By Andrew O'Reilly
Published March 31, 2019
Following the financial success of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential run in 2016, the growing field of Democratic candidates in 2020 are publicly all about the small dollar donations.
But as the first quarterly fund-raising deadline comes to a close on Sunday, the candidates in the Democratic field are all also trying to quietly haul in as many big dollar donations as they can get.
Sen. Cory Booker, D- N.J., was recently in California for a fundraiser attended by tech bigwigs and venture capitalists, while New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was at the home of a Manhattan investor to gather donations. On Sunday evening, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., will be in Los Angeles to mix and mingle with Hollywood’s heavy-hitters at the home of MGM Motion Picture Group President Jonathan Glickman.
In years past, candidates in both major parties would flaunt their big dollar donations – up to $2,800 during the primary season, as stipulated by federal law – as a sign of their formidability and political strength. But with the success of Sanders’ online donor network of small dollar donations, and the populist, grassroots movement within the party, many Democrats are trying to keep their big dollar donations off the public’s radar.
“Candidates talk more about how many different donors they have and how many states they’re in,” Amy Dacey, the former chief executive officer of the Democratic National Committee, told the New York Times. “It’s more about the donor amounts than the dollar amounts.”
But unlike 2016, where it was all but a given from the start that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was going to be the Democratic nominee, there is currently no clear favorite among the large group of Democrats vying to take on President Trump. This has kept some big money donors from reaching into their wallets just yet.
This hesitancy is one of the reasons why candidates like Booker, Gllibrand, Harris and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., have been busy on the cocktail circuit. Others -- like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass -- are hoping to play of the success of Sanders, an Independent, and fund their campaigns largely through the small dollar donations.
“This is our chance to run a grass-roots movement, not just to go around the country scooping up as much money as we can,” Warren said in an interview.
Warren, however, isn’t totally closing the door on donations from big spenders and has left open the prospect of also taking money from big dollar donors.
“I do not believe in unilateral disarmament,” she said.