Bernie's billionaires: Some wealthy donors have backed Sanders for years

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While Bernie Sanders has pitched himself as the presidential candidate for the little guy -- tapping into the wallets of voters angry over Wall Street’s influence in politics -- a deeper dive shows Sanders has enlisted an arsenal of millionaire and billionaire backers who have backed his political career since his early Senate runs a decade ago.

That big-money support stands in sharp contrast to Sanders' calls for corporate fat-cats and the uber-wealthy to pay their “fair share” in taxes by closing loopholes and removing breaks that benefit the mega-rich.

At a rally last Sunday at The Ohio State University, Sanders told a cheering crowd,” You can tell a lot about a candidate based on how he or she raises money for his or her campaign.”

The comment goes hand-in-hand with the theme Sanders has been hammering for months.

“I am not raising money from millionaires and billionaires,” Sanders said during the CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas on Oct. 13. “In fact, tonight, in terms of what a political revolution is about, there are 4,000 house parties – 100,000 people in this country – watching this debate tonight who want real change in this country.”

Sanders war chest has been driven by smaller donations – he raised $26 million in small increments in the third fund-raising quarter.

Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, insists the fancy fundraisers and big-name donors are few and far between and that there is no contradiction in what the Vermont Democrat and self-described socialist practices and what he preaches.

“We don’t have a super PAC,” Weaver told “We rely on small contributions. Average contribution is $27. Are there some, a few people in there who have more money, personal money who give larger contributions? Yeah, of course they do, but within the federal $2700 limit. No, you know, no 50, 100, 2 million contributions.”

But for years Sanders has enjoyed donations from a handful of wealthy donors including media moguls Leo J. Hindery and Steven C. Markoff.

Markoff, who donated to Sanders’ 2012 Senate campaign, began trading rare coins when he was 11. By 2004, his company A-Mark Entertainment was listed as the 65th largest privately held company in the U.S., and the second largest in Los Angeles.

Hindrey, managing partner of the private equity fund InterMedia Partners and former chief executive of AT & T Broadband and of the YES Network, also maxed out on contributions to Sanders.  Hindrey, while advocating for fewer tax breaks for the wealthy, is among the biggest Democratic fundraisers in the country.

Another big money donor to Sanders’ campaign is David Geffen, co-founder of DreamWorks Animation and worth a cool $6.9 billion. According to campaign finance records, Geffen donated the max at the time -- $2,500 -- to Sanders Senate campaign on Jan. 27, 2012.

But Lara Brown, director of George Washington University’s political management program, told that she doesn’t see a big push-back from Sanders supporters.

“By and large, Democrats tend to believe these individuals are giving because they have a strong progressive/liberal orientation in their politics and they are doing this because it equates to them giving to a cause,” she said, adding that the same would be true for big-money donors in Silicon Valley and the tech industry.

Viveca Novak, editorial and communications director at Center for Responsive Politics, agrees.

“The vast majority of his contributions in this election have come from smaller donors,” Novak told “Even some wealthy Democratic donors believe in changing the campaign finance system, and Sanders’ message has been pretty consistent on that issue.”

However, if donations came in from Wall Street moneymakers, Brown believes the reaction might be different.

“The question is not whether he has taken donations from wealthy individuals, but instead whether he has received support from the very people he has attacked as being at the core of the corrupt campaign finance that funds Washington,” she said. “Hence, as with most scandals, the transgression is judged most harshly when it involves hypocrisy.”

Sanders, born in 1941, started out his political career as the mayor of Burlington, Vermont in the early 1980s. He entered the national political arena in 1991 when he ran as an independent and won a seat in the House of Representatives. In 2007, he was elected to the Senate and then re-elected in 2012.

Fox News' Lauren Blanchard contributed to this report.