Big Donors Continue To Rule In 3rd Quarter

The following piece was produced by the Huffington Post's OffTheBus project.

The presidential third quarter fundraising numbers are in, and as predicted big donors are dominating, according to the Campaign Finance Institute.

Democratic candidates Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) collected an impressive 32 and 45 percent of their contributions, respectively from donors giving $200 or less--although that still means the majority of their individual cash came from big donors.

Meanwhile, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) got just 14 percent of her individual cash from small donors; former Mayor of New York Rudolph Giuliani (R), 10 percent, and Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), 18 percent. Newcomer former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN) got a third of his cash--33 percent--from small donors.

These percentages are higher for most of these candidates than what they raised from small donors in the first two quarters, when Obama raised 24 percent; Edwards, 23 percent; Clinton eight percent; Giuliani, six percent; and Romney, nine percent. That's pretty typical, as early money in presidential races tends to be the biggest money.

Another thing to keep in mind: these candidates vary widely in how much they have raised overall in the third quarter, with Obama and Clinton far in the lead. So Obama raised $6.5 million from small donors to Edwards' $3.1 million. And he collected nearly $2 for every $1 that Clinton raised from small donors.

Meanwhile, candidates who are not considered to be in the front of the pack because of their lackluster fundraising often raise much larger percentages of their cash from small donors. On one end of the political spectrum, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), for example, collected 67 percent of his individual cash from small donors, while Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), on the other, got 85 percent of his individual cash from such donors.

This pattern, however, doesn't hold true for all the candidates who are considered to be running behind. For example, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), the chairman of the powerful Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, got just eight percent of his individual contributions from small donors. Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), collected 18 percent of his individual cash from small donors.

The analysis is even more stark when you look at the big picture. For the full cycle to date, just 19 percent of the contributions to all the candidates--$71.3 million out of $371 million--has come in chunks of $200 or less. Here's another way to think about it. This year presidential candidates have collected about $45 million more from small donors than they did over the same time period in the 2000 elections. But they've gotten $138 million more from donors giving at least $1,000.
One obvious reason that candidates are forced to rely on big contributors is the ailing presidential public financing program. Small donors' power is enhanced in "Clean Elections" systems in states and cities that have full public financing of elections.

Click here to see the figures on candidates' small dollar donations.

Note: This post is a corrected version of one originally posted on October 16.

Read more OffTheBus coverage here.