Source Michela Tindera Forbes Staff
As the coronavirus pandemic took hold of America, a record number of billionaires backed Joe Biden, putting him ahead of Donald Trump in terms of support from America’s wealthiest. Thirty-two billionaires and their spouses backed Biden in March versus 14 who gave to President Trump that same month. Altogether 94 billionaires have now donated to Biden versus 90 who have given to Trump since he started fundraising in 2017.
Biden has the momentum. The former vice president received contributions from 27 billionaires or their spouses for the first time in March; contributions from 13 of them came after Trump declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency on March 13, according to the Federal Election Commission filings.
Some of Biden’s new billionaire backers had previously supported other Democratic candidates. On March 2 the Biden campaign received $2,800 from Netflix NFLX CEO Reed Hastings, who had contributed to former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg’s campaign last year. A few weeks later, the campaign collected donations from director Steven Spielberg and his wife Kate Capshaw, who had contributed to Senator Cory Booker’s campaign in 2019.
The president’s re-election campaign received 10 new contributions from billionaires and spouses of billionaires in January, February and the first days of March, before the pandemic shut down much of the country, according to the latest filings. All of them donated via the president’s joint fundraising committees with the Republican National Committee, Trump Victory or Trump Make America Great Again. Some of the biggest contributions came from casino titan Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, who gave $1.16 million to Trump Victory. Fellow Las Vegas magnate Steve Wynn, who resigned from his post as finance chair of the Republican National Convention in 2018 amid allegations of sexual misconduct (which he has denied), donated $468,500 to the same committee.
Trump picked up no new billionaire supporters between March 14 and March 31, the latest date for which there are federal filings, though two contributions from billionaires who have previously given to Trump’s reelection came in during that period. Forbes found that Trump Victory received $25,000 from lumber billionaire Archie “Red” Emmerson on March 18, and Trump Make America Great Again received $1,000 from Liberty Media chairman John Malone on March 30.
In March, Biden’s campaign received contributions of $111,000 from billionaire supporters, a small sum compared to the $3.8 million that the Trump campaign and the RNC raised from billionaires and their spouses through joint fundraising committees in essentially half the time. That’s in part due to the fact that until late last month, Biden did not have a comparable joint fundraising committee set up and so individual donors were limited to giving a maximum of $5,600. The Biden Victory Fund, launched in April, will allow donors to give up to $360,600 per person, money that will be divvied up between the Biden presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
When asked about the dearth of new billionaire donors to one of Trump’s joint fundraising committees, Trump Victory, an RNC spokesperson said, “We are still receiving contributions from large and small donors.” That committee raised about $6 million between March 14 and March 31 from all of its donors. That’s down about 60% from the same time frame in February and down about 30% for the same time frame in January.
In total, Trump’s campaign committee raised just $13.6 million from all donors in March, less than one-third of Biden’s $46.7 million haul. But the president still has far more cash-on-hand, $98.5 million, thanks to three years of fundraising efforts, than the former vice president, who has just $26.4 million.
It’s not yet clear how the pandemic has affected April contributions. New filings detailing that fundraising will come out May 20. Going forward, the key question in the billionaire horse race will be not just how many tycoons are supporting each candidate, but how much money those backers are willing to shell out.