Roughly one-third of the biggest donors to Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign have yet to donate in support of Hillary Clinton this cycle, suggesting that she has failed to attract some of the wealthy Democrats who carried him to the presidency.
Just 340 of Mr Obama’s 500 largest financial backers have donated to funds supporting Mrs Clinton, according to a Financial Times analysis in collaboration with Crowdpac, a political data start-up. More striking is the fact that of those who have donated, half have contributed 5 per cent of the sums they gave four years ago, or less.
The president’s top 2012 donors were among the first to take advantage of the heightened power of super political action committees after the 2010 Citizens United and SpeechNow.org federal court decisions lifted restrictions on political spending. His top 500 donors that cycle spent an unprecedented $98m, making up nearly 10 per cent of the total funds raised by his campaign, the Democrats' joint fundraiser and his super-Pac. Super-Pacs are allowed unlimited spending so long as it does not co-ordinate with a candidate’s principal campaign.
Yet few of Mr Obama’s top donors have given as much to funds supporting Mrs Clinton. She had raised just $60m to June 30 from the group, with many prominent Democratic donors sitting on the sidelines. These include Anne Cox Chambers, the 96-year-old media proprietor; David Boies, a founding partner of law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner; and Sidney Kimmel, the founder of Jones Apparel Group and the production company behind Death at a Funeral. Each gave Mr Obama more than $1m but none has publicly disclosed a donation to her, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
When asked why he had not contributed this year, Mr Kimmel said he had not been a major political donor before 2012, when he was motivated by a tight presidential race.
“After the first 2012 presidential debate, Barack Obama took a big hit in the polls and [I] wanted to help make sure he was re-elected,” he said. “The contribution came very late in the game and there is no reason to suspect a similar need in 2016.”
Even without all of Mr Obama’s supporters, however, the funds backing Mrs Clinton’s campaign are still on track to meet or surpass his 2012 record, and have raised $532m through to the end of June. She has appealed to a different donor base with a select few making larger contributions, even among those who gave to Mr Obama’s funds in 2012.
For instance, James and Marilyn Simons, who gave Mr Obama his largest donation of $5m, have given Mrs Clinton $7m so far. Haim and Cheryl Saban have also donated $11.4m to Mrs Clinton, after giving Mr Obama $400,000.
Boosted by such mega donors, the funds backing her campaign have raised twice as much as Donald Trump, her Republican rival, or Bernie Sanders’ funds, her challenger in the Democratic primary.
Mr Trump’s main fundraising vehicles, including four super-Pacs, have raised a minimum of $209m to the end of July, almost half of which was raised in the past four months, catching up to Mrs Clinton’s monthly fundraising totals.
Mr Sanders’ campaign raised $235m to the end of June, all from donations of less than $2,700 and without the help of a joint fundraiser or super-Pac. He received far less from Mr Obama’s top 500 supporters than Mrs Clinton. Fewer than 20 donors gave to his campaign over hers.
Mason Harrison, head of communications at Crowdpac, said it was common for donors to wait until closer to the election to give, but that it was safe to say it had been “an unconventional year, and the Democratic field winnowed down much later than in previous cycles”.
“As we enter this final stretch of the election, when the pace of political giving tends to increase rapidly, we may see greater movement from former Obama backers,” he added. “Especially if the president continues to campaign and raise money for the Clinton campaign.”
Additional reporting by Courtney Weaver in Washington