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.
And here is where the million-dollar checks are coming from:
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’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 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’s contributors skew more toward the coasts than the leading Republicans’, and didn't write any checks larger than about $1 million.
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.
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’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.
And a few of the candidates haven’t raised much from anywhere: Lincoln Chafee, Martin O'Malley, George Pataki, Jim Webb, and Rick Santorum.
Now for the matchups. Here’s Bush vs. Clinton. The former Florida governor dominates his home state. Clinton wins the West Coast and Colorado.
Even though Sanders raised much less than Clinton, he had more small-dollar support in some parts of the country outside of major cities.
They come from opposite parties, but Sanders and Carson were both standouts when it came to small-dollar fundraising.
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: