Looking at the Donors of 2020 Presidential Campaigns

By Milo Mandelli-Valla ’24

Private equity company Blackstone is one of the top donors to President Trump's campaign (Photo Credit: CNBC)
Private equity company Blackstone is one of the top donors to President Trump's campaign (Photo Credit: CNBC)

With the 2020 presidential election drawing near and both candidates in the hunt for funding for a strong advertising campaign, their fundraising thus far requires comparison. Fundraising has a direct correlation to the support of a candidate; if more people like a candidate, he or she will get more money in donations.


To truly understand fundraising for both candidates, multiple factors need to be considered. One of these factors is the top donors for President Donald Trump and Former Vice President Joe Biden, who they are, and what they have given to the campaigns. Another is looking at the monthly fundraising of each candidate and comparing them. The final factor to consider is how fundraising could look in the future.


One of President Trump’s top donors is Blackstone, a private equity firm that has donated $3 million to the president’s reelection bid. Blackstone has also given almost $80,000 to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and $65,000 to Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). Another one of the President’s top donors is California real estate company GH Palmer Associates. The company has given money to Republican senators like Mitch McConnell and Susan Collins, and Republican representatives in California.


The President’s largest donor, however, is America First, an organization that has been collecting money for his campaign from small donors. The organization has raised over $12 million for the campaign.


According to Forbes, President Trump has received support from 1 in 10 US billionaires. 56% of those billionaires are from the states of New York, Florida, and Texas. The President’s highest billionaire donor is Andy Beal, who has a net worth of $8.1 billion. This could be because of the tax cuts that he has given to states like Florida and Texas, and the cuts that he has given to the very top of the US economy.


Joe Biden’s top donor, Sixteen Thirty Fund, has given him over $11 million. Sixteen Thirty Fund gives money to promote their causes such as tax reform, pay equity, and climate change. The fund donates money to small advocacy groups or to political candidates.


The best way to analyze campaign funding, though, is on a month by month basis. In July, President Trump raised $165 million, as compared to Joe Biden’s $140 million. This is a big difference from 2016, in which neither Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton passed $100 million in July. This shows more momentum for Trump in July, but also that there is greater support for both candidates this time than there was in 2016.


Biden in August, though, set a record for money raised as he closed the gap on Donald Trump. Biden raised over $300 million due to the Democratic National Convention and the announcing of his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA). President Trump’s campaign did not announce its fundraising, but it is also expected to be very high as Republicans raised more money than the Democrats at their convention—the Republicans raised $76 million, compared to the Democrats’ $70 million.


The fact that Joe Biden raised so much after announcing Kamala Harris as his VP pick clearly shows that the pick was a positive one as it has driven donors, and therefore voters, into the Biden camp.


The conventions are always an important way to raise money for one’s election bid. This year, because of COVID-19, conventions were virtual, yet the RNC had a large audience for its prime time speeches.


The DNC, meanwhile, was without an audience and had speeches from Former President Barack Obama, and Former First Lady Michelle Obama. The contrast between the conventions highlighted the advantage of the incumbent in elections, and how the COVID-19 pandemic has led to very unique times for society and politics.


The DNC focused on bringing down Trump on his COVID-19 response, saying that it was the biggest test of his presidency, and trying to convince voters that he failed miserably. They tried to show that they could fulfill Joe Biden’s strategy of “Building Back Better” by rebuilding the economy.


The RNC tried to scare moderates into thinking that Joe Biden is a “Trojan horse” for the far left and politicians like Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY). They tried to convince Americans that their taxes would skyrocket and that the economy would plummet if Biden were elected.


When looking at what potential future fundraising could look like, based on trends, Joe Biden would be raising more than Donald Trump, as the former Vice President has raised over $11 million a day since announcing his running mate.


But keep in mind that in 2016, President Trump raised just over half of what Hillary Clinton raised. Clinton raised $1.2 billion to Trump’s relatively smaller $640 million. This year, both campaigns are raising comfortably more money than in 2016, but President Trump is managing to be close to Joe Biden in 2020.


This gap in 2016 emphasized what Trump refers to as the silent majority. These are people who do not openly support Trump but vote for him on Election Day. The silent majority is the main reason why the Trump campaign remains hopeful going into the election despite trailing in the polls.


In addition, President Trump has put a lot of faith in Joe Biden having a meltdown at the debates this month and in October. President Trump has said that Joe Biden is experiencing mental decline and that Biden will struggle at the debates.


Despite the fact that the incumbent is trailing in the polls, President Trump views the debates as a way to tighten the gap in the election. If this turns out to be the case, expect fundraising to increase for President Trump, and to decline for Biden.


The race for the White House is dependent on fundraising for each party, and there is still time for a candidate to pull ahead in fundraising. For now, however, the fundraising of the two candidates, and consequently their campaigns’ momentum, is very tight.