When it Comes to Small-Dollar Donations, Democrats Are Out-Raising Republicans

Jul 25, 2019

Campaign-finance disclosures show business groups and corporations are donating to Republican incumbents in this year’s General Assembly races. But, Democrats are leading in smaller donations.

Less than $100. That’s the threshold for a small-dollar donation, the celebrated political campaign contribution that many believe is the hallmark of support from the people. According to campaign-finance records posted to the Virginia Public Access Project, Democrats are leading the field for small-dollar donations -- Democrats like the one running against Republican Majority Leader Todd Gilbert.

Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says it’s a sign of strength for the Democrats. 

“Small-donor donations come from a lot of hard work and a lot of reaching people," he explains. "And it’s clear that the Democrats have particular candidates who are getting a lot of attention from those small donors.”

Jeremy Mayer at George Mason University says small-dollar donors are contributing against Republican incumbents because they want change. 

“People who make small-dollar donations in today’s environment tend to be passionate about politics. They tend to want change," Mayer says. "They tend to be angrier than the average person.”

On the other end of the spectrum are big business and corporations, Big Pharma and high-interest lenders. They’re funding Republican incumbents who sit on committees that oversee their industries.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.