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July 13, 2012

Sanders Raises $847,000 in Second Quarter, Dwarfing Republican Opponents

BernieSen. Bernie Sanders raised a whopping $847,260 from 21,144 individual contributions during the past three months in his bid for a second term in the U.S. Senate.

To date, Sanders has brought in a total of $6.1 million during the six-year election cycle from 124,529 contributions, according to a Federal Election Commission filing provided by his campaign. Of the six-year total, according to finance director Ben Eisenberg, only $510,000 has come from Vermonters — in the form of roughly 6400 contributions from the Green Mountain State.

Sanders' campaign has a little more than $4 million in the bank.

John MacGovern, one of two candidates seeking the Republican nomination to oppose Sanders in the November election, said Friday he has yet to file his own second-quarter report, which is due this Sunday. But the Windsor man, who runs the nonprofit Hanover Institute, said he raised in the "ballpark" of $12,000 or $13,000 last quarter.

The other Republican in the race, businessman H. Brooke Paige of Washington, said he's saving his fundraising for after the August primary.

"My mom sent me a check for 100 bucks and my aunt Bernice from Baltimore sent me a check for 300 bucks. So if you look at it a certain way, I guess I reached the five-figure mark — if you include the decimal point," Paige said.

Eisenberg highlighted the senator's reliance on small-dollar donations, noting that his average contribution size was $49. He said the percentage of Sanders' contributions under $200 — three out of five — was three times greater than any other incumbent senator running for reelection.

"Bernie's campaign functions very differently from the campaigns of most other incumbent senators," Eisenberg said in a statement. "While many candidates raise the bulk of their money from wealthier individuals and big donors, the vast majority of Bernie's donations are from small donations."

But MacGovern — who, along with Paige, has thus far struggled to gain traction against his juggernaut of a rival — called Sanders' huge haul hypocritical, given the independent senator's crusade against money in politics.

"Bernie used to be against that kind of politics, but now he's clearly wallowing in it," MacGovern said. "This is what Bernie ran against. His whole career has been running against money in politics and [political action committee] money in particular. It's no wonder there's a higher turnover in the House of Lords than in the United States. They get in there and you can't get them out."

In his statement, Eisenberg said Sanders had demonstrated that a candidate "who stands up to big-money interests can raise funds without being dependent upon the contributions of the very wealthy and corporate PACs."

But Sanders does accept contributions from PACs "that share his vision — primarily organized labor PACs," Eisenberg said in an interview. Sanders took in $46,550 from such groups last quarter and has raised $412,517 from them throughout the election cycle. To date, he's raised $9000 from the National Nurses United, $7000 from the SEIU, $8000 from the Teamsters and $6500 from the National Postal Mail Handlers. Sanders has been a vocal opponents of efforts to shutter post offices throughout the country.

Paige criticized the amount of out-of-state money Sanders has raised, saying, "I think the money should really come from Vermont, not from elsewhere." With the possible exception, of course, of aunts in Baltimore.

According to Eisenberg, Sanders "hasn't focused a great deal on raising money from Vermonters thus far. The fact is, he's very appreciative of all the support he's received thus far from people across the country."

Despite criticizing Sanders' fundraising prowess, MacGovern said he opposes most campaign finance reform proposals, arguing that they tend to be "designed to help incumbents."

"Interestingly enough, what would make it possible for me to match him dollar for dollar would be just a few people who were really angry with deep pockets who could contribute without limits," MacGovern said, arguing that the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision did not go far enough in tossing out fundraising restrictions. "Campaign finance reform for me would be just that: full disclosure immediately. I would make it really quick — but no limits."

Justifying Sanders' outsized fundraising figures, Eisenberg himself raised the specter of Citizens United.

"Bernie doesn't take any election for granted. In the last election he faced an opponent who spent $7 million, which is the most in Vermont's history. You combine that with the recent Citizens United decision — you know, Bernie's not going to be caught in a position where he's not prepared to respond in the possible event that a Karl Rove-type group could come in and spend millions."

No word yet as to whether Rove has his eyes on Vermont.

Photo credit: Andy Bromage

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