It costs a lot to run a campaign for president of the United States. Millions. Billions, even…at least when you add all the money spent in an election cycle up. Career politicians are often wealthy people but they cannot bankrupt themselves in their quest for the highest office in the land. So they turn to donors. Bernie Sanders' campaign was famous in 2016 for having a bunch of small-dollar-figure donors. However sweet that support is, it isn't going to get you the job at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. BIG donations from billionaire supporters are the game-changer in this election cycle. Mike Bloomberg doesn't have to rely on anyone else, since he has a net worth of his own of $62 billion. The other candidates do need those big-dollar donations. Who are the billionaires funding the campaigns of the Democratic candidates for president?
By the end of 2019, roughly 20% of American billionaires donated to at least one Democratic candidate. At least 100 billionaires donated in their own names. Another 25 have spouses who donated to a campaign. Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg lead the pack when it comes to support from billionaires. Biden received donations from 60 billionaires or their spouses by the end of 2019. Buttigieg wasn't far behind with 56 billionaire backers.
Over the last three months of 2019, Biden received support from 16 new donors. The biggest donor is real estate billionaire George Marcus, who gave $1 million to a super PAC supporting Biden in December. In the fall, he also hosted a fundraiser for Biden. His wife, Judy, donated an additional $2,800 to Biden.
Buttigieg also found 16 new donors, including Christy Walton and John Doerr of the legendary venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins. The spouses of hedge fund manager Steve Cohen and Google co-founder Sergey Brin also jumped on the Buttigieg train. Brin's wife, Nicole Shanahan, co-hosted a fundraiser for Buttigieg in December with billionaire Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and Wendy Schmidt, the wife of former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Earlier in the race for president, Shanahan donated $2,800 to Marianne Williamson's campaign. Buttigieg also got a $100,000 donation from private equity billionaire Brian Seth.
Amy Klobuchar added eight new donors in late 2019. All but one of those also contributed money to Biden, Buttigieg, or both. Klobuchar's billionaire backers include Laurene Powell Jobs, hedge fund manager Stephen Mandel, and Nicole Systrom, the wife of Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom. Powell Jobs also contributed to the campaigns of Biden, Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Michael Bennet.
Mike Bloomberg and Tom Steyer don't need the support of other billionaires since they are both billionaires. Both candidates have outspent the other candidates. By the end of 2019, Bloomberg and Steyer had each spent more than $200 million on their respective campaigns.
Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand, haven't received a lot of support from billionaires. Sanders returned the money donated to his campaign from the spouse of a billionaire. No other billionaires have donated to him since. Elizabeth Warren had the support of six billionaires and their spouses earlier, but when she unveiled her proposed 6% wealth tax, she seems to have scared off the billionaires.
And finally, Tulsi Gabbard has the support of one billionaire: Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.