John Fetterman got a lot of cash from a surprising source: snail mail
Since entering the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has consistently enjoyed a huge leg up in fund-raising. He's already known for his online small-dollar money machine, a Pennsylvania-size version of the repeat donor model pioneered by the likes of Bernie Sanders.
But he's also getting money through good old-fashioned snail mail.
New financial filings last week showed that Fetterman's campaign received about $2.1 million in unitemized, direct donations that weren't made online. Direct donations under $200 are unitemized, meaning that campaigns aren't required to provide information on the donors.
Asked about the pile of unitemized, not-digital money, the Fetterman campaign said it was largely from cash and checks that donors mailed directly to the campaign. A smaller portion of the money, about $400,000 comes from the online merchandise store.
It's worth noting that having money means Fetterman can make more of it through pricey direct-mail marketing. Still, that's a considerable amount of mailed-in money at a time when so much fund-raising is done online.
"This doesn't just mean they're supporting John, but they support him enough to get their checkbook out and find a stamp," said Rebecca Katz, a senior campaign adviser. "It speaks to the intensity of support."
No other Senate candidate in either party saw that level of offline giving.
Fetterman's campaign said it spent about $1 million last year sending out fund-raising mailers. A review of his campaign finance filings for expenditures on direct mail, postage, printing, and mail consultants bears that out. The campaign got about $2.5 million back in the mail. About $2.1 million of that came in donations of less than $200.
Fetterman's campaign continues to tout his expansive network of repeat donors and the money they're contributing as evidence of widespread grassroots support. The new filings last week included the first detailed look at donations made last year through the popular liberal online fund-raising platform ActBlue, which provides information on all donors, offering an early look at who is giving to which campaigns.
About 59% of Fetterman's campaign donors came from outside Pennsylvania, with 40% in-state. Fetterman raised $12 million in 2021 and had $5.3 million left at the end of the year.
Of the $12 million, about $8.9 million came online ― through such sources as weekly and daily emails that solicit money with a click. Fetterman's website has a feature that invites donors to "boop" his dog's nose — and automatically donate $5.
The campaign sent out two fund-raising appeals last Wednesday, one wishing supporters a Happy Groundhog Day, the other subject-lined, "shorts>pants" — a reference to Fetterman's thoroughly documented winter wardrobe preferences.
Fetterman had the most individual donors in the Democratic field last year, at 140,251, according to a review of campaign and ActBlue data. That doesn't include donors who mailed the campaign small amounts, and it trounced the next candidate: State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who has struggled mightily in fund-raising, nevertheless had the second-most individual donors, at 22,100.
ActBlue is a third-party tool that all major Democratic candidates use for online fund-raising ( Republicans use a similar company called WinRed). Fetterman has benefited from setting up his operation early, and from his national profile.
U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, who entered the race six months after Fetterman and Kenyatta, had 8,300 donors. That was still enough for him to be second to Fetterman in the money race — lapping Kenyatta — thanks to a larger proportion of donors who gave the maximum amount allowed.
Lamb raised $3.6 million last year and entered 2022 with $3 million in the bank. His median donation size was $20, and about 61% percent of his donors were from outside Pennsylvania.
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Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh, who dropped out of the race Friday, raised $1.9 million last year and started 2022 with $1.2 million. She had a median donation size of $25, and about 52% of her donors were from outside the state.
That Kenyatta, long pulling up the rear in fund-raising, had the second-highest number of individual donors shows there are people willing to support his campaign. The problem for him is how small those donations have been: an average of $10.
Fetterman's median donation was also $10, meaning half of his reported donations were for $10 or less. But he had six times as many donors.
And the majority of Kenyatta's donors can't vote for him: 79% were from outside Pennsylvania, compared with Fetterman's 59%. That suggests Kenyatta is getting seