Though midterm elections are still weeks away, presidential hopefuls are already beginning to position for the 2020 election. The stable of rumored candidates is vast, ranging from former Vice President Joe Biden to former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to firebrand Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Most have at least enough name-recognition to make a splashy entrance into the race, but how many can attract the sort of money that sustains them through a battle-royale of a primary and a general election starring President Donald Trump?
Running for president is expensive. To get an idea of the sort of money these prospective presidents would need, look back to the 2016 election. Hillary Clinton received $563,756,928 in contributions for her campaign, and outside groups spent $231,118,680 trying to get her elected. Funding-wise, she steamrolled Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), who raised $228,164,501 and benefitted from under a million from outside groups. She also outraised Trump, whose campaign committee raised $333,127,164. (Outside groups pulled in $75,269,043 for the current president.)
For even higher contribution numbers, turn the clock back to 2012 when President Barack Obama won his second term. Obama accepted $722,393,592 that cycle, and his opponent, Mitt Romney took in $449,886,513. Obama also broke $700 million to get elected in 2008, pulling in around twice what Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) accepted and three times what Hillary Clinton did in that cycle’s primary.
Whoever wants to be the next president of the United States should plan on raising hundreds of millions of dollars. Many of the rumored hopefuls are experienced politicians with loyal contributors who have followed them from race to race for years – but will those networks be enough to see them through a presidential election? Or will 2020 mark a turning point in which they will need to either start asking far more of their most loyal supporters while looking for new sources of money entirely?
We already know a little about what the contribution networks for, say, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden would look like in 2018 since they have both run for president before, and on the other hand, speculating about who would contribute to the presidential campaigns of Eric Holder or Oprah Winfrey is pure guesswork. However, by examining the campaign finance records of presidential hopefuls who have run successful campaigns for public offices other than president, one can extrapolate what the foundations of their funding might look like if they ran in 2020.
Let’s examine a few potential presidents who fit into that category.
Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles
Eric Garcetti has attracted 2020 speculation thanks to a number of recent trips to Iowa and New Hampshire. Garcetti is not a household name outside of Los Angeles (at least not yet) and no sitting mayor has ever been directly elected to the presidency, but the mayor has some attractive qualities. He is charismatic, he’s good at seeming at-home in the midwest, he speaks Spanish and he knows how to raise money.
According to Ballotpedia, Garcetti accepted around $4.9 million to get elected as mayor of LA in 2013. That slipped to roughly $3.5 million for his re-election in 2017, but it did the job. The records of Garcetti’s 2013 and 2017 contributors, available via the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, are not exactly star-studded, but they include a handful of names recognizable to anyone with an interest in Hollywood power-players. Harvey Weinstein, co-founder of Miramax Films and one of the first men accused of sexual misconduct in the #MeToo movement, gave $1,300 in 2013. Elon Musk gave $2,600, and the Winklevoss twins gave $2,600 each.
In 2017, Garcetti received $1,400 each from Tim Disney, Damon Lindelof, Michael Eisner and Paramount Pictures. (There is a $700 contribution limit for Mayoral elections in L.A., but since primaries and generals are counted separately many contributors max out at $1,400.) Jerry Bruckheimer also contributed $1,000 and Susan Bay Nimoy gave $500. These famous names are sprinkled in among thousands of individual donations and groups who would sound at home in any campaign finance report, such as the Boeing Company Political Action Committee, the California Metals Coalition PAC and the California Real Estate PAC, all of whom maxed out at $1,400 in 2017.
In order to seriously consider a presidential run, Garcetti would need to dramatically expand his capacity to attract contributions. Still, considering the money studios like Disney and Warner Bros. dole out to political candidates yearly and Garcetti’s connections in the industry, there exists potential to do so. There may be gold for Garcetti in the Hollywood Hills if he is willing to look for it-and if a more well known Californian like, say, Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) doesn’t get to it first.
Mitch Landrieu, Mayor of New Orleans
Although New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has said he doesn’t know whether he wants to run for president as recently as July, Landrieu also recently met with Obama about future plans. He has also been named a “dark horse” pick for the Democratic nomination by the Washington Post.
According to followthemoney.org, Landrieu raised $1,193,183 running for Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana in 2003, then raised $5,141,478 as an incumbent in 2007.
In Louisiana, all major office candidates contributions are capped at $5,000 per individual or entity each election. According to records available from the Louisiana Ethics Administration Program, over 200 contributors opted to max out their donations to Landrieu’s 2010 mayoral campaign at $5,000. These included AEG Live LLC, Apollo Energy LP, Cornerstone Capital LLC, Dore Energy Corporation, and New Orleans Hospitality Coalition PAC. Landrieu also took $2,500 from Marriott International Inc. in both 2010 and in his 2014 re-election campaign.
Landrieu, like Garcetti, is a mayor, and therefore governing and fundraising on a scale smaller than that of other presidential hopefuls. Still, since Landrieu rubs elbows with the likes of Oprah and Obama, there exists the possibility that he could amplify his fundraising capabilities to the national level.
Steve Bullock, Governor of Montana
Montana governor and chairman of the National Governors Association Steve Bullock has also made frequent trips to Iowa. Though generally considered to be a centrist, Bullock recently came out in favor of a ban on assault weapons. He also recently issued an executive order which said anyone who received a major government contract in Montana (“major” here meaning worth over $50,000 or $25,000, depending on whether it’s for a good or a service) would have to reveal their dark money contributions. The order received full-throated support from End Citizens United.
Like Garcetti and Landrieu, Bullock is not a household name but has powerful friends within the party – see the $99,138 he has received from the Montana Democratic Party according to followthemoney.org.
Bullock has raised a total of $5,634,390 over the course of four races. Two of those were for attorney general (a loss and a win) and two for governor (a win and a re-election victory). In 2016 alone, Bullock raised $3,284,520 as an incumbent for Montana’s governorship.
Among Bullock’s contributors are Home Depot, who gave $11,870, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, who gave $12,180, and New York-based pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer, who gave $7,480, just a little under a tenth of what they have given to Kirsten Gillibrand.
Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator from New York
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has lurched leftward in the past ten years. The one-time recipient of an A-rating from the National Rifle Association has since been demoted to an F. She has also called for the abolition of ICE and become an advocate for the #MeToo movement in the Senate.
In that time-period, Gillibrand has also become an accomplished fundraiser, steadily growing the amount she receives in contributions with each election. In her 2006 congressional race, she raised $2,634,157. Two years later, she raised $4,649,651 to defend her spot before being assigned to the Senate seat vacated when Hillary Clinton left to serve as Secretary of State. She raised $13,418,545 as an incumbent in 2010 and $15,735,457 in 2012.
Gillibrand’s two biggest contributors are law firms where she used to practice, Boies, Schiller & Flexner and Davis, Polk & Wardwell. BS&F is Gillibrand’s number-one overall donor with $807,233 in contributions since 2005.
Davis, Polk & Wardwell give more to Gillibrand than to anyone else in Congress by far. The second highest recipient of money from the firm in 2018 was Senator Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who received $11,941. DP&W mostly concentrates its contributions on Democrats. There are a few exceptions in 2018, including Republicans like Mitt Romney (who received $1,000) and Luther Strange (who received $1,500). In 2016, the firm supported Hillary Clinton with $165,612.
Davis, Polk & Wardwell have over 900 employees, and offices in New York, D.C, London, Madrid, Hong Kong, Beijing and Tokyo.
Gillibrand has another generous supporter in Pfizer Inc., which has given her $149,628. In 2018, Gillibrand received more in contributions from Pfizer than any other Senator. Second place is Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who received $30,613, less than half of what Gillibrand did.
Pfizer Inc. has an almost even partisan split in its giving. In 2018 it has given Democrats $509,608 and Republicans $488,133.
Gillibrand has several contributors in common with other Senators who have eyes on the presidency. In the 2018 cycle, she has received $44,265 from Sony Corp, who also contributes to Kamala Harris. She also has a contributor in common with Cory Booker in Paul Weiss, a law firm. Over the course of her career, Gillibrand has received $190,280 from the firm, and Booker has received $171,570. Paul Weiss is Booker’s top donor overall. They’re Gillibrand’s sixth largest after the two law firms, Corning Inc., Morgan Stanley and EMILY’s List.
Cory Booker, Senator from New Jersey
Thanks in part to his social media savvy and a popular documentary on his campaign to become Mayor of Newark, Cory Booker is fast becoming a household name. His visibility has also increased thanks to his spot on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which put him front-and-center at Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings.
Though his cozy relationship with Wall Street makes Booker a divisive figure among progressives (an opinion piece in The Guardian accused Booker of treating the government as “a charity for billionaires and corporations to support as they please”) the Senator is still a much buzzed-about potential candidate for 2020. He is also good at raising money. As an incumbent in 2014, Booker raised a total of $17,718,139 to protect his new Senate seat from policy analyst Jeff Bell.
It is true that Booker has accepted a substantial sum from big banks. He has taken $80,400 from Goldman Sachs, $70,160 from Morgan Stanley, and $64,542 from JPMorgan Chase & Co. But Booker’s biggest contributor is Paul Weiss, followed by NorPAC, who has contributed $158,871. NorPAC describes its purpose as “support(ing) candidates and sitting members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives who demonstrate a genuine commitment to the strength, security, and survival of Israel.”
