Keychains And Billionaires

I’ve been meaning to dig into this in my nonexistent spare time. Meet “The Small-Donor Fallacy

As of April 30, the Obama campaign had collected more than $120 million in contributions of $200 or less. In April alone, the latest month for which data are available, Obama raised more than $31 million, about 65 percent of which came from contributions of $200 or less. This seems good for democracy — but it may not be as good as we think.

Despite the importance of small donors, both Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain are still taking lots of big donations from wealthy special interests. In fact, when the nominating system as a whole is studied over time, the evidence suggests that the role of big donors will turn out to be growing, not shrinking.

Through March, small donations amounted to 39 percent of the combined fundraising of Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton. But over a comparable period four years ago, such contributions made up an even greater share (42 percent) of the fundraising of the two leading Democratic contenders, Sen. John Kerry and former Vermont governor Howard Dean. On the GOP side, small donors were much more important for McCain in 2007 than they were for George W. Bush in 2003. But for most of last year McCain was not the front-runner, and his campaign was famously broke. Now that he is the presumptive nominee, big donors are his bread and butter.

Read the whole thing. And recall that Obama has been counting the purchasers of keychains and bumper stickers as “donors”, which was what made me wonder if he had a zillion keychain buyers, a million $100 donors, and ten or fifteen stupendously powerful bundlers.

Nice work, Prof. Mandle.

5 thoughts on “Keychains And Billionaires”

  1. Think this is important:

    _In April alone, the latest month for which data are available, Obama raised more than $31 million, about 65 percent of which came from contributions of $200 or less. This seems good for democracy_

    Obama is clearly the small contributor of choice, while Clinton ran the old-style campaign. So while through march counting BOTH candidates percentage take, you come to 39%, IF – and I don’t know if true – Barack alone would be doing significantly more in smaller contributions.

    I expect that to go lower as a percentage, now that Obama will have access to Hillary big donors. Stil, the directions of things are good, with candidates able to use the internet to raise money, and enjoy a larger universe of participation.

  2. _Another problem with asserting that small donors are an antidote to undue influence by wealthy contributors is that even small donors are almost certainly much richer than the average American. In a study of $100 contributions to state campaigns in six states during 2005, the Campaign Finance Institute found that more than half of donors earned between $75,000 and $250,000 a year._

    OK, so I’m one of those Texas Hundred-thousandaires and I did send more than $200 to G.W. Bush. And all it got me were couple of White House Christmas cards, an autographed picture, the back of his hand on homeland security, and nonstop spam from the RNC. Wow, do I ever feel like some kind of Privileged Plutocrat… What do think those poor schmucks who bought keychains are going to get?

  3. Small donors aren’t going to “fix” campaign finance. They’re a result, not a cause. If Obama is getting a half-million people to give him small amounts of money, while McCain isn’t, that tells something important about the level of enthusiasm for each candidate, and the depth of support.

    Reagan, and the RNC in the 80s, were the kings of small donors. The average donation to Reagan was somewhere below $100, while the average donation to the Democrats was closer to $2000. Then Tony Coelho (D-Central Valley somewhere) got the Democrats going after small donors. Since then, it’s gone back and forth.

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