A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Obama’s Small Donations


Q: Was Obama correct to say 90% of his money comes from donors giving $50 or less?

A: No. He gets more from small donors than either Clinton or McCain, but two-thirds of his money still comes from those giving $200 or more.

FULL QUESTION

Last debate Obama stated that his campaign gets 90% of his donations from people that donate $25-$50. Is this possible?

“We have now raised 90 percent of our donations from small donors, $25, $50. We average — our average donation is $109 so we have built the kind of organization that is funded by the American people that is exactly the goal and the aim of everybody who’s interested in good government and politics supports.”

FULL ANSWER

Barack Obama said that in the Feb. 26 debate with Hillary Clinton in Cleveland. He was wrong. We should have caught it, and we didn’t.

The Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks donations at its Web site Opensecrets.org, figures that 34 percent of the donations that Obama raised and reported as of Feb. 20 came from donors who gave $200 or less.

For comparison, Hillary Clinton got 16 percent of her money from $200-and-under donors, and John McCain got 24 percent of his.

Amounts given by persons contributing $200 or less aren’t itemized, so there’s no way for an outsider to check precisely how much has come from donors giving $25 or $50.

What Obama probably meant to say is that 90 percent of his donors gave smaller donations, and that’s likely true. A total of 81,637 persons have given donations to the Obama campaign that exceeded $200 and thus had to be itemized. Since the Obama campaign says that more than 1 million donors have given in total, it would follow that more than 90 percent of them gave smaller amounts. But that’s not the way Obama put it.

-Brooks Jackson

Sources

Center for Responsive Politics. “2008 Donor Demographics.” interactive page of www.opensecrets.org Web site, accessed 12 March 2008.