Hillary Clinton started May with a big financial advantage over her likely rival in the fall presidential election, Donald Trump, but figures released by the campaigns Friday nevertheless hint at the fundraising challenge Clinton still faces.
Clinton's campaign had $30.2 million in cash as of April 30, according to her report with the Federal Election Commission, after raising $25.1 million during the month. An allied super-political action committee has amassed $46.7 million to support her in the general election, and said donors have pledged another $45 million.
Trump mostly self-funded his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, contributing $7.5 million of the $9.4 million he spent in April. And although several unofficial super-PACs are scrambling to raise funds for the de facto Republican nominee, none of them has yet amassed much firepower.
Trump began preparing to actively solicit donations only this month, so it remains to be seen how well his fundraising prowess will compare with Clinton's. One promising sign for him is that he raised $14 million in the first nine months of his campaign by simply selling hats and T-shirts and by putting a "donate" button on his website.
It's possible that Trump could put more of his personal fortune into his presidential bid. So far he's spent about $44 million, according to the filings, and he has said that he will put an unspecified amount of additional money toward the general election, which could cost $1 billion or more. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index estimates his net worth at $2.9 billion, although not all of that could be easily converted to cash. Trump claims his net worth is more than $10 billion.
Another challenge for Clinton: she's so far failed to attract the type of small donor that powers the campaign of her remaining Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders. Even though she has an all but insurmountable lead in delegates, Sanders beat Clinton in fundraising for a fourth consecutive month in April, collecting $26.9 million. Sanders relies on online donations of $20 or $50 from millions of people, the same fundraising model that helped propel President Barack Obama to the White House in 2008.
One sign of trouble for Sanders is that he raised far less in April than he had in either of the previous two months. He also spent money much faster than Clinton during a month that included the expensive New York primary that Clinton won. He ended the month with only $5.8 million on hand.
Sanders is now focusing his efforts on the June 7 primary in California, aiming to arrive at the Democratic convention this summer with enough clout to push for changes to the party platform.
"He should have enough money to make it through the rest of the way," said Joe Trippi, who managed Howard Dean's 2004 campaign. "This would be a warning sign midway through the primaries, but there's only six states left."
During the Republican primary, Trump ridiculed his opponents as "puppets" for seeking the support of wealthy donors and lobbyists. Since his last rivals dropped out of the race this month, Trump has changed course and begun laying plans to raise money for his general election bid.
This week, Trump agreed to create a joint fundraising committee that will allow him to accept donations as large as $449,400, split between his campaign, the Republican National Committee, and 11 state party commmittees. (Clinton already has such a group, which has contributed at least $4 million to her campaign.)
Trump also said this month that he would consider whether to encourage support from super-PACS, independent vehicles that can accept checks of unlimited size from wealthy donors. Many of the party's top donors are lining up behind him. Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate, is planning to support Trump with as much as $100 million, the New York Times reported last week.
Several political operatives have recently started pro-Trump super-PACs and are vying to be considered the preferred conduit for donors. But so far, none of them have succeeded in rounding up much money. Great America PAC, which seems to be focusing on raising money in increments of less than $200 through spam emails and TV ads touting a 1-800 donation number, raised $461,000 in donations in April. Another PAC, run by former Trump aide Roger Stone, said it raised $341,000 in the six months ended March 31 and won't disclose April fundraising until July.
Clinton's super-PAC, Priorities USA, raised $8.6 million in April, including $3 million from media mogul Haim Saban and his wife, as well as $1 million from Slim-Fast founder Daniel Abraham and from the billionaire hedge-fund manager George Soros's son, Alexander. Priorities is already reserving airtime for months of negative television ads aimed at Trump.
During the Republican primary, much of the firepower aimed at Trump came from a pair of outside groups, Club for Growth and Our Principles PAC, together responsible for almost $30 million of anti-Trump advertising. Filings by these groups Friday show that they continued to be bankrolled by a small cadre of businesspeople. In April, those who gave $1 million or more to anti-Trump groups included Richard Uihlein, the Illinois cardboard-box magnate; Paul Singer, the New York hedge fund manager; and Michael Vlock of Connecticut, a member of the billionaire Pritzker family.
(With assistance from Bill Allison in Washington.)