Retirees and attorneys are 2020 Democrats’ biggest fans

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So far, many of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are tapping into the same two groups for most of their fundraising — retirees and attorneys.

The first quarter FEC deadline provides a look into which industries are supporting candidates in an increasingly crowded field. The industries of individual donors offer a look into the type of base a candidate attracts and motivates.

 

The numbers and the chart only take into account itemized contributions, ie. those over $200.

The top fundraiser thus far among the Democrats is Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who so far is successfully reactivating his powerful 2016 donor network. At the end of the first quarter, Sanders’ top interest group is retired, contributing $220,031. In second-place was the education industry with $129,633. Both of those were key funding bases for Sanders in his 2016 primary run, when education donated $5.5 million and retirees gave around $3.8 million.

Like Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) drew on the same two industry groups — retirees ($331,608) and education ($101,846). Interestingly, individuals from the Internet industry contributed $37,829, good for fourth place. The support from those in the tech field comes despite Warren’s roll-out of a detailed policy proposal aimed at breaking up some of the biggest Internet companies, such as Facebook and Amazon.  

Another powerful fundraiser, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) also received quite a bit from retirees — almost $1.6 million, far and away her largest group. Harris, a former district attorney and attorney general for California, received $740,976 from lawyers/law firms. In fact, much of the public criticism Harris has faced on the campaign trail comes from her history as a prosecutor. Another big contributor was the entertainment industry, specifically TV/music/movies much of which is based in California, with $287,363.

A trio of her fellow senators, Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), also fundraised heavily from the legal industry. Each of them either worked as lawyers at some point, or in the case of Booker, have connections to powerful New York law firms.

After making numerous headlines for his record fundraising during a failed U.S. Senate run, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) started the 2020 fundraising game strong, but stalled in the polls and with donors. The legal industry, with $252,808, was the largest industry contributor to the one-time El Paso city councilman. As with most of the other candidates, retirees ranked high for O’Rourke, with his campaign collecting $224,894 from them.

Coming in on O’Rourke’s top 20 industries at No.17 is the oil and gas industry ($21,476), an industry he received $546,344 from in his 2018 Senate race. The acceptance of fossil fuel money during his Senate campaign was a subject of criticism toward O’Rourke over the winter of 2018. As a representative from oil and gas-relient Texas, O’Rourke likely had numerous constituents who worked in the industry.  

Upstart candidate Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., surprised the field with impressive poll numbers and robust fundraising since a CNN town hall in March. His campaign drew heavily on the support of retirees ($196,138) and lawyers/law firms ($127,698).

The campaign of former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper followed suit, collecting $177,994 from retirees and $90,844 from lawyers/law firms.

Struggling to gain much attention in the primary, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) hasn’t raised much money yet. Retirees are her top contributing group ($77,263); she also received a decent chunk of cash from the health professionals industry ($57,057). Gabbard is one of the leading progressive advocates for a universal healthcare system, a position that faces opposition from some in healthcare industry.

Andrew Yang’s campaign has become a viral sensation online, allowing the outsider and advocate of a universal basic income to qualify for the upcoming primary debates. His campaign’s biggest industry so far is education, which contributed $13,691. That could be due to his detailed policy proposals addressing problems such as automation and artificial intelligence. Yang found support from the electronics manufacturing and equipment, which contributed $10,474 and would be impacted by his focus on regulating manufacturing technology.       

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is centering his candidacy on combating climate change. With the focus on environmental issues, Inslee raised $11,450 from environmental interest groups. And his campaign raised $11,20 from the lodging/tourism industry, one that has some overlap with environmental concerns. Both groups made his top 20 despite having a relatively low donor history.

Former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) was an entrepreneur and CEO before joining Congress, so it is no surprise that the securities and investment industry was his biggest contributor with $36,451.  

A Harvard Law School graduate and one-time private practice lawyer, former Secretary of Housing and Development Julian Castro received support from the industry he started out in. Lawyers/law firms contributed $125,613 to his campaign, the only industry that hit three-figures for Castro as he lags behind most contenders.  

Former Vice President Joe Biden, Reps. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) and former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska) all did not file first quarter reports. Their numbers will come out at the end of the second quarter in July.  

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