The Color of Money: Early Presidential Fundraising Shows White, Wealthy Donor Base

Source: Every Voice Center, 2015

From the blog post:
Most presidential candidates—save Donald Trump, maybe—spent their campaign rollouts telling voters they understand the plight of everyday people, because they are everyday people too. They grew up in small towns, their parents had to work hard to make a life for their kids, and they themselves faced their own struggles before entering politics. Since those rollouts, though, as they race around the country picking up cash like they’re on a giant Monopoly board, they’ve been spending a lot of time with people who are decidedly not everyday people: wealthy political donors. In the age of super PACs, a lot of attention has focused on the mega-donors writing seven-figure checks. Also important, though, are the people who write checks for as much as $2700 directly to candidates. They get face time with candidates at fundraisers, and they get special attention from campaign staff. They may not get big headlines, but they are essential to winning the most powerful office in the world. And they are just as elite as million-dollar donors. Whether writing big checks to super PACs or candidates, generous donors dominate elections, and they usually live in the nation’s wealthiest and least diverse neighborhoods. Every Voice Center analyzed July fundraising reports filed with the Federal Election Commission by the candidate committees and affiliated super PACs of the 10 presidential candidates currently leading the money race, based on their current reporting. From top raiser Jeb Bush to tenth place Ben Carson, we analyzed large contributions from individual donors giving more than $200, which are itemized in FEC reports. For donors giving directly to candidates in particular, we cross-referenced U.S. Census data to learn more about them, using 33,120 zip code tabulation areas (which we call zip codes or neighborhoods in this analysis). Highlights of our analysis include the following, beginning with the “traditional” candidate committee filings: Half of the $74 million in large individual donations raised directly by these 10 candidates came from one percent of the country’s zip codes, representing about four percent of the voting age population. Donors from the 10 zip codes that gave the most direct money to candidates amassed $4.6 million in donations. That’s more than all donations from more than 3,400 middle-income zip codes in the entire country, or more than funds from a thousand racially diverse zip codes. The typical income level for the top 10 direct giving zip codes ($110,000) is twice the national average, and home values are five times higher on average ($890,000). Donors from the Upper East and Upper West sides of Central Park gave more to presidential candidates than all 1,200 majority African-American zip codes in the country. They also gave more than all 1,300 majority Hispanic or Latino zip codes in the country. Turning to the super PACs, it takes only one mega-donor giving more than $1.3 million to surpass the candidate donations from all majority black areas in the country. There were 19 such donors in our analysis. However, in New York City’s 2013 elections where small dollars are matched with public funding, donors from just 30 majority black zip codes in the city gave $2.1 million, more than presidential candidates raised from all majority black areas this past quarter.