The 2016 presidential candidates are well ensconced in the money race, but they are not the only ones infected with donation fever. Candidates in competitive Senate races are trying to raise as much money as they possibly can, while also seeking to boast that they receive more small-dollar donations, a sign that they are more in touch with voters and the grassroots.

Thus far, it looks like Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) have the most boasting to do. Among major candidates in competitive Senate races, Grayson received the largest proportion of his funds from small-dollar donations (under $200) at 47 percent, or almost $213,000 out of nearly $454,000 raised. Toomey, on the other hand, has the largest dollar amount raised from small donations, at just under $1.6 million. But he also raised the most in total, nearly $13.8 million, so his small-donation share is just 11 percent. The Center included Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in its analysis of donations in competitive Senate races.

Grayson, a controversial progressive from the Orlando area running in the Senate primary against fellow Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.), also received large shares of small-dollar donations during his last election. By comparison, several candidates have very low shares of small-dollar donations thus far, at just one percent each. Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.) received around $13,000 in such donations out of almost $903,000 raised in total, and Allentown, Pennsylvania Mayor Ed Pawlowski (D) only raised around $3,400 in small gifts out of nearly $384,000 in total.

Not far behind Grayson, with a 46 percent small-donation share (nearly $1.1 million out of over $2.3 million raised), is former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), who is trying to reclaim his old seat currently held by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). Feingold was a co-sponsor of the McCain-Feingold Bill (also known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002), the last major law enacted by Congress to regulate campaign finance activities. Johnson, interestingly enough, has raised the second largest amount of small donations after Toomey (approximately $1.15 million). Although Johnson’s small-dollar donation amount is effectively the same as Feingold’s, he also raised more than $6.7 million in total, or three times what Feingold raised, so his small-donation share drops to 17 percent. Following Toomey in the overall funding tally is Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who has raised nearly $11.7 million.

As far as shares of small-donor contributions are concerned, there’s a fairly large gap between the highest and next-highest proportions. Two candidates, Grayson and Feingold, had small-dollar donation shares in the 40 percentile range, but no one had such distributions in the 20 or 30 percentile ranges. Six candidates had small-donation shares in the 10 percentile range, while twelve candidates had such proportions below 10 percent.

Some of these numbers may seem staggering, with the general election fourteen months away. But keep in mind that the primaries are closer. Still, all the races will certainly heat up in the coming months as candidates try to obtain every last cent — both large and small.

Doug Weber contributed research to this post. 


Leave a Reply