Bernie Sanders is unveiling a major campaign finance plan, continuing his 2020 presidential bid even as he’s at home recuperating from a heart attack. The Vermont senator said Monday that as president he’d enact mandatory public financing laws for all federal elections and ban corporate donations for inaugural events. Sanders also would institute a lifetime lobbying prohibition for former members of Congress and senior staffers and ban advertising during presidential debates. Sanders says if he wins Democrats’ presidential nomination he’ll ban corporate contributions to the Democratic Party Convention. He notes that in 2016, 17 donors gave three-quarters of the funding for the party’s convention. Sanders has promised to return to work after “a short time off.” Following a strong fundraising quarter through September, his campaign’s war chest was worth $33.7 million.
Bernie Sanders raked in $25.3 million over the past three months, putting him on top of the Democratic presidential fundraising field for now. But in a sign of what he and his rivals are up against, President Donald Trump and his allies raised $125 million. Other leading Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have yet to reveal their fundraising figures for the third quarter. But the staggering sum on the Republican side, which was split between the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, highlights the cash gulf between Democrats and the GOP. It could revive anxieties among Democrats that a protracted primary featuring nearly 20 candidates could be counterproductive while Trump builds a massive cash advantage that can be used against the ultimate nominee.
“This is a (ton) of money,” Bakari Sellers, a top surrogate for California Sen. Kamala Harris, tweeted in reference to Trump’s fundraising. Although activists who contribute small amounts online have been widely celebrated, he said that won’t stand up to the Trump operation. “Small dollar donations alone ain’t going to save our democracy.”
Sanders posted the largest quarterly sum for a Democratic White House hopeful this year. The haul ensures the Vermont senator will be an enduring presence in the primary even as Warren and Biden have surpassed him in some polls. Much of the money he raised came from his army of small-dollar online contributors. Meanwhile, Pete Buttigieg, who entered the race as the little-known mayor of South Bend, Indiana, pulled in $19.1 million. That’s an almost $6 million dip from his field-leading sum last quarter but a figure that’s all but certain to place him in the top tier. Now the question turns to how much money Biden and Warren raised during the third quarter. The former vice president and the Massachusetts senator are in an increasingly close race for first place, according to several polls.
There’s a growing sense of urgency for the White House hopefuls as the primary becomes a fierce battle for a limited pool of cash. In the days and hours before Monday’s deadline, they pleaded for money, making appeals on social media and collectively blasting out more than 80 emails asking supporters to “chip in” $5, $10 or $50. The third-quarter figures have to be reported to the Federal Election Commission by Oct. 15. Those outside the top tier are facing pressure to post competitive numbers or get out. They will not only face challenges paying for advertising to amplify their message but are also likely to struggle reaching fundraising thresholds set by the Democratic National Committee to qualify for future debates.