February showed strong fundraising for both parties, particularly among small donors

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Ronna McDaniel, Chairwoman of the Republican National Committee. The party announced that it raised a record-breaking $14.6 million in February. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

While more attention was focused on the seemingly unending litany of Democratic presidential hopefuls, both the Republican and Democratic Parties reported their most recent monthly fundraising hauls this week.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) celebrated raising a record-breaking $14.6 million in February, the most it ever has collected in a non-election year month and its second-best February ever. Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) raised around $6.2 million over that same time.

An RNC official told The Center for Responsive Politics that almost 60 percent of the RNC’s donations in February came from small-dollar donors ($200 or less). The official noted that since January, the RNC’s small-dollar fundraising arm has had six days of seven-figure fundraising.

To reach small donors, a party has to spend money to make money and the RNC did just that. In February, the RNC stepped up its payments to Parscale Strategy LLC for “fundraising services,” paying them more than $3 million in the month. Parscale Strategy is run by Brad Parscale, campaign manager for the Trump 2020 reelection campaign and founder of the “dark money” 501(c)(4) America First Policies.  

A DNC spokesman said that year-to-date the DNC has raised $14.4 million, the most it has ever gotten in a presidential cycle off-year since 2003. The spokesman noted that 63 percent of the party committee’s February donations came from small-dollar donors with an average donation of $47.

Compared to this stage in the 2016 presidential cycle, both parties are fundraising better. In February 2015, the DNC raised about $5.3 million while the RNC collected $7.6 million.

Even with the RNC dramatically beating the DNC in fundraising during February, the DNC still holds an overall cash on hand advantage. As of Feb. 28, the DNC has $74.9 million in its coffers, while the RNC only has $31.1 million. The DNC posted almost $4.6 million in debts and the RNC reported $0 in debts.  

The contribution limits for an individual’s direct contributions to a national party committee per calendar year is $35,500, and several have already met that threshold. While there are likely numerous donors to each party who gave $35,500 already, a few notable names jumped out on the Republican side. One of those Republican donors was Robert H. Castellini, owner and CEO of the Cincinnati Reds. Castellini dropped all $35,500 in February. Castellini and his wife have made more than $3.3 million in political contributions since 1989.

Thomas Wachtell, a longtime GOP donor and retired oil man, along with his wife Esther, each individually gave the maximum in February as well. Billionaire investment banker and one-time “Stop Trump” movement donor Warren Stephens has hit the $35,500 threshold already, as well as the connected Warren A. Stephens Trust.  


The power of party-related spending may be shrinking with the explosion of outside spending groups. In 2014, party spending made up 31 percent of how much was dropped on elections, by the 2018 midterms it had dropped in 25 percent, according to data from The Center for Responsive Politics.

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