California billionaire Tom Steyer spent $47 million during the first three months of his presidential bid — a jaw-dropping sum that places him on track to join the biggest self-funding political candidates in American history.
Joe Biden, one of the front-runners in the Democratic presidential primary, finds himself in a precarious financial position, having spent ($17.7 million) more than he raised ($15.7 million), according to campaign finance disclosure forms released late Tuesday.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg raised the most money among Democrats and also have the greatest cash reserves.
The rest of the field is lagging. California Sen. Kamala Harris’ fundraising was flat at $11.8 million. She spent $14.6 million, nearly double the amount spent in the prior quarter. She has $10.5 million cash on hand.
The candidates’ fundraising and spending from July 1 to Sept. 30 were detailed in mandated campaign finance disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday.
The disclosures come less than four months before the first contest is held in Iowa in February.
President Trump raised $41 million during this period, and his joint fundraising committees with the Republican National Committee raised tens of millions of dollars more — showing the power of incumbency. (The Democrat who wins the party’s nomination will eventually be able to raise larger sums with the national and state parties.)
Trump’s GOP rivals for the nomination — former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh, former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld — have raised a pittance in comparison to the president.
Steyer is the Democratic candidate who can immediately match or surpass the Trump campaign financially. The hedge fund manager turned eco-warrior is worth an estimated $1.6 billion. He has donated $47.6 million to his campaign and raised an additional $2 million, according to the FEC reports.
Much of Steyer’s spending was devoted to earning him a place on Tuesday night’s debate stage, including $15.6 million on media ad buys, $14.8 million on digital ads and $3.7 million on direct mail, according to the disclosure forms. Hundreds of thousands of dollars more were spent on production costs. Steyer’s spending led several of his rivals to accuse him of trying to buy a spot on the debate stage.
These efforts helped Steyer meet the polling and small-donor thresholds to qualify for the debate. During the faceoff with 11 of his Democratic rivals, Steyer did not have a moment that is likely to generate a boost in the polls, where he is mired in the low single digits.
The 62-year-old has never run for public office before. He is among the biggest Democratic donors in the country and has said he would spend $100 million of his wealth on his presidential bid. He has been among the most vocal advocates of the impeachment of Trump.
If Steyer continues his donating and spending patterns, he is on track to join the ranks of major self-funding political hopefuls such as past presidential candidates Steve Forbes and Ross Perot, California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman and Connecticut Senate candidate Linda McMahon.
During this third quarter, Biden raised $15.7 million and spent nearly $17.7 million. The former vice president has $9 million in the bank, but his fundraising and reserves are notably weaker than those of his top rivals.
Sanders raised $28 million, spent $21.6 million and has $33.7 million cash on hand, according to the reports. Warren raised $24.7 million and spent $18.7 million, with $25.7 million in the bank.
Buttigieg lags behind the top candidates in the polls but can compete with them financially, which could be critical in coming months should the dynamics of the race change. He raised $19.2 million, spent $18.5 million and has $23.4 million in the bank.
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who is running a campaign focused on the impacts of automation on the workforce, raised $9.9 million and has $6.4 million in the bank — more than several of his better-known rivals, including former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, former Obama administration official Julián Castro and Sens. Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar.
Still, any of these candidates are in a better place than Miramar, Fla., Mayor Wayne Messam. His campaign finance report showed he raised $5 — a figure the presidential hopeful says must be a mistake.