Democrats Way Behind in Fundraising Again

The DNC has $9.3 million to the RNC's $44 million.


The Democratic National Committee is getting smoked by its GOP counterpart in fundraising — and some major Democrats are panicked it could hurt their chances at defeating President Trump next year.

The DNC brought in just $22.9 million over the last three months including $9.5 million in June, according to a campaign finance report filed Saturday night with the Federal Election Commission. That’s less than half the Republican National Committee’s haul over the same time period: $51 million.

The DNC had just $9.3 million in the bank at the end of June, less than a quarter the $44 million RNC had — and that doesn’t even factor in the DNC’s $5.7 million in debt. The RNC and President Trump’s campaign had a combined $100 million in the bank.

One would think the DNC’s job easy this cycle: they’re easily the majority party and they’re united in their loathing of President Trump. Then again, those who remain in the Republican Party love Trump and know he’s their nominee again, whereas there are twenty-odd people vying to represent the opposition. Maybe Democrats are simply funneling their money to their preferred candidate rather than the party apparatus?

Regardless, this is putting them at a serious competitive disadvantage. Which is apparently nothing new.

The huge cash disparity puts Democrats behind the eight-ball in the time-and money-consuming process of building out strong voter contact programs in the states that will determine whether Trump gets reelected.

“They need to get their shit together. Now,” said Adam Parkhomenko, a Hillary Clinton campaign alumna who served as the DNC’s national field director for the final few months of the 2016 campaign.

“When Hillary became the nominee in 2016 she was handed nothing, the DNC was nothing and there was nothing to build on,” he said. “You’d think we would have spent the last few years making sure this would never happen again, and it has.”

Trump’s campaign and the RNC are already using their massive cash advantage to sow the ground for next year’s election, spending more than $60 million this year alone on digital operations including $10 million on ads and building out a ground game infrastructure that takes months if not years to develop.

While their top presidential candidates are raising big money, the tedious years-long work of building out party voter files, identifying voters’ top concerns, and turning them out to vote is the purview of the national party, the DNC. The party’s current lack of cash could hamstring their eventual nominee and hurt down-ticket candidates, especially in states that aren’t presidential battlegrounds and are especially cash-strapped.

For once, we really can #BlameObama.

The party’s fundraising woes began long before DNC Chairman Tom Perez took over in early 2017. The DNC has been outraised by the RNC in every two-year campaign cycle since 2010, following a disastrous move by President Obama to spin off his own campaign into a separate operation, starving the party of resources for years.

“Under President Obama we completely ignored our state and DNC infrastructure and now we’re paying a major price,” said Kleeb.

Which reinforces my earlier conjecture: it’s just easier to raise money for a candidate than a party apparatus. Still, the GOP managed even when it didn’t have Trump.

The GOP always has a natural advantage with big donors as the party of big business and billionaires.

That Republicans would get more than Democrats from big donors seems intuitive but it isn’t actually true. If we look at the Open Secrets data for the 2018 cycle, which is based on FEC reports, we see that the two biggest donors, Bloomberg and Fahr, gave almost exclusively to Democrats and that nine of the top twelve donors gave most or all of their money to Democrats. For every casino magnate, there’s a labor union. For every Republican philanthropist, there’s a Democrat.

Again, the issue is an enthusiasm gap:

Small-dollar donors are rarely eager to give to a committee instead of a candidate — and the DNC’s perceived bias towards Clinton in the 2016 primaries badly damaged the DNC’s image. Democrats don’t have the White House, so they don’t have a fundraiser-in-chief, and a crowded presidential field is sucking up most donor attention and resources.

Democrats are enthusiastic about their candidates, not their party. There’s still bitterness left over from the 2008 race when Obama defeated Clinton (remember the Party Unity My Ass movement) and the Bernie Bros still think they got robbed in 2016, even though was never a serious contender.

One would hope defeating Trump would be a strong unifying objective this cycle but we saw a lot of Democrats stay home in 2016. Will the Warren-Sanders-AOC wing of the party turn out for Joe Biden the way they did for Obama? Conversely, if a more progressive challenger wins, will the moderates think the party has gone off the rails?

When I started OTB early in 2003, Republican-leaning blogs predominated. Within a year or two, though, that shifted and the left blogosphere took off. The explanation most often given was that Democrats and progressives were naturally more communitarian and that lefty bloggers were prone not only to link to one another to promote each others’ success but to work together for a common cause. Conversely, conservatives and libertarians were more naturally individualistic and likely to splinter into factions, preferring to bitch about the shortcomings of their leaders than working together to defeat the other team.

Apparently, the opposite is happening with regard to the party organizations right now. Despite evidence that Perez is running a tighter ship and turning the fundraising apparatus around, he’s meeting steep resistance.

Many major liberal donors don’t buy it, however, and continue to refuse to give to the DNC, instead backing candidates or outside groups.

“People arent giving to the DNC because they don’t know why the fuck they should,” said Democratic strategist Tracy Sefl. “What is it that you’re paying for? People think messaging is what the DNC does. It’s not that at all, it’s the nuts and bolts boring stuff [that matters].”

There’s so much money in politics that I’m not absolutely sure how much the gap will matter in the end. Clinton had way more money than Trump in 2016 but he obviously had no trouble getting air time. And his get-out-the-vote effort was apparently good enough.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jen says:

    If people want to criticize the DNC, it should be on stuff like this.

    Raising money is one of the primary functions if not THE primary function, of a political party.

    They need to fix this and fast.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    I know I give very little to the DNC, a bit more to the DCCC, and more still to individual candidates. I suspect (if my email is an indicator) that we have more smaller activist groups also collecting money.

  3. Hal_10000 says:

    I suspect a big part is the Democrat presidential candidates sucking up all the oxygen. When millions are being given to candidates whose poll numbers are only slightly better than mine, that’s money being wasted.