Bernie Sanders, the champion of small campaign donations and crusader against big money in politics, spent some valuable time at a posh fundraiser Wednesday night. The event was hosted by Syd and Linda Leibovitch, the owners of a large Los Angeles real estate business and big Democratic fundraisers.
The Beverly Hills fundraiser charged $250 to get in the door, and some of the guests donated the maximum allowed by law, $2,700, Sanders aides said. The event followed a small-dollar fundraiser earlier that day in Hollywood that was hyped by entertainer Seth McFarlane. Aides indicated that around $150,000 was collected at the Leibovitch affair.
The Leibovitches have donated thousands of dollars since 2002 to federal Democratic candidates, including Sanders' chief competitor, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In general, private fundraisers with amenities like valet parking, a pool and live music, like Sanders enjoyed Wednesday, are more in the style of Clinton, who raised nearly $50 million in the first quarter of her campaign reporting.
Sanders' big-money fundraiser doesn't completely negate the overall message of his campaign, which denounces the outsized influence of super PACs on campaigns. Super PACs can raise unlimited amounts of money to spend on politics thanks to the 2010 Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court, which Sanders vociferously opposes. Legally, the campaigns themselves are not allowed to coordinate with super PACs, but candidates can speak during fundraising events. Clinton has a super PAC affiliated with her campaign, but Sanders does not.
Clinton and Sanders have starkly different fundraising profiles. While the two netted very similar dollar amounts for the second quarter of 2015, the source of those funds tells an important story. In the second quarter -- which is the only quarter for which official data is available, though campaigns have self-reported their third-quarter figures -- Clinton raised 82 percent of her cash from large individual donors, or donations exceeding $200, according to CRP. Sanders, on the other hand, raised 69 percent of his funds from smaller donors, CRP data shows.
For the most part, Sanders has raised money through fundraising rallies where he speaks to relatively small groups of individuals who pay amounts like $25 or $50.