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Nancy Watzman

Nancy Watzman

Posted: February 1, 2008 05:41 PM

Wealthy Donors Dominated 2008 Primary Cycle


Big donors--those giving $1,000 or more--still account for the bulk of money collected by frontrunner presidential candidates, according to an analysis hot off the press from the Campaign Finance Institute (CFI).

During 2007, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) raised three-quarters of her $83.8 million in individual contributions from donors giving $1,000 or more--and most of that came from donors giving the maximum of $2,300. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), raised 54 percent of his $97.2 million from $1,000+ donors, most of that also coming from $2,300 checks.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) collected 62 percent of his $34.3 million from large donors, Mitt Romney 77 percent of his $52.5 million, and Mike Huckabee, 47 percent of his $8.9 million. Most of this money came in $2,300 checks.

The analysis is based on reports filed by the candidates on January 31 with the U.S. Federal Election Commission (FEC) that cover fundraising through the end of 2007. They do not include fundraising data for January 2008, which was a huge month in particular for Obama, as The New York Times reported today.

The CFI analysis does note also that Obama raised "a remarkable 47 percent" from October through December from donors who gave small contributions of $200 or less. This was a big increase from the 28 percent that he collected from such donors during the first three quarters of 2007.

There is no doubt that the Internet is energizing small donors to contribute more in this presidential race. However, big contributions still dominate. Full public financing of elections, or Clean Elections, would super charge the power of small donors. Under this system, candidates qualify for full public funding to run their campaigns after collecting a set number of small contributions. They also agree to strict spending limits and to accept no more private money. There is no need to collect money from big donors.

You can sort through the candidates' donors using the Huffington Post's Fundrace tool.

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