Now so more than ever, presidential politics is a financial arms race. Both of the two top presidential candidates have raised hundreds of millions of dollars from millions of donors around the country, and the Associated Press reports the combined fundraising effort is on track to break a billion dollars.
The same race plays out on a smaller scale in Elk Grove, where thousands of dollars are flowing to both of the top candidates. According to data from OpenSecrets.org, a nonpartisan site that pulls its information from the Federal Election Commission, Elk Grove residents have donated $24,903 to President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign during this election cycle, and have given $18,704 to Republican rival Mitt Romney.
The total amounts aren’t too different at this point, but more donors have given to Obama’s campaign in generally smaller amounts. No one gave to Romney more than once, while several Elk Grove residents are repeat Obama donors.
Jane Gassner, an Elk Grove resident who writes a column for Elk Grove Patch, said she has donated between $5 and $25 to various races over the years, almost always to Democratic candidates.
“I do it not because I think my contribution will make a difference in the finances of the campaign, but because it will add to the number of contributors the campaign can boast,” Gassner said by email.
Her donations are likely welcomed by the campaigns, but they slip under the official radar–the Federal Election Commission only requires candidates to report the names of donors who give $200 or more. That doesn’t include Gassner or a few other readers who emailed Elk Grove Patch saying they have contributed to campaigns.
Large donations have taken up the media spotlight since the 2010 Citizens United case Supreme Court case that opened the floodgate for massive donations, and with good cause: Both Obama and Romney have received the majority of their funding from donations of $200 or more, according to OpenSecrets.
Stacy Gordon, a visiting scholar at Sacramento State’s Center for California Studies, said that can discourage prospective donors who don’t have deep pockets.
“When people hear that someone's giving a million dollars or $10 million to a candidate, it makes individual contributors who might only be able to give $10 or $25 [feel like] my $50 or $100 is less relevant,” Gordon said.
Gordon, who is a professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, said the gifts to candidates aren’t just representative of whether voters support their policies; the more well-organized a campaign is, the more donations it will get.
“People who are asked to contribute are more likely to do so,” Gordon said. “People rarely contribute to a campaign on their own.”
Neighborhoods matter, too. Gordon said suburban areas of the Sacramento region tend to be more conservative than urban downtown, but in any area, residents with more politically active neighbors will be more likely to donate to a campaign.
“There's a self-reinforcing process,” she said.
As of May 21, Elk Grove had 72,848 registered voters, according to the Secretary of State. Of those, 43 percent were Democrats and 33 percent were Republicans. Nearly 20 percent were not registered with a political party.
Elk Grove residents donate to more than just the presidential campaigns. Check back with Elk Grove Patch to read about the kinds of donations that flow to congressional hopefuls and other candidates at the federal level.