In a super PAC world, Democrats win using small donors

October 11, 2012

President Obama isn't the only Democrat leaning heavily on small-dollar donors these days.

In fact, House Democrats' campaign arm -- the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- is raising money in small chunks like never before.

Here's a look at the breakdown over the last five elections:


 The committee is currently raising 42 percent of its funds from donors giving $200 or less -- a number much higher than in any election in the past decade. And the $53.3 million the DCCC has raised in small donations so far this election is already $15 million more than the previous high, set in 2010 ($37.5 million).


The surge in small donors has allowed the DCCC and Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) to outraise their GOP counterparts $127 million to $116 million this year (through August), despite being in the minority and having 49 fewer members to raise money for them.

The DCCC, for example, says it raised $2.3 million from small donors in the 48 hours after Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) speech at the Republican National Convention in late August -- more than Republicans raised for the whole month -- and the committee raised nearly as much from smaller donors in August ($7.5 million) as Romney's campaign did ($9.4 million).

While the DCCC is raising more of its funds from small-dollar donors, the National Republican Congressional Committee is relying more and more on big donors and GOP members, pulling in less than 19 percent of its funds from donations under $200. That's the lowest number in the last decade for the NRCC, which outdid the DCCC on small donors in the last two election cycles and was close to parity with it in 2004 and 2006.

All of these numbers are a virtual mirror of the presidential race, where Obama has raised more than half of his money in donations under $200, and Romney has raised about 20 percent from such contributions.

It's a stark reminder that in the super PAC world, Republicans may have an inherent advantage because of their bigger pool of high-dollar donors, but Democrats are still able to compete -- and even outraise Republicans -- by playing small ball in much more effective way.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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