As He Ponders a Presidential Run, Sanders Crushes Off-Year Fundraising Record | Off Message

Bernie Sanders
As He Ponders a Presidential Run, Sanders Crushes Off-Year Fundraising Record


Sanders speaks at the Vermont Democratic Party's Curtis Awards dinner in June. - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Sanders speaks at the Vermont Democratic Party's Curtis Awards dinner in June.
Vermont's most prolific political fundraiser last quarter isn't up for reelection until 2018.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) raised nearly $716,000 in the past three months, according to a report he filed Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission. That's nearly nine times as much as he raised in the preceding quarter and far more than he's ever raised when not facing a race for the U.S. Senate.

The money, which could legally be transferred to presidential campaign committee, comes as Sanders publicly flirts with a 2016 presidential run. Late last month, he traveled again to the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire to speak at a bookstore and county Democratic dinner.

Sanders has raised nearly $872,000 from 21,230 individual contributions since his 2012 reelection race, according to finance director Ben Eisenberg. He has an eye-popping $4.4 million in his campaign account.

“With an average contribution of just $41, Bernie is showing that a candidate who represents working families, the elderly, children and who stands up to big money interests can raise funds without being dependent upon the contributions of the very wealthy and corporate PACs," Eisenberg said in a written statement. "Bernie is grateful for the extraordinary support he has received from Vermonters and supporters across the country.”

Since he launched his first campaign for Senate in 2005, Sanders has only ever raised more than he did last quarter during the 18 months preceding an election in which he was on the ballot. In July 2008, when he was as far from reelection as he is today, Sanders reported raising just $4,812 the previous quarter.

Last year, Sanders directed most of his political contributions to a leadership political action committee he runs, Progressive Voters of America, which can be tapped for expenses not directly related to a campaign. In the second half of 2013, that entity took in $327,000. But Sanders appears to have shifted his focus back to raising money for his Senate campaign committee. PVA collected just $9,242 last quarter.

Sanders also spent a significant amount of money in the past three months: $363,000 from his campaign account and $53,540 from his PAC. Much of that went to direct mail, printing, travel and meals with donors. He paid the New York fundraising firm Belardi/Ostroy $43,000. Sanders also donated $17,000 from PVA's coffers to other political candidates.

Unlike his colleagues in Vermont's congressional delegation, Sanders does not raise money from corporate political action committees. He raised just $11,500 from other PACs, including those representing postmasters, transit workers and communications workers.

Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.), on the other hand, raised nearly half of his $213,000 haul last quarter from corporate and union PACs. Welch, who faces reelection this fall, has more than $1.5 million in the bank.

The four-term Congressman also raised $15,000 for his own political action committee, called Maple PAC, from three corporate and industry PACS, which each ponied up $5,000: Home Depot, US Cellular and the National Association of Convenience Stores. Maple PAC reported a balance of $49,000.

Welch's reelection campaign account took in $100,000 from PACs. Those contributing $2,000 or more to Welch in the past three months included:
  • American Academy of Dermatology Association ($2,500)
  • American College of Radiology Association ($2,500)
  • American Council of Engineering Companies ($2,000)
  • American Society of Anesthesiologists ($2,000)
  • AT&T ($2,500)
  • Charter Communications ($3,000)
  • FAA Managers Association ($2,500)
  • Generic Pharmaceutical Association ($2,500)
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ($5,000)
  • Lockheed Martin ($2,000)
  • Machinists Non-Partisan Political League ($5,000)
  • Marriott International ($2,000)
  • McDonalds Corp. ($2,000)
  • Mylan, Inc. ($2,000)
  • National Air Traffic Controllers Association ($2,000)
  • National Restaurant Association ($2,500)
  • National Turkey Federation ($2,500)
  • OB-GYNs for Women's Health ($2,000)
  • Pfizer ($2,000)
  • TW Telecom ($2,500)
Vermont's third congressional delegate, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), raised more than $85,000 last quarter, $20,000 of which came from corporate and union political action committees. Leahy, who is not up for reelection until 2016, has nearly $1.4 million in the bank.

Leahy also raised $39,000 for his political action committee, Green Mountain PAC, most of which — $29,500 — came from corporate and union PACs. Green Mountain PAC reported a balance of $31,000.

Those contributing $2,000 or more to Leahy's campaign committee or Green Mountain PAC last quarter included:
  • American Council of Engineering Companies ($2,000)
  • Cisco Systems ($2,500)
  • Clear Channel Communications ($5,000)
  • Comcast Corporation and NBC Universal ($5,000)
  • Echostar Corporation and Dish Network ($5,000)
  • Facebook ($2,500)
  • International Trademark Association ($2,000)
  • Microsoft ($5,000)
  • National Association of Broadcasters ($2,500)
  • Oracle America ($2,500)
  • Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America ($5,000)
Disclosure: Paul Heintz worked as Peter Welch's communications director from November 2008 to March 2011.