A recent analysis of Federal Election Commission (FEC) records found that there were 67 billionaire donors giving to 2020 Democratic candidates.
And out of all 20 candidates who debated in Detroit, Michigan last week, only four have no billionaire donors giving to their campaigns.
Forbes broke down who had the most billionaire donors out of all the major candidates running for the Democratic nomination. Candidates with more moderate policy proposals — like South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senator Kamala Harris (D-California), and former Vice President Joe Biden — tended to have more, while candidates with more progressive positions had less support from the country’s wealthiest people.
Buttigieg led the pack of 2020 Democrats with two dozen billionaires giving to his presidential campaign. Some of the more high-profile billionaire donors giving to Buttigieg include Blackstone executive vice chairman Hamilton James — whose own firm was criticized for gentrifying poorer renters out of their homes (similar to criticism of Buttigieg’s record as mayor) — and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, whose company paid $0 in federal taxes last year despite posting $845 million in profits.
Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) came in second on the billionaire donors list with 18 American oligarchs giving to his campaign. Booker’s billionaires include Microsoft founder Bill Gates (the second-wealthiest person in the world), Blackstone Group president Jonathan Gray, and tech billionaires like former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman.
Close behind Booker was Sen. Harris, with 17 billionaire campaign contributors. Harris’ billionaires include big names from the financial, tech, and entertainment sectors, like Star Wars creator George Lucas, Laurene Powell Jobs (wife of the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs), and hedge fund billionaire Marc Lasry, who is also the co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks. Harris’ healthcare plan (which she misleadingly calls Medicare for All) is modeled on “Medicare Advantage” plans that have been criticized for over-billing seniors by $30 billion since 2016.
Biden ranked fifth in billionaire campaign donors behind Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado). The former vice president counts Warren Buffett (the #3 wealthiest person in the world) among his donors, as well as ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Neil Bluhm and Herb Simon, who made their wealth in real estate, are also donating to Biden’s campaign. However, it’s possible Buttigieg may have scooped up some of Biden’s billionaires, as his poor debate performance in June led to at least one wealthy donor cutting ties to Biden’s campaign.
Ranking 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th on the billionaire contributors list are former Colorado Governor (and self-described “extreme moderate“) John Hickenlooper, former Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), and Washington Governor Jay Inslee, with 11, nine, eight, and five billionaire donors, respectively. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is next with four billionaires giving to her campaign, and former Congressman John Delaney (D-Maryland) — who was booed for a full minute after criticizing Medicare for All at the California Democratic Convention — is 11th on the list, with three billionaire campaign donors.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) ranks 12th on Forbes’ list of billionaire contributors, with two supporting her campaign as of the July 15 filing deadline. Warren has received financial support from Hyatt Hotels heiress Susan Pritzker. Forbes did not disclose the name of her second billionaire donor. Montana Governor Steve Bullock also attracted support from two billionaires.
Tied for #13 with one billionaire donor apiece are Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), basic income advocate Andrew Yang, and author Marianne Williamson. Both Gabbard and Yang have gotten donations from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, while Williamson is supported by Minneapolis-based philanthropist Rebecca Pohlad.
However, four candidates have not received any money from billionaires — New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Congressman Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), and Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont). All but Sanders are polling at less than 2% and are unlikely to qualify for the next Democratic debate in September, which could be why oligarchs aren’t bothering to support their campaigns. However, Sanders is polling in second place behind Biden, and is leading the pack in individual donors, with 746,000 through June 30. That’s over 300,000 individual donors more than Sen. Warren, who ranks second in the number of individual campaign contributors.
According to Bloomberg, Sen. Sanders is the overall leader in campaign fundraising through July 15, having raised more money than any other candidate with over $36.2 million in total. 70% of Sanders’ donations have come from grassroots donors giving $200 or less, and as Grit Post has previously reported, the majority of Sanders’ campaign donors are low-wage workers who work for employers Sanders has criticized for paying “poverty wages,” like Walmart and Amazon.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.