Booker’s website has a page dedicated to “Foreign Policy and National Security,” and a full paragraph under the “Engaging with Strategic Allies” subheading is dedicated to Israel.
“Senator Booker is a proponent of partnering with our critical strategic allies, and has proudly called for expanding American support for cooperative defense programs with Israel,” the page says. “Senator Booker will continue to be a staunch advocate for a strengthened relationship with Israel.”
Kamala Harris, Senator from California
In 2016, then-Attorney General Kamala Harris raised $15,072,254 to become the first black woman elected to represent California in the Senate. Like Booker, Harris has recently stepped further into the limelight thanks to a spot on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Her two strongest and most consistent contributors are Time Warner and Alphabet Inc. (the holding company that controls Google), who have given her $127,725 and $90,028 respectively. 21st Century Fox has also given Harris $89,576, and Disney chipped in $40,674. Disney has also contributed $72,981 to Booker and $4000 to Garcetti, Harris’ fellow Californian.
There is precedent for Disney contributing heavily to presidential races. In 2016, they provided significant support for Hillary Clinton with $423,750. They also contributed $41,149 to Bernie Sanders, $13,910 to Jeb Bush, $12,439 to Marco Rubio and $11,694 to Ted Cruz. In 2012, they contributed $365,873 to Obama and $46,500 to Romney.
Deval Patrick, Former Governor of Massachusetts
Deval Patrick was a Democratic governor in Massachusetts, a blue state that almost never elects Democratic governors. He is popular among donors and well liked in the party establishment. (Or so one assumes from the fact that Patrick’s single biggest contributor according to followthemoney.org is the Massachusetts Democratic party who has given him $8,027,829.) Patrick raised $17,984,822 in his 2006 campaign to become Governor of Massachusetts. He then raised $20,670,980 to defend his seat in 2010.
If he does decide to run, Patrick can reinforce his liberal bona-fides by touting his broad and hefty base of union support. Patrick has received $17,000 from Utility Workers Local 369,
$15,000 from Unite! Here! Local 26 (a hospitality workers union with territory covering Massachusetts and Rhode Island whose members include employees of Boston-area Marriott hotels, as well as Hilton, Hyatt and Ritz Carlton hotels), $13,000 from the Massachusetts Federation of Teachers and $11,500 from Sheet Metal Workers Local 71, a craftsman’s union based out of western New York. Patrick’s strong relationship with the Democratic party along with his union network could prove a formidable combination.
Amy Klobuchar, Senator from Minnesota
With a 50-plus percent approval rating from Republicans in her home state, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) is the rare politician that one can actually imagine bringing bipartisanship back. The proud midwesterner and Minnesotan is up for re-election in 2018 and, like most of the elected officials on this list, has remained coy about running in 2020 despite her sudden surge of interest in the state of Iowa.
In her first Senate race in 2006, Klobuchar raised $9,202,052. Her opponent in that race, Mark Kennedy, raised a little more, ($9,741,224) but Klobuchar still won. She raised $10,203,513 as an incumbent in 2012.
EMILY’s List is Klobuchar’s most generous contributor. They are followed by a law firm, Dorsey & Whitney, who has contributed $202,525. Like Kirsten Gillibrand, Klobuchar relies on her former firm as a consistent contributor – she practiced at Dorsey & Whitney after graduating from law school at the University of Chicago.
Elizabeth Warren, Senator from Massachusetts
Elizabeth Warren was a popular figure even before her clash with Mitch McConnell was memed, printed on t-shirts and made into an episode of the Supergirl TV series.
Her reputation as a scrappy fighter on the Senate floor and an opponent of big banks have made her a progressive darling. (She once derided Wall Street money as the “snake that slithers through Washington.”) Warren is a fan-favorite among potential 2020 candidates, though there is concern that she and Bernie Sanders could split progressives down the middle.
In Warren’s 2012 Senate campaign, she raised $42,506,349, and she has raised $31,531,992 to defend her seat this year. Like Amy Klobuchar, Warren counts EMILY’s list, who has given her $631,869, as her top contributor. Warren has another contributor in common with Klobuchar in Comcast Corp., who has given her $27,795 in the 2018 election cycle. In the same cycle, they have contributed $42,760 to Klobuchar.
Warren also has strong support among universities. She has accepted $402,061 from Harvard University, $145,115 from the University of California, $138,431 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and $107,309 from Boston University. Barack Obama also took advantage of university money to help him win re-election in 2012 when he accepted $1,350,139 from the University of California, $680,918 from Harvard University and $532,246 from Stanford University.
In 2018, Warren received $26,746 from Alphabet Inc., one of Kamala Harris’s strongest contributors.
Although Warren has sworn off money from corporate PACs, her contributor base is formidable. It is easy to imagine Warren using her popularity and progressive pedigree to expand her fundraising into a presidential scale operation.