Candidate Contributions comes in third with $450,121.

 

  • Wayne Messam

Compared to all other candidates, Messam seems to have raised the least for this campaign, pulling in $43,532. His list of donors is only four categories long, with Uncoded at the top with $29,960, followed by Unitemized at $11,572. Bringing up the rear is Lawyers and Lobbyists with $1,500 and Miscellaneous Services at $500. 

Biggest donor is Uncoded donations that have donated a total of $3,389,828, while the second largest donations comes from Unitemized contributions that have donated a total of $519,851, with the third largest donations coming from lawyers and lobbyists that have donated a total of $420,617, and the fourth largest donations come from General Trade Unions (variety of different unions from International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to Communications Workers of America) that have donated a total of $291,835.

For Gravel, while Open Secrets doesn’t have any data for 2020, as it doesn’t appear he has filed his reports for 2020, they do list donors for his failed 2008 Democratic primary bid. And while the numbers are low, Gravel did get $2,550 from Floor Surplus and $2,300 from a bunch of different companies like New Perspectives Quarterly, Exxon Mobil, Phyllis Morris and Decision Capital. Gravel was also a senator for Alaska from 1969 to 1981, though the FEC website only lists data from 1975 to 1980, where he raised a total of $918,679.

Looking at the numbers for the 2020 race, Hickenlooper has gotten $41,000 from Liberty Media Group, with some personal connections as well. They are a  communications company that owns Sirius XM radio and Formula 1 and also has Hickenlooper’s wife, Robin Hickenlooper, as their senior vice president of corporate development. Continuing the connected donations trend is the $22,400 Hickenlooper has gotten from the Foundry Group. In this case, the venture capital firm based in Colorado has an executive director, Brad Feld, who is friends with Hickenlooper. Somewhat less connected is the law firm Brownstein, Hyatt Farber Schreck, founded in Colorado and giving $17,050. They have donated to Hickenlooper’s PAC and have been honored by the governor for their 50th anniversary. Hickenlooper has donations from Uncoded, totaling $4,464,512, and from Lawyers and Lobbyists at $1,109,003.

Legend for certain classifications of donors:

Unitemized donations- donations that are below a certain dollar threshold and thus don’t have their personal details recorded

Uncoded donations- a group of donations that don’t have a unifying job that allows them to be placed in one of the other categories 

Lawyers and Lobbyists – a category of donors that have jobs that are something along the lines of a lawyer/attorney/lobbyist/consultant/CEO/policy adviser

Candidate contributions- this donation category that comes from money given personally by a candidate to their campaign

Securities and Investment- Category for people who have jobs relating to finance/insurance/real estate

Computer Equipment and Services- Category of donors who work in various IT and engineering positions for a variety of tech companies

General Trade Unions- Category for donations from those representing a variety of different unions across the country for steel workers or teachers or airline workers

Retired- This category includes government employees and educators, as well as clergy, military, and those listed as retired

Candidate Committee- Donations from this category are filed under those received from a specific committee associated with each candidate

Education- Collection of donors who work for various colleges and universities as staff or faculty members

TV and Movie Production/Distribution- These are donors who work for various entertainment studios like Lionsgate or Disney

Public Subsidy- These donations are from public government sources