Let's Look at Sanders' and Clinton's Top Donors

January 20th 2016

Thor Benson

During the Democratic debate on Sunday, Bernie Sanders went after Hillary Clinton's funding.

"I don’t take money from big banks," he said. "You've received over $600,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs in one year."


Clinton's history as a senator representing New York, who has to ties with Wall Street executives, and as a candidate who has received money from big banks, has some worried that she won't work hard to reform banking and Wall Street corruption. Sanders touched on this point in his debate-night comments.

The numbers OpenSecrets.org offers for the 2016 campaign include money that has gone to the campaign and/or PACs related to the campaign. When we look at those numbers, the makeup of the donors is not focused on the banking ties Sanders was referring to.

Here are the top five donors to Clinton's campaign and/or Super PACs for the 2016 campaign:

Clinton 2016 donors

As you can see, these donors are somewhat diverse. They include Saban Capital Group, an investment firm, a workers union, a women's rights group and others.

Sanders' campaign has pledged not to take money from Super PACS, but the campaign has no control over if a Super PAC decides to run messages supporting his candidacy. Because of this, there are Super PACs supporting the campaign, and his 2016 donations also include money that went to those PACs.

Here are the top five donors to Sanders' campaign and/or Super PACs for the 2016 campaign:

Sanders 2016 donors

Sanders' donors include Alphabet Inc. (Google), the University of California, Microsoft, Apple, and Columbia University. It appears some of the Silicon Valley companies are pro-Sanders, as well as some universities.

That said, if you want to get at what Sanders was referring to, you can look at each candidate's top five for their political career.

Here are Clinton's top five donors:

hillary clinton donors

This data comes from OpenSecrets.org, a respected money tracking source. The above numbers reflect the donations she received throughout her political career, according to OpenSecrets.org. Out of Clinton's top five donors, four are banks. One, DLA Piper, is an international law firm.

Beyond donations, Sanders was clearly calling out Clinton's speaking fees. This is in response to reports from publications like The Intercept, which indicated that Clinton has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from major banks. She received nearly $3 million from 12 large banks between 2013 and 2015, according to The Intercept.

How do Sanders' donors compare?

Here are Sanders' top five donors:

Bernie Sanders top donors

Again this data from OpenSecrets.org accounts for Sanders' career. Above, we can see that a machinist and aerospace employee union is at the top, followed by the Teamsters, which represent blue collar workers from a number of industries. (Also for reference, beyond Sanders' top five, there are no major banks on his list of donors.)

Clinton has talked about taking on Wall Street greed and fighting for the people who don't have a lot of money. Bernie Sanders has called for breaking up the big banks that crashed the economy and has spoken out against Wall Street his whole career. Only the election will show us which one will tackle reform on Wall Street.