Bernie Sanders closes in on Hillary Clinton's money lead

Story highlights

  • Clinton had $33 million in the bank at the end of September; Sanders, $27.1 million
  • Sanders has raised $3.2 million since Tuesday night's CNN Facebook presidential debate

Washington (CNN)Bernie Sanders is slowly erasing Hillary Clinton's hard money advantage.

Clinton finished the summer fundraising quarter with $33 million in the bank, according to a new filing with the Federal Election Commission. She raised $28.8 million in that July-through-September period for the Democratic primary and spent $25.8 million of it.
But while Clinton has more than any other candidate, Sanders is catching up. He ended the quarter with $27.1 million cash on hand. He raised $26.2 million and spent $11.3 million.
    The Democratic presidential rivals are running much different campaigns -- with Clinton's staffing levels and early television advertising buys in Iowa and New Hampshire built around a $100 million fundraising goal for 2015 that she expects to meet, and Sanders still ramping up his organizing efforts.
    Not showing up on the report are the 97,800 donations worth a total of $3.2 million that Sanders' campaign said have come in since Tuesday night's Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas.
    Sanders has now received donations from 650,000 people -- only 270 of whom have given the maximum allowed $2,700. The average donation was $30.
    Jeff Weaver, Sanders' campaign manager, noted that the candidate can go back to those people for more cash. "Bernie's big base of small donors may give again and again," he said. "What is clear now is that this campaign to transform America will have the resources to fight all the way to the convention."
    Sanders is also eager to highlight those small donations to play up a key difference with Clinton: He isn't backed by a super PAC that will independently raise and spend unlimited sums in addition to his campaign, and she is. (Super PAC fundraising numbers will not be available until January.)
    "Right now there are many pundits who believe that the only way a candidate can run a successful campaign is to have a super PAC, get down on one's knees before the millionaires and billionaires -- beg them for money," Sanders said at a fundraising event in Beverly Hills, California, Wednesday night. "And what we are showing is we can run a people-oriented campaign funded by the people."
    Clinton's campaign said it raised $5.2 million in donations of $200 or less, and 93% of its donations were of $100 or less. It has nearly 400,000 donors so far.
    Staff was Clinton's biggest expense, at $5.5 million on payroll and another $3 million on payroll taxes. That was followed by $3.4 million for television ad buys -- with the campaign airing its first television commercials of the 2016 race in Iowa and New Hampshire.
    A Clinton campaign spokesperson defended the high burn rate, saying that "we decided early on to invest in big data and analytics teams, big tech team and organizing in the field, and while these are expensive, they are costs that are more efficient now than later."