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The GOP establishment and the Clinton campaign assembled sophisticated money machines

But the sheer tonnage of money backing them wasn't enough to stop Trump

Washington CNN —  

Before Election Day came, people had seen fit to donate just shy of $2 billion to candidates and political organizations trying to elect the next president of the United States.

Some candidates, like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, assembled vast networks to finance their bids.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders tapped into the grassroots to fund massive campaigns based on small donors.

The year when money won nobody nothing

And then there was former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on whose behalf donors gave more money than anyone else.

But when all the votes came in, Trump’s unorthodox campaign and its haphazard financing managed to upset them all.

Here’s what that money looks like.

Biggest donors

Per Open Secrets, the biggest donor in the entire cycle was liberal billionaire Tom Steyer, who put in $67,286,217. Steyer is a Democrat and a climate change advocate who has spent the past few electoral cycles pouring money into races he thinks will push the US towards action on the issue.

The other largest Democratic donors after him were Donald Sussman and Fred Eychaner, who dropped $39,134,400 and $34,274,991, respectively.

The three largest Republican donors were Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson with $47,357,200, GOP powerbroker and Trump ally Robert Mercer with $23,539,900 and Paul Singer with $23,027,164.

But the largest contributor on record to the Republican cause in the 2016 cycle was the man who will soon occupy the White House – President-elect Trump.

He regularly claimed he was self-funding and pledged to spend $100 million of his own money. As the dust settles, it appears Trump donated $65 million to his own bid.

Clinton vs. Trump

By the end of October, Federal Election Commission totals showed the Clinton campaign raised $497,808,791, and the various outside groups supporting her candidacy raked in $189,453,103. All told, that was a staggering $687 million.

Meanwhile, the same reporting period showed the Trump campaign raised $247,541,449, and the various outside groups supporting him took in $59,389,531. Taken together, the Trump effort was worth about $307 million – less than half of the Democratic Party’s explicit attempts at keeping the White House.

Judging off the numbers available, Trump donors got much more bang for their buck. For every single Clinton vote, the campaign and outside groups took in about $11.21, while the donations behind a single Trump vote were $5.07.


Some competitors for their party’s nominations made it much farther than others, but here’s what they pulled in.

Sanders, and outside groups that tried to make an independent, democratic socialist the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, had a total of $229,094,231.

And on the GOP side, Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz raked in $162,500,053 and $143,008,247, respectively.

Perhaps the biggest example of the 2016 disconnect between fundraising and electoral success was Bush. His campaign and its affiliated super PACs – especially one called Right to Rise – took in $155,822,452. Bush dropped out of the race after the third primary contest and ended up earning a single delegate for the Republican National Convention.