Here’s Exactly Where the Candidates’ Cash Came From
September 15, 2015
By Zach Mider, Zach Mider, Christopher Cannon, Christopher Cannon, and Adam Pearce Adam Pearce

The 22 major candidates running for U.S president, along with an even larger number of independent groups supporting them, raised an unprecedented $388 million in the first half of the year. This shows which neighborhoods this money came from.

The circles on the maps below show the relative size of the contributions. (All payments in each zip code were aggregated for clarity.) The result shows the disruption unleashed by the rise of big money in politics. While some large contributions came from traditional political fundraising centers like New York, Washington, or Miami—places that dominated prior to the dawn of the super-PAC era in 2010—many of the biggest checks are from elsewhere: northeastern Nevada, Omaha, Puerto Rico.

The next map shows only the contributions to super-PACs and other independent groups supporting a presidential candidate. These groups can accept donations of unlimited size from individuals, unions and corporations. (Campaigns can’t accept corporate or union money and are limited to $2,700 per individual per race.) Notice that even in Democratic enclaves like New York and San Francisco, the big money is flowing mostly to GOP candidates.

Contributions to super-PACs and other independent groups

And here is where the million-dollar checks are coming from:

Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush was the fundraising leader in the first half of 2016, pulling in $115 million, mostly through his super-PAC. Not surprisingly, the former Florida governor leaned heavily on his home state, but he also picked up large checks from across the country. He had a lower number of donations than some of his rivals—possibly because he waited until later in the year to declare his candidacy and become eligible to accept direct campaign contributions.

Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio’s donor base looks a lot like Bush’s, just smaller. This map doesn’t show the full extent of pro-Rubio fundraising, however. In addition to his super-PAC, he’s getting support from a politically active nonprofit group that raised $15.8 million and doesn’t have to disclose the identities—or locations—of its donors.

Scott Walker

Scott Walker also has a national fundraising profile. There aren’t many small donations on this map because he declared for the presidency in July and therefore was unable to collect any direct campaign contributions in the first half of the year.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton’s contributors skew more toward the coasts than the leading Republicans’, and didn't write any checks larger than about $1 million.

Bernie Sanders

Only about $3 million of the $15 million raised by Bernie Sanders in the first half appears on the map below. That’s because the rest came from donors who gave such small amounts—under $200—that their names and addresses weren’t required to be disclosed. Sanders attracted small-dollar contributions from across the country while discouraging the formation of any super-PACs to support him.

Sanders is not the only one who is depending primarily on small donations from across the country. Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, and Rand Paul fit that pattern to some degree.

Ben Carson
Mike Huckabee
Rand Paul
Donald Trump

The billionaire Donald Trump is largely self-funding his campaign and didn’t solicit donations in the first half. A few trickled in anyway, from all over the place.

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz’s supporters are both widespread and well-heeled. His campaign gathered a large number of small checks from across the country, and his superPACs got huge donations from three families, in New York, Texas, and Puerto Rico. (The Puerto Rico donation is from Toby Neugebauer, a retired private-equity fund manager who recently moved to the territory from Texas.)

A few candidates got most of their money from in or around their home state, where they hold or used to hold an important office: Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich, Rick Perry. (Perry dropped out of the race last week.) Although she never held elective office in California, Carly Fiorina gets most of her money there.

Chris Christie
Bobby Jindal
Lindsey Graham
John Kasich
Rick Perry
Carly Fiorina

And a few of the candidates haven’t raised much from anywhere: Lincoln Chafee, Martin O'Malley, George Pataki, Jim Webb, and Rick Santorum.

Lincoln Chafee
Martin O’Malley
George Pataki
Jim Webb
Rick Santorum
Bush vs. Clinton

Now for the matchups. Here’s Bush vs. Clinton. The former Florida governor dominates his home state. Clinton wins the West Coast and Colorado.

Clinton vs. Sanders

Even though Sanders raised much less than Clinton, he had more small-dollar support in some parts of the country outside of major cities.

Carson vs. Sanders

They come from opposite parties, but Sanders and Carson were both standouts when it came to small-dollar fundraising.

Bush vs. Carson

Two of the top Republican contenders had very different fundraising strategies. Bush spent most of the first half of 2015 raising big checks for his super-PAC, while Carson raked in small amounts from across the country.

Here’s how the donations came in, week by week: