Polls may still show a relatively competitive presidential race, but Hillary Clinton is winning a fundraising landslide among the country's 1 percent.
Newly released campaign finance reports through the end of July show that upper-crust Republicans are not backing Donald Trump even though the majority of the party's base supports the nominee. The result is a campaign without precedent in more than a century, with elites on both sides of the aisle and from nearly every sector of American industry overwhelmingly supporting Clinton.
Well-heeled GOPers may disagree with Clinton's policies, but she appeals to people that benefit from the status quo, said Bob Biersack, a senior fellow at the Center for Responsive Politics. Her policy proposals are less drastic than Trump's, and her long history in politics makes her more predictable.
"Many donors want to maintain their relationships with decision makers, and the more eccentric Trump's campaign looks, the more problematic it looks, the more they will be driven towards Hillary," said Biersack, who worked for three decades at the Federal Elections Commission (FEC).
Through the end of July, 1,340 donors who gave more than $200 to Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign committees and Super PACs had given to Clinton campaign committees and Super PACs but not Trump's, according to analysis by Crowdpac, a nonpartisan political crowdfunding startup.
Less than half of 1 percent of Americans give more than $200 dollars to political candidates, parties, or PACs in a given election cycle. Among that sliver of the electorate, the Clinton campaign committee has raised more than $200 million, 63 percent of the committee's total raised through the end of July. The Trump campaign committee has raised only $19.3 million from that group, or just 15 percent of its total, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Recent Supreme Court rulings have made wealthy donors all the more essential to gaining a financial edge on political opponents. The combination of 2010's Citizens United vs. FEC and 2014's McCutcheon vs. FEC removed most restrictions on individual contributions, so campaigns now focus more on courting the ultrarich, a practice known as donor maintenance; Clinton regularly attends fundraisers with just 15 people or fewer.
If the remaining campaign finance rules are too confining, donors can up their donations by giving to each candidate's allied Super PACs. Since Trump has been unable to endear himself to the normal stable of GOP high rollers, Clinton's main Super PAC Priorities USA Action has raised $109.9 million compared to Trump's $7.6 million through July.
Who currently has the edge among small donors is slightly less clear. Overall, Trump's campaign committee has raised $37.2 million to Clinton's $62.2 million from donations less than $200. But from May through July, when Trump began openly soliciting donations for the general election, Trump's campaign committee outraised Clinton's among small donors by more than $4 million.
But not even all of the wealthy Republican businesspeople on Trump's own 20-person fundraising "victory" team have donated money directly to Trump. Sam Fox, owner of the St. Louis-based Harbour Group Industries and the former ambassador to Belgium, said in an email that he is instead "concentrating my fundraising efforts on support of the Republican senatorial campaigns."
Billionaire Diane Hendricks's office said her donation would appear in the next FEC filing, which will cover August. (She became a vice chair on the fundraising team in May.)
Some conservative Super PACs are also taking a pass on Trump. The Koch brothers, who have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars into Republican campaigns since 2010, have refused to give money to the Republican nominee. And American Crossroads, a conservative Super PAC co-founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove, is instead focusing on congressional races this cycle.
Meanwhile, hundreds of former top givers to Republicans are switching teams and giving to Clinton's candidacy instead. Several hundred donors who gave to a Republican presidential candidate in the 2016 primary are now funding Clinton in the general election. Through July, these 851 donors gave $5.4 million to Clinton's campaign committees and Super PACs, an average donation of $6,345 per person.
Trump has also lost wealthy Republicans over the past month. Meg Whitman, the president and CEO of Hewlett-Packard and a former Republican nominee for governor of California, announced last month that she would make a "substantial" contribution to Clinton. (She backed Chris Christie in the Republican primary.) At an event last Wednesday in Colorado on behalf of the Democratic nominee, Whitman told an audience of business leaders: "I do not feel confident with [Trump's] business record."
The financial imbalance between the two campaigns will likely continue until election day.
Mike Fernandez, a Florida healthcare magnate who gave $1 million to Romney in 2012 and more than $3 million to Jeb Bush in 2016, wrote in The Miami Herald last week that Clinton is the "far superior choice." He advised other Republicans to "swallow hard, look into your heart — and your gut. Vote for Hillary Clinton and then every single Republican on the ticket."
In this election, industries that in the past have been a reliable source of Republican donations have flipped their support. Crowdpac breaks down donations by industry with the donor's employer and occupation data, which is provided to the FEC. The financial-services sector, which broke a fundraising record by giving $69.5 million to Romney's campaign committee and his Super PACs in 2012, will likely donate even more to Clinton this cycle. Through the end of July, her campaign committee and Super PAC received $58.4 million from the sector, while Trump's campaign committee and Super PAC got just $5.4 million.
Crowdpac splits the American economy into 10 broad industry categories; according to their tally, nine of these have given substantially more money to Clinton's campaign committee and Super PAC than Trump's. The only industry to favor Trump was agriculture, with $1.2 million raised for Trump compared to Clinton's $977,000.
You need to go all the way back to 1896 to find another election in which the country's economic elites so disproportionately favored one candidate. Then as now, a fiery populist denouncing a rigged system unexpectedly snatched a major party nomination. That man, Democrat William Jennings Bryan, raised $300,000. Meanwhile, American industry rallied behind Republican William McKinley and stuffed his campaign coffers with a then unheard-of $4 million.
A galvanizing orator, Bryan criss-crossed the country giving electric rallies while McKinley spent his vast campaign funds printing more than 200 million pamphlets (the US population was about 70 million at the time). McKinley won in a landslide. Rove, who recently wrote a well-received book on the 1896 election, attributed much of McKinley's success to the "almost industrial scale" of his campaign.
Since then, no other candidate has been so decisively outraised. Even other "outsider" candidates like Barry Goldwater and George McGovern had wealthy constituencies that dug into their deep pockets. But Trump seems to have no natural ideological or business financial base. Even among donors in the real estate industry, where Trump spent his entire career, Clinton is outraising him $9.5 million to $1.1 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The financial imbalance between the two campaigns will likely continue until election day. In August, the Clinton campaign along with the DNC and state parties said they raised $143 million, while Trump's campaign and party committees reported about $50 million less than that. Clinton and her advisers no doubt recall, however, that wealthy Republicans spent millions of dollars against Trump during the Republican primary. The result? He received more votes than any Republican primary candidate in history.
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