Walters: Bernie Sanders Reports $4.9 Million Campaign War Chest | Off Message

Bernie Sanders
Walters: Bernie Sanders Reports $4.9 Million Campaign War Chest


Sen. Bernie Sanders - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is a financial juggernaut, Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) is scoring big with political action committees and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is in cruise control.

That's your quick summary of the Vermont congressional delegation's latest quarterly fundraising reports, which were due Saturday to the Federal Election Commission. (See fundraising totals from state candidates here.)

From April through June, Sanders' Senate reelection campaign raised nearly $1.3 million — almost entirely in donations of less than $100. It spent a little over $200,000, so the Sanders war chest continued to grow.

In fact, Sanders' cash-on-hand totaled nearly $4.9 million as of June 30.

That's got to be a chilling number for any Republican considering a run for U.S. Senate. Sanders, who faces reelection to a third six-year term in 2018, already has an insurmountable lead in fundraising — and he can seemingly produce millions more with a snap of his fingers.

A significant portion of Sanders' second-quarter spending was directed toward travel and events, which makes sense considering Sanders' frequent trips around the country for speeches and rallies. During the three-month period, the campaign spent $34,000 on airplane tickets alone.

The self-described independent also donated $100,000 in May to the Democratic National Committee, according to his FEC report.

Welch, who is up for reelection to a two-year term in 2018, also had a productive second quarter — thanks almost entirely to political action committees. Of the $101,000 his campaign committee raised, $97,000 came from corporate and other special-interest PACs.

But wait, there's more: Of the scant $4,305 in contributions from actual individuals, more than half came from Washington, D.C., lobbyists.

Welch received donations of $1,000 or more from a total of 51 PACs. The most generous donor was the No Labels Problem Solvers PAC, which gave Welch $10,000. No Labels backs congressional moderates and those willing to work across the aisle, with the goal of creating "a stabilizing force within our Congress," according to its website.

PACs representing Home Depot, Honeywell and the National Association of Convenience Stores gave Welch $5,000 apiece.

One of the many PACs that cut a $1,000 check to the Vermont congressman was News America Holdings' PAC — as in Rupert Murdoch's corporation. Yep, Peter Welch got a thousand bucks from the folks who run Fox News.

Welch was thrifty with his corporate dollars, spending a mere $33,000 on campaign expenses. His committee ended the quarter in fine financial shape for whatever 2018 might bring, with nearly $2 million cash-on-hand.

Meanwhile, it was a sleepy quarter for Leahy, who just won re-election last November and won't face voters again until 2022. His campaign committee took in $32,000 and spent more than $100,000. He was the only one of Vermont's three members of Congress whose expenditures exceeded receipts. Leahy accepted only $3,000 in PAC money; the rest consisted of small donations from individuals.

(Leahy and Welch also operate leadership PACs, through which they typically collect more special-interest money, but those aren't required to report to the FEC until later this month.)

Despite the three months of red ink, the Leahy campaign ended the quarter with almost $1.9 million cash-on-hand. That’s a handsome war chest for a guy who doesn't even have to think about running for reelection until 2021, at the earliest.

For someone who's not in active political mode, Leahy spent a lot of money on consulting. He wrote three checks totaling $15,000 to Campaign Finance Consultants, a fundraising outfit, and more than $50,000 to Trilogy Interactive, a California-based firm specializing in "digital political strategy."

All in all, Vermont's three members of Congress are sitting pretty when it comes to campaign funds. And all three, in their own ways, seem capable of raising more money whenever they think they might possibly need it.