Dean attracts small contributions in large numbers

Print More

(Host) Former Governor Howard Dean is third among Democrats for the money raised so far in the presidential race. But Dean leads the pack in the number of individual donors who have given to his campaign. Political observers say Dean’s use of the Internet – and his ability to reach out to small contributors – has changed the way campaigns are financed.

VPR’s John Dillon has more:

(Dean) Dean still trails behind Massachusetts Senator John Kerry and North Carolina Senator John Edwards in the race for campaign cash. But Dean had a remarkable three months of fundraising. He raised about $7.6 million by the end of June. Just over 83,000 people have given money to Dean, with 73,000 contributors coming forward in the last three months. By comparison, Kerry’s campaign received contributions from about 23,000 individuals over the same time period.

Carol Darr directs the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. Darr says Dean has reversed a trend in which wealthy contributors – those who give the maximum of $2,000 – underwrite presidential campaigns.

(Darr) “Nobody has thought you could do it any other way. And Howard Dean is showing that there is another way to do it.”

(Dillon) Darr says that’s good for democracy, because large contributors usually demand access and influence for their money.

(Darr) “Candidates’ most important base is their money base. And they’ll listen to their money base, in my view, before they’ll listen to their voter base.”

(Dillon) According to Darr, Dean’s use of small donors has two benefits for his campaign. The first is that he can go back to those contributors again and again until they reach the maximum of $2,000.

The second advantage is that those tens of thousands of small donations can translate into millions of dollars in federal matching funds. That’s because the government matches the first $250 in campaign donations with $250 in federal funds. With lots of people giving small amounts of money, Darr says Dean will leverage a large federal match.

(Darr) “So it’s expected that he will get a far larger amount of matching funds than anybody else. Because most candidates generally get matching funds that equal about 25% to 30% of their private contributions. He’s expected to get somewhere around 40% of his total contributions because so many of his contributions are small and fully matchable.”

(Dillon) Dean was the first candidate to qualify for federal matching funds. And that money will roll in just as the crucial early primary season begins. Bob Rogan is a deputy campaign manager for Dean.

(Rogan) “The federal matching dollars will come in at just the time when we need it most. And that is when we’ll be in full battle regalia in New Hampshire and Iowa where we will be needing to purchase major amounts of print, radio and television media.”

(Dillon) But despite Dean’s early fundraising success, he still lags far behind President Bush. The president raised $34 million in the last three months, about $3 million more than the nine Democrats combined.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

Comments are closed.