Bernie Sanders raised nearly $35 million last quarter; Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden report strong numbers

Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign said his fourth-quarter contributions came from more than 1.8 million individual donations.
(Alan Diaz / Associated Press)

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders announced Thursday that he had raised more than $34.5 million in the final three months of 2019, a haul that will allow him to run an extensive campaign in the new year as Democratic voters begin the process of selecting a presidential nominee.

Former Vice President Joe Biden reported bringing in $22.7 million during the same period, a big rebound from the $15.7 million he’d raised in the previous three months. Nonetheless, Biden once again trailed not just Sanders, but also Pete Buttigieg. The former mayor of South Bend, Ind., announced Wednesday that he’d received more than $24.7 million in donations in the last three months of 2019, an impressive figure for a candidate who was a virtual unknown one year ago.

Even with the surge of new donations, Sanders fell a few million dollars shy of what 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton raised in the same period in that election cycle. But Sanders’ campaign noted that his fourth-quarter contributions came from more than 1.8 million individual donations and that the average contribution was $18.53, indicators of grass-roots support.

“Bernie Sanders is closing the year with the most donations of any candidate in history at this point in a presidential campaign,” said campaign manager Faiz Shakir. “He is proving each and every day that working-class Americans are ready and willing to fully fund a campaign that stands up for them and takes on the biggest corporations and the wealthy.”


This 2020 presidential race is shaping up to be the most expensive in history, in part because billionaires Michael R. Bloomberg and Tom Steyer have each already spent more than $100 million of their own money on advertising since their respective late entries into the race.

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang reported donations of more than $16.5 million in the last three months of 2019, a sharp rise from the $10 million he collected during the previous three months.

No other candidates have released their fundraising numbers, though Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign has indicated that contributions have slowed as she has dipped in the polls.

None of the four candidates who announced their donation totals released a key figure — the amount of cash they have on hand entering the new year. The $9 million that Biden reported having in the bank three months ago was an alarming sign to some of his backers, who feared he could have trouble staying competitive with his better-funded rivals as the toughest part of the race approaches.

Biden campaign manager Greg Schultz told supporters Thursday in a memo that the former vice president’s team was thrilled by the improved fundraising numbers. He noted Biden’s steady front-runner status in national polls.

“Our campaign’s momentum in recent weeks and months is impossible to miss,” he wrote.

Campaign finance disclosures that detail cash on hand, donors, spending and other granular information are not due to be filed with the Federal Election Commission until Jan. 31.

Sanders, Biden, Buttigieg and Yang released top-line numbers as the candidates geared up for a dizzying month in the final push before the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3, and as the race has increasingly revolved around the power of the wealthy, including campaign donors.


Sanders and Warren, who have both renounced big-dollar fundraisers in the 2020 campaign, attacked Buttigieg at the December Democratic debate in Los Angeles for holding a closed-door fundraiser at a Napa Valley wine cave and having billionaire benefactors. (It would later emerge that Warren herself held a fundraiser at a winery before her presidential run.) During the debate, Sanders also went after Biden and his wealthy donors.

Buttigieg’s average donation in 2019 was $38, considerably higher than the average for Sanders or Warren. At the end of December, his campaign announced a contest that was widely viewed as a ploy to lower that figure. Days before the fourth quarter closed, supporters were asked to take part in a competition over who could contribute the smallest unique donation to the campaign. Buttigieg’s average donation in the fourth quarter declined to $33. Biden’s was $41.

President Trump’s campaign said Thursday that it raised $46 million in the last quarter of 2019. The campaign, which is not facing a strong primary challenge, reported $102.7 million in cash on hand as the election year gets underway.

Times staff writer Michael Finnegan contributed to this report.