Individual Billionaires Dominate Election Donations,” Democracy Chronicles

November 12, 2019; Common Dreams

We at NPQ have been talking a lot recently about the decline of charitable giving among lower-income households in the US and the potential disastrous effect that could have on the democracy potential of the sector. But nonprofits do not stand alone in the quandary of what is to be done when more and more of the available dollars are being given by fewer and fewer households.

When Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) said he wouldn’t accept any campaign donations from billionaires, he evidently meant it, sending back even a very modest $470 contribution from Marta Thoma Hall, wife of billionaire inventor David Hall.

Hall also gave $505 to Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and $685 to Beto O’Rourke, who dropped out of the race earlier this month. Sanders is the only major Democratic candidate for 2020 who has not logged any campaign contributions from billionaires.

Hall said that she found his stance “disappointing” and “ridiculous,” but we fail to see why, since Sanders has been clear from the start of his 2020 campaign that the contributions were not welcome.

“I don’t think that billionaires should exist,” Sanders told the New York Times in September. “Enough is enough. We are going to take on the billionaire class, substantially reduce wealth inequality in America, and stop our democracy from turning into a corrupt oligarchy.”

In other words, it goes beyond concerns about any perception of elite control of the campaign, extending, instead, the principles of his campaign in a high profile and unusual stance. The tactic fits well within his strategy and message, thus aligning his fundraising with his purpose. We should all take note.—Ruth McCambridge