With the 2024 presidential campaign underway, polling and delegate counts prove formidable ways of understanding where candidates are in their journey to the White House. Outside of traditional polling, funding receipts allow us to look at how candidates are faring financially, offering another angle into the level of support their campaigns receive. Candidates are required to submit their financial dealings to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), where relevant data regarding campaign funds are publicly available and routinely updated.

By analyzing the distribution of funds raised, we can gain better insight into the characteristics of Joe Biden and Donald Trump’s campaigns.

Financial summaries provided by the FEC characterize the data in three major categories: total contributions, transfers from other authorized committees, and total offsets to expenditures. Total contributions include the total amount of money donated to the campaign through individuals, committees, and other sources of funds. Transfers from other authorized committees and total contributions share the same sources; however, any funds raised from these authorized committees are funneled through to the overarching campaign. The nature of the first two categories are relatively similar in contrast with the total offsets to expenditures, which include refunds, rebates, or other payouts that diminish the total funds in a campaign’s war chest.

Looking at the financial distribution of the Biden campaign, it is immediately obvious that transfers from other authorized committees make up about two-thirds of the total allocated funds  —  and by filtering through the individual receipts, it becomes clear that a majority of these are donations to the Biden Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee authorized by both the Democratic Party and the campaign itself. In fact, much of the individual contributions within the distribution stem from fundraising. The itemized receipts under total individual contributions reveal a sea of donations from ActBlue, a political action committee tasked with fundraising the primary and general elections of Democratic and left-leaning candidates.

Compare this with Trump’s finances, then, and the picture becomes incredibly different.

Few of the funds for the Republican candidate come from direct individual contributions. Instead, transfers from a far-reaching conglomerate of personal donations to the campaign through Trump’s own fundraising efforts dominate his fundraising. Ninety-five percent of the campaign’s funds come from the pockets of Americans across the country rather than political action committees (PACs). Though Biden has more funds than Trump, Trump is significantly outpacing Biden in small-dollar donations.

Not included in this data, however, are the vast legal fees the former president may have to pay out as a result of his ongoing criminal investigations. Outside of his eligibility to run for the presidency, this also provides interesting commentary as to the viability of the campaign going forward, an otherwise hotly debated topic currently. These financial summaries, then, provide an additional angle into the lens of who will win such a highly pivotal election.

With both candidates benefiting greatly from fundraising efforts, it becomes more important to analyze the distribution of these contributions in order to deduce the true source of these funds. Where super-PACs and major donations convolute the nature of a campaign’s funding, small-dollar donations prove more valuable when gauging the support of individuals and households throughout the country.

Small-dollar donations are defined by U.S. campaign finance law as contributions to any political campaign or associated committee strictly between $1 to $200. While the Biden campaign receives a majority of its contributions from such donations, it is vastly overshadowed by the sheer amount of small-dollar donations contributed to the Trump campaign  —  with a shocking 95% of contributions being attributed as such.

As November approaches, staying updated with the state of campaign finances will become increasingly important as both candidates begin to embark on the financial strategy that will define the competition for the White House. With Trump’s legal fees in the picture, it will be incredibly important to understand the disparities in funding and how they translate to campaign strategy going forward. The nature of these campaign finances, then, will be of much value as the election nears.

Tagged: data Politics


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