Colorado Senator Michael Bennet joins the crowded field of 2020 Democrats

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Sen. Michael Bennet (Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Thursday morning, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) became the 21st prominent Democrat to join the 2020 presidential race, announcing his plans on “CBS This Morning.” Bennet quickly rose to national attention in January after he delivered a dramatic, passionate floor speech denouncing Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) position on the government shutdown.

Bennet recently had surgery to treat prostate cancer, something he said wouldn’t affect his plans. Speculation around a presidential bid mounted with visits to Iowa and New Hampshire.

His moderate policy stances stand in contrast to the rest of the Democratic field many of whom has rushed to the left. Bennet opposes “Medicare-for-all” and backs adding a public option to the Affordable Care Act, a plan he calls “Medicare-X.” He also voted in favor of the construction of the Keystone Pipeline. However, with immigration being a hot-button issue, Bennet has experience that may appeal to Democratic primary voters. He was a member of the Gang of Eight in 2013 which drafted an immigration reform bill that passed the Senate but was blocked by the Republican-controlled House.

Bennet started his career in the Clinton Administration then became managing director for Anschutz Investment Company. After that, Bennet worked as chief of staff for two years for then-Denver Mayor and current 2020 primary opponent John Hickenlooper, before being appointed superintendent of the Denver Public School system. He has been a senator since 2009 when he was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Ken Salazar and won reelection in 2010 and 2016. His 2016 reelection was notable as he earned outperformed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in swing state Colorado.

Bennet has demonstrated a history as a robust fundraiser, raising $17 million overall. In the 2016 cycle, he raised almost $15.4 million compared to the average of $3.2 million raised by Senate candidates that year. In his other active election cycle, 2010, he also significantly outraised the average by almost $10 million. Yet, compared to his fellow senators running for president, Bennet ended the 2013-2018 cycle with not much cash on hand — just $1.5 million.

Representing the outdoor-centric state of Colorado, it is no surprise that Bennet’s top all-time contributor is the League of Conservation Voters who between individuals and PACs has given Bennet $340,147 over the past decade.

However, the industry that supports Bennet the most is the securities and investment industry. This could also prove to be a challenge for him in a field of progressives like Sens. Warren (D-Mass.) and Sanders (I-Vt.) who regularly denounce Wall Street.  

Made up of hedge funds and investment firms, the industry has contributed more than $3.4 million to Bennet since his Senate career began in 2009. Blackstone Group, a global investment firm, was his third-largest contributor to his campaign in 2013-2018 giving $340,147 between individuals and its PAC. JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs both make his top 20 career donors.

The lawyers/law firms industry was a close second with almost $3.3 million over the same time.  

As essentially all currently running Democratic candidates have sworn off corporate PAC contributions, it remains to be seen if Bennet will. In the past he has relied on corporate PAC money as a significant fundraising source, receiving more than $4.5 million from business-related PACs over his career — though PACs make up just 19.4 percent of his total contributions.

Pharmaceutical and health products PACs were also a major contributor to his leadership PAC in the 2017-2018 cycle giving $84,500. Like with fellow 2020 candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), the connections to big pharma could prove to be a sticking point with the more liberal voting bloc.

Bennet’s leadership PAC, Common Sense Colorado, brings in substantial cash. In 2018, it raised $819,516 with the top two donors being individuals from the law firm of Angelo, Gordon & Co and Blackstone Group. Like the campaign fund, the top industry donor to his leadership PAC in the 2018 cycle was the securities and investment industry which gave $161,900 — $60,000 coming from industry PACs.

For the 2018 cycle, the leadership PAC doled out a substantial $270,000 to federal candidates — three U.S. House candidates from Colorado and 29 different Senate candidates. Some of the senators who received contributions from Bennet’s leadership PAC include 2020 primary opponents Warren, Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). 

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