By Jim Brunner / The Seattle Times
Before presidential candidate Bernie Sanders scheduled his rally in the Tacoma Dome on Monday night, the Vermont senator had raised more money in Washington than any of his Democratic rivals.
Sanders pulled in more than $2 million from state residents through the end of 2019, beating out Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who raised about $1.6 million, and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who raised $1.5 million, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who spoke at four private fundraisers in the Seattle area last year, raised about $1 million. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who spoke at a small event in Seattle in September, raised about $400,000 here, less than Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, who ended her presidential run in early December.
With his win in the New Hampshire primary, Sanders has emerged as the early leader for the Democratic presidential nomination. He has built a massive online fundraising operation powered by small donors. That’s reflected in his Washington support, as he received more than 56,000 donations from residents of the state through the end of the year — more than double the 25,000 Warren received.
Sanders’ strength here is attributable, in part, to loyalists who backed him in the 2016, when he won Washington’s Democratic caucuses over eventual nominee Hillary Clinton. This year, Democrats are ditching the caucuses in favor of the state’s March 10 presidential primary. Ballots for the primary will be mailed Feb. 21.
The Washington state fundraising figures are drawn from the latest FEC reports, which include itemized donations through the end of 2019 for people who have given a candidate at least $200 in total. Many donors reach that threshold with recurring small contributions. The average size of the itemized Sanders donations in Washington, for example, is $37, compared with $153 for Biden and $270 for Gov. Jay Inslee, who dropped out of the presidential race in August.
President Donald Trump, meanwhile, raised more than $2.7 million from Washington donors — topping what his campaign raised in the state in the whole of the 2016 campaign. He received nearly 45,000 donations, more than double the number from four years ago, FEC reports show.
Who’s giving Trump all that money?
Older people. Nearly half Trump’s total Washington fundraising haul comes from retired people. He raised more money from retired people in Washington than all Democratic candidates combined.
Boeing employees gave Trump nearly $38,000, his best haul from any single employer and more than twice what any Democrat got from workers at the aerospace giant.
Trump also dominates among business owners. Washington donors who classify themselves as “self-employed” or an “entrepreneur” gave more than $333,000 to the president, nearly three times as much as the closest Democrat, Buttigieg, who raised $119,000 from Washington business owners.
Employees of Seattle-area tech giants widely favor Democrats.
Despite his fierce criticisms of Amazon and its CEO, Jeff Bezos, Sanders received more donations from Washington employees of Amazon (about 900) than any other candidate, though New York entrepreneur Andrew Yang raised more total dollars from Amazon workers in the state — about $69,000.
Some top Amazon executives backed more moderate Democratic candidates, such as Biden and Buttigieg. David Zapolsky, Amazon’s general counsel, hosted a fundraiser at his Seattle home with Biden in November. Zapolsky donated $2,800 to Biden but also gave to several other Democratic presidential candidates, including Inslee, Klobuchar, Buttigieg, Harris and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock. And while Bezos hasn’t given to any candidate, his parents have. They each donated $2,800 to Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, who ended his campaign Tuesday night.
Among Microsoft employees, nearly every Democratic contender bested Trump in Washington donations. Yang, who ended his campaign this week after a disappointing showing in the New Hampshire primary, took in the most, more than $81,000, closely followed by Sanders, Buttigieg and Warren. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda Gates, each gave $2,700 to New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who ended his campaign last month.
Other notable Washington residents who donated to presidential campaigns include Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll, who gave $1,000 to Booker; soccer star Megan Rapinoe, who gave $1,000 to Harris before endorsing Warren; actor Chris Pratt, who gave $1,000 to Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard; and singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, who gave $200 to Sanders.
The dollar chase is sure to accelerate as the 2020 election grows closer. Sanders’ campaign, for example, recently announced it raised an additional $1.3 million from Washington donors in January alone.
The state Democratic Party is hopeful that presidential candidates will come to town for the Warren G. Magnuson Dinner, an annual fundraising event where tables go for $1,250 or $2,500. This year’s dinner is March 7, just three days before Washington’s presidential primary.
Buttigieg is to appear at a fundraising brunch in Seattle on Saturday, hosted by local Democratic power player Suzi LeVine, and her husband, Eric. Suzi LeVine was a top political fundraising “bundler” for President Barack Obama in his 2008 and 2012 campaigns. In 2014, Obama named her U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
Co-chairs of the Buttigieg event are expected to raise at least $75,000, with co-hosts on the hook for $25,000. Other support tiers included $2,800 for “investor” and $1,000 for “champion.” Cheaper tickets, advertised at $25 to $250, are sold out, according to an online invitation. Buttigieg has not announced any public events for his Seattle stop.