- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 21, 2017

As a candidate, President Trump raised more money from small-dollar donors than former President Obama did in either of his two campaigns, according to a study released Tuesday that shows just how groundbreaking the Trump operation was.

Mr. Trump raised about $239 million from small donors during the campaign, compared with Mr. Obama’s $219 million in 2012 — then a record — and about $181 million in 2008, according to the report from the Campaign Finance Institute.

Mr. Trump’s total was also more than the small-dollar donations — defined as $200 or less — given to 2016 Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton ($137 million) and Sen. Bernard Sanders ($100 million) combined.

Mr. Trump frequently boasted during the campaign about how he managed to hang tough while being vastly outspent by Mrs. Clinton and his Republican primary rivals, and said he would take that frugal attitude to the White House.

But the figures illustrate the significant level of support Mr. Trump did receive through small donations, which are sometimes seen as a measure of grass-roots enthusiasm for a campaign.

“It says that he is not beholden to a lot of the traditional lobbyists and corporations that have, in some cases, helped create a two-tier society,” said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative activist group that stayed out of the presidential race.

PHOTOS: Celebrity deaths in 2017: The famous faces we've lost

“It does say that there’s a hope that you can drain this swamp,” he said. “I think that was rhetoric that resonated with a lot of folks, including us.”

The figures represent donors who gave over the course of a two-year cycle, so many Clinton, Sanders and Obama donors could have started small and eventually triggered the $201 threshold, according to the CFI analysis.

“Because Trump raised most of his money over four months, fewer of his donors had this experience,” the analysis said. “Even this caveat, however, does not negate the fact that his small-donor numbers were record-shattering.”

The Democratic National Committee did not offer a comment Tuesday.

The president paid comparatively little attention to fundraising during the Republican primary contest, and half of his $100 million total through June 30 came from his own pocket, the report said.

After the 2012 campaign, Republicans acknowledged that they had significant ground to make up in many areas, notably on small-dollar fundraising, when Mr. Obama’s $219 million from small donors dwarfed Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s $58 million.

Though he didn’t overtake Mrs. Clinton in total dollars raised, Mr. Trump did start to catch up later in the campaign with the help of joint fundraising committees through the Republican National Committee and others. About two-thirds of his $309 million raised after June 30 came though those committees.

Mr. Trump was also able to keep close with help from small-dollar donations, which made up 69 percent of his total individual contributions. That was also well ahead of the percentage for Mr. Sanders, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama in each of his campaigns.

Despite his nontraditional campaign and fundraising apparatus, Mr. Trump managed to hold together vastly different planks of the conservative movement, and that was reflected in the numbers, said longtime Republican National Committee member Morton Blackwell.

“The people who made these smaller-dollar contributions are the people who were the financial and membership base of the pro-gun, pro-life, pro-right to work, pro-limited government organizations, which are large and massive,” Mr. Blackwell said.

“There are a whole lot of people who have [been] brought into politics on specific issue questions, and it was natural for those people to prefer Trump over Hillary, and so they gave him contributions,” he said.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide