Who Pays for it? Contrasting Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential Fundraising Sources

Who pays for it?
Who pays for it?

by Shelley Pineo-Jensen, Ph.D.

What the Data Tells Us:

NPR reported in CHARTS: The (Literal) Shapes of Presidential Candidates’ Donations that Bernie is the “Grassrootsiest” candidate, with 77% of his donations coming from individual donations of $200 or less.

The Tampa Bay Times evaluated Sanders fundraising going back to 1989. They found that his top ten donors for the last 26 years were: Machinists/Aerospace Workers union ($105,000), Teamsters union ($93,700), National Education Association ($84,350), United Auto Workers ($79,650), United Food & Commercial Workers union ($72,500), Communications Workers of America ($68,000), Laborers Union ($64,000), Carpenters & Joiners Union ($62,000), National Association of Letter Carriers ($61,000), and the American Association for Justice ($60,500). That’s ¾ of a million bucks over the last 26 years.

The New York Times reported that Sanders has refused to accept support from super PACs, relying instead on tens of thousands of small donors, some giving as little as $5 or $10. The average donation, according to campaign officials, is $31.30. Yet when a Vermont legislator, Chris Pearson, offered to set up a super PAC to support the Sanders campaign, Mr. Sanders told him to “kill it,” Mr. Sanders said, because did not want to be beholden to “the millionaires and billionaires.”

By way of contrast, the Times reported that Hillary Clinton collected $47.5 million in the spring quarter of this year. Super PACs supporting Mrs. Clinton have already raised more than $20 million, records show. Putting into a larger perspective, on the Republican side, two super PACs backing Jeb Bush raised about $108.5 million.

The Daily Beast found that there is another commonality shared by Jeb Bush and Clinton besides the volume of their fundraising, and this the actual source of the funding. “More than 60 ultra-rich Americans have contributed to both Jeb Bush’s and Hillary Clinton’s federal campaigns, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission data by Vocativ and The Daily Beast. Seventeen of those contributors have gone one step further and opened their wallets to fund both Bush’s and Clinton’s 2016 ambitions.”

According to Mother Jones, “the top lobbyist bundling for Clinton was Jackson Dunn, who represents Mastercard, Dow Chemical, Pepsico, and Noble Energy, a Houston-based oil and gas company. Dunn bundled more than $231,000 for the campaign. He wasn’t the only lobbyist with ties to the oil and gas sector who went to work fundraising for Clinton. Lobbyist Ankit Desai, who works for natural gas company Cheniere, raised $82,000. Theresa Fariello, of ExxonMobil, raised $21,200 for the campaign.”

The Tampa Bay Times reported that Clinton’s top 10 cumulative donors between 1999 and 2016 were: Citigroup ($782,327), Goldman Sachs ($711,490), DLA Piper ($628,030), JPMorgan Chase ($620,919), EMILY’s List ($605,174) Morgan Stanley ($543,065), Time Warner ($411,296), Skadden Arps ($406,640), Lehman Brothers ($362,853) and Cablevision Systems ($336,288). That’s $5,408,092 over 17 years.

An AP article published on the Business Insider website found:

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s economic agenda targets companies that focus on short-term profits and high-speed trading instead of investing in workers. The Democratic presidential candidate’s finance operation is going after their executives for another purpose — donations. A day after proposing higher capital gains taxes on short-term investors, Clinton raised at least $450,000 Tuesday night at the Chicago home of Raj Fernando, a longtime donor. His firm, Chopper Trading, specializes in high-frequency transactions and was recently purchased by Chicago-based competitor DRW. Following the event in Chicago with Fernando, Clinton was attending a Wednesday fundraiser hosted by George Reddin, a North Carolina-based managing director of FMI Capital Advisors who has specialized in mergers and acquisitions in the construction materials industry. Clinton also has appeared at fundraisers held by Doug Teitelbaum, founder of investment firm Homewood Capital, and Lisa Perry, whose husband, Richard, is a top hedge fund executive.

In her first campaign finance report, people who listed occupations in banking, finance, investment, money management, private equity or venture capital contributed more than $1.6 million to Clinton’s campaign, according to a review by The Associated Press. The vast majority of those checks were for the maximum legal amount of $2,700. About a dozen of Clinton’s top campaign bundlers — donors who have raised at least $100,000 for her presidential bid — work in finance and investing, such as private equity investors Imaad Zuberi and Deven Parekh and hedge fund managers Marc Lasry and Orin Kramer.

Open Secrets reported “Clinton’s top donors in the 2016 cycle. The money came from the organizations’ PACs; their individual members, employees or owners; and those individuals’ immediate families. At the federal level, the organizations themselves did not donate, as they are prohibited by law from doing so. Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates.” The top donor listed was Akin Gump.

Akin Gump is the lobbying group associated with Monsanto; in an article on the Akin Gump website: Supreme Court Unanimously Upholds Patent Rights on Readily Replicable ProductsAkin Gump takes credit for ensuring Monsanto’s patent rights to their seeds. “Monsanto licenses its herbicide resistant soybeans to seed producers who, in turn, sublicense them to farmers under the terms of a licensing agreement. The license limits a farmer’s planting of seeds to a single season, but the Roundup Ready trait is inherited by each successive generation of seed produced by the farmer. Monsanto claimed that farmers, like Indiana soybean farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman, violate the license agreement and infringe Monsanto’s patents by planting second-generation seeds that were either harvested from the original, purchased seeds or purchased as commodity seed from a grain elevator.“

Salon reported that Monsanto has filed over 140 lawsuits against farmers for intentionally planting its seeds without paying royalties and settled 700 others cases. RT Question More reported that “Seed giant Monsanto has won more than $23 million from hundreds of small farmers accused of replanting the company’s genetically engineered seeds.” The Supreme Court ruled in 2013  (Bowman v. Monsanto) that  Monsanto “maintains patent rights on its genetically modified seeds, even if sold by a third party such as a grain elevator. The company also said this protection extends for generations down, which means it owns seeds that are ‘descendants’ of original Monsanto seeds.”

The Washington Times reported that:

Clinton’s top campaign operative in Iowa is former Monsanto lobbyist Jerry Crawford, who’s also a veteran of Iowa politics and Clinton campaigns. Her history of backing GMO dates back to her early days in Arkansas as a lawyer with the Rose Law Firm, which represented Monsanto and other agribusiness leaders. Just last year, Mrs. Clinton gave a paid speech at a biotech industry conference in San Diego, where she championed GMOs and advised the executives and investors to give their products an image makeover. “Genetically modified’ sounds Frankensteinish. ‘Drought-resistant’ sounds like something you’d want,” she said. “Be more careful so you don’t raise that red flag immediately.” Big ag also has been a big donor to the Clinton Foundation, the family charity at the center of pay-to-play accusations involving foreign donors while Mrs. Clinton ran the State Department. Monsanto gave the foundation between $501,250 and $1 million. Dow Chemical Company, which is among the top GMO players, gave between $1 million and $5 million, according to financial disclosures by the Clinton Foundation.

In stark contrast, Bernie Sanders is not on the take from those manufacturers of Agent Orange and a variety of pesticides, Monsanto or Dow Chemical. Sanders supports GMO labeling, which the pesticide/GMO industry opposes through every vehicle possible, including outspending proponents 20 to 1, according to a report at the Environmental Working Group website.

An article in the Huffington Post, Hillary vs. Bernie on Frankenfood reported that:

Senator Bernie Sanders represents Vermont, the first state in the nation to pass a “right to know” GMO labeling law. He authored an amendment to the 2013 farm bill that would have given states the ability to require labeling so that they don’t have to fight for it, state by state, through propositions on the ballot. Sanders’ amendment was defeated 71 to 27 in the Senate, even though 93 percent of Americans want GMOs labeled. “An overwhelming majority of Americans favor GMO labeling but virtually all of the major biotech and food corporations in the country oppose it.” says Sanders. Vermont’s labeling law is scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2016. “The people of Vermont and the people of America have a right to know what’s in the food that they eat,” Sanders said.


Clinton has raised huge amounts of money from Cablevision, Monsanto, Wall Street, and a variety of transnational corporations. She is reaching out to fundraise from the super-rich who produce their wealth through short-term profit strategies. She brings in funds from super-pacs that legally conceal their donors and shares a large number of donors with Jeb Bush.

Sanders has raised a much smaller amount of money from unions such as the Communications Workers of America. He refuses super-pac money and has more small donations from individual donors than any other candidate.


If you are a transnational corporation (corporations are people too!) or fabulously wealthy, vote for Clinton in the Democratic primary. Your interests will be well served. If you are anyone else, vote for Bernie Sanders. In fact get off your duff and start registering voters for Bernie in your state. There is hope for our biosphere and our species – and it’s name is “Bernie Sanders.”

About the Author

Dr. P-J
Dr. P-J took a Ph.D. in Educational Methodology, Policy, and Leadership from the College of Education at the University of Oregon in 2013. Her scholarly interests include statistics, quantitative methods, qualitative methods, power structure analysis, Gender and Queer Theory, Critical Theory, and labor studies. Her dissertation (published as "An Informed Electorate" and available at Amazon.com) found a statistically significant correlation between a high level of a state’s educational standardization and high level of voter suppression / low voter turnout.

3 Comments on "Who Pays for it? Contrasting Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential Fundraising Sources"

  1. KEEP DOING WHAT YOU’RE DOING. The majority of the people are behind you all the wzy…

  2. Why isn’t this in a bar graph that is easily read and understood, it would help to show the amounts in different colors of the total~!!

    • Hi – the data comes from several sources and didn’t lend itself to a bar graph – although I agree with you that a comparative analysis would be easier in a more graphical presentation. This is one of my earlier posts . . . but I appreciate the feedback.

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