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Breaking Down Joe Biden's Campaign Donations

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

There is a lot of money being poured into U.S. politics this election. This August, a new record - Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden hauled in $364 million. That is the most any presidential candidate has ever raised in a month. OK. We don't yet know how much President Trump's campaign raised in August, but this Democratic haul is more than double what President Trump raised in July. And with that money, the Biden campaign is going to be blitzing swing states with a new series of ads this week.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

JOE BIDEN: If I'm your president, on Day 1, we'll implement the national strategy I've been laying out since March.

I can't fathom what would've happened if the insurance companies had the power to say, last few months, you're on your own.

When I'm president, I will take care of your health care coverage and your family the same way I would my own. I'm Joe Biden, and I approve this message.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We're joined now by Michelle Ye Hee Lee, money and politics reporter for The Washington Post.

Welcome.

MICHELLE YE HEE LEE: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Three hundred and sixty-four million dollars - that's a lot of dough. What is the breakdown? Who is donating?

LEE: It is huge - a ton of money. So the exact donor breakdown will be available in about two weeks. But what we do know is that the Biden campaign has just been raking in money from donors who had been sitting on the sidelines, just waiting to see who was going to become the Democratic nominee.

A lot of the donations in the past month have been driven by the momentum that the campaign got through announcing Kamala Harris as the vice presidential nominee. Harris herself has a very extensive donor network that she's been building for many years. And so the Kamala Harris announcement really spurred and motivated a lot of donors who had not been fully on Biden's side but were very eager to hear that Kamala Harris was chosen.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Biden was underperforming in fundraising up until he chose Kamala.

LEE: So there are a couple things here. When Biden became the obvious nominee in May, the campaign and the Democratic National Committee struck up a joint fundraising agreement that actually allowed the campaign and the party to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from one single donor. This started building in May. And now in August, what happened was that the mechanism actually really started cranking. But the percentage of people who are giving in small dollars is actually increasing, and that is a good sign for the campaign.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: They're going to be using that money, as we mentioned, in swing states for TV ads, et cetera. Any other idea what they will use that money for?

LEE: Well, now that they don't use as much money for travel because of coronavirus, we have seen them pour lots and lots of money in ads. But also, they're going to be looking to hire a lot more staff on the ground in key swing states who may not have joined the team yet.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Let's look at team Trump. Where's their fundraising at?

LEE: The campaign records will come out later this month. However, we do know that President Trump has been raising a lot of money online. This is one of his great strengths that has been building from the 2016 campaign. And he is hosting in-person fundraisers with wealthy donors. But the fact that the Trump campaign hasn't come out swinging in response to Biden's historic record tells you a little bit about where they may stand once the numbers do become public.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Does it say anything larger about the president's support that we're seeing softer donations from Wall Street for President Trump, for example, and that even stalwart Republicans like the Koch brothers are actively supporting Trump's opponents?

LEE: It shows you that President Trump is divisive among the wealthy Republican donors who had been funding the party for a very long time. You mentioned the Koch network. A lot of their donors are very split on where they stand with President Trump. They tend to lean more libertarian. But President Trump has started to recruit a whole new crop of donors who had not given to the Republican Party until he became president.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And then if we look at the two campaigns in total - right? - not just looking at the monthly tallies, where do things stand?

LEE: President Trump has had a massive war chest for his reelection, and that continues to grow. I expect now with Biden's historic sum that the cash-on-hand figure actually might be quite similar to President Trump, which is a sign of how quickly the Biden team has been able to catch up to what was actually a massive cash chest that President Trump had just sitting around.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Michelle Ye Hee Lee, money and politics reporter for The Washington Post.

Thank you very much.

LEE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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