vision 2020

Elizabeth Warren’s Big-Donor Ban Isn’t Paying Off — Yet

But her campaign will still need money. Photo: Corey Sipkin/AFP/Getty Images

Senator Elizabeth Warren is already getting out-raised by many of the other Democrats vying for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination. Now, her finance director has reportedly resigned over her pledge to not raise money from big-bundling donors and big-dollar fundraisers, even though she could probably use the money. The New York Times reported on Sunday that campaign finance director Michael Pratt resigned after being unable to convince Warren and her advisers to avoid the big-donor ban, which she announced last month as a way to spend more time engaging with voters on the trail.

Inside the campaign, it was also seen as a way to differentiate Warren from other Democrats, particularly after so many rivals followed her lead and ditched super-PACs. Pratt didn’t agree with this gamble, however, per the Times:

At a Valentine’s Day meeting at Ms. Warren’s Washington condominium that began with a heart-shaped cake but soon grew heated, Mr. Pratt noted that campaigns often collapse when they run out of money and pleaded with her not to cut off a significant cash stream, according to Democrats briefed on the conversation. He pointed out that winning over wealthy fund-raisers across the country helped build networks that could translate into political support, not just checks. But Mr. Pratt lost the argument to two of Ms. Warren’s closest advisers, Dan Geldon and Joe Rospars, who made the case about standing apart from the field and freeing up her schedule.

In the meantime, it’s not yet clear how much Warren will report having raised in the first quarter, but it does seem clear that she will dramatically lag her rivals, to the point that her campaign is warning supporters and using the gap as a fundraising pitch.

Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke, on the other hand, are swimming in cash. Each took in about 6 million on the first days of their respective campaigns, while Warren, who was once considered a probable front-runner in the primaries, raised about $300,000. Sanders has pledged to eschew fundraisers and big donors like Warren, but started the 2020 campaign with an already enormous nationwide donor network thanks to his popularity in the 2016 race. Beto hasn’t sworn off big donors completely, but heavily touts his small donor network, which grew thanks to his attention-grabbing Senate run against Ted Cruz. At least so far, Warren’s pitch to be Democrats’ hypercompetent choice against Trump hasn’t prompted a similar wave of donations.

As for the rest of the field, the Times reported on Saturday that while other Democratic candidates like Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, and Kirsten Gillibrand may be promoting their small-money raising abilities and the importance of grassroots support, they are also quietly and aggressively courting big donors via more traditional campaign fundraising tactics. Indeed, this cycle’s trophy donors are also getting a lot less recognition and name-dropping from campaigns than they traditionally have — though that may not be an unwelcome development in this new age of information warfare:

In the past, landing big donors was a sign of a campaign’s strength and something to be advertised, not a populism-puncturing liability as it has suddenly become following the rise of politicians like Sanders and Warren.

Meanwhile, as Trump and the GOP work to fill their coffers, they apparently don’t even have to be worried about the appearance of impropriety:

Elizabeth Warren’s Big-Donor Ban Isn’t Paying Off — Yet