- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Sen. Bernard Sanders pulled in almost $6 million in cash on his first day in the 2020 campaign, in the latest sign that, while Democrats complain about money in politics, they’re poised to raise and spend a whole lot of it over the next two years.

Political observers predict that the Democratic primary will set new records for fundraising, particularly with the size of the field of candidates and the primary calendar that front-loads big states with expensive media markets such as California.

“If each of those candidates earnestly enter the money race, I think it would almost be impossible not to be the most expensive primary race in history — especially with candidates like Sanders raising $6 million in a day,” said Sarah Bryner, research director at OpenSecrets.org, which tracks money in politics.

Anthony Corrado, a political science professor at Colby College who specializes in campaign finance, said he also expects record-breaking fundraising in the general election, where the Democratic resistance is poised to go all-in against a more entrenched president.

“The president has begun his campaign earlier than any previous president and is taking a much more determined approach to fundraising than you saw in 2016,” Mr. Corrado said. “And in 2016 [President] Trump raised a substantial amount of money in the general and ended up raising more money from small-donors than Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.”

Mr. Sanders‘ camp announced Wednesday that the Vermont independent had received donations from more than 225,000 individuals during the first 24 hours of his new campaign. That’s about four times the $1.5 million he raised during the first day of his 2016 campaign, when he pulled in $228 million total.

His average donation this year was $27.

“The fact that Sanders had a good fundraising day on his initial launch is not a surprise given the fact that he has very well-established donor base at this point,” Mr. Corrado said. “They have kept that donor base active since 2016 and he is the most well-known candidate in the race at this point.”

Last month, Sen. Kamala Harris of California announced that she had pulled in $1.5 million online from more than 38,000 individual donors over the first 24 hours of her campaign, with her aides highlighting that the average contribution was $37 and that 75 percent of the donations came from people who had not donated to her before.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s camp has said the Massachusetts Democrat raised $300,000 the day that she announced an exploratory committee and Sen. Amy Klobucher’s team said the Minnesota Democrat pulled in $1 million over the first 48 hours of her bid.

The first campaign finance reports of the cycle are due in mid-April, and all of the candidates hope to prove they have financial staying power. Yet they’ll also want to distance themselves from activists’ concerns over the corrupting influence of big money in politics.

That’s why there’s such a focus on small-dollar giving.

That’s a shift from 2016, when candidates such as Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush sought to scare away potential rivals by posting massive early fundraising hauls, fueled by maxed-out donors.

Chasing money means flooding supporters’ inboxes with email solicitations — with Ms. Warren particularly prolific, averaging more than an appeal a day.

Ms. Harris’s campaign shot out a fundraising email Wednesday in which Rep. Barbara Lee urged people to donate, likening her fellow Californian to Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to Congress.

“I threw all my energy and support behind a visionary black woman committed to making America work for all its people,” Mrs. Lee said. “Shirley set us on a path toward progress, and now Kamala Harris is carrying that legacy.”

Blasting Mr. Trump and disavowing corporate interests are also frequent themes of money-raising missives.

Looking to walk the walk, several of the 2020 Democrats have said they will not sanction any super political action committees that might form to back them.

Mr. Sanders made such a pledge in 2016 and mostly adhered to it, even as Mrs. Clinton was aided by massive super PAC money.

He’s renewed that pledge this year.

“Here’s the truth: you cannot change a corrupt system by taking its money. And you cannot expect any candidate who courts the support of drug and health insurance companies, the fossil fuel industry, Wall Street and the big banks to actually take them on,” the Sanders team said in an email to supporters soliciting donations.

Ms. Warren is making her refusal to take money from PACs and federal lobbyists a central part of her fundraising pitch, insisting she will not be beholden to special interest groups.

“Strong, volunteer-driven, grassroots organizing is the only way to elect Democrats up and down the ballot who will fight back against corruption, from local government and state houses to Congress and the White House,” team Warren said in a recent email.

Analysts said the attacks on big money can be effective, but largely ring hollow because corporate PACs and lobbyist are not usually major players in Democratic primaries — and the promises about rejecting super PAC support will likely get tossed out the window in the general election campaign.

“I would be very surprised in the general election that we didn’t see super PAC spending by liberal groups supporting the candidate from the Democratic Party and opposing the president and the Republican Party,” Ms. Bryner said.

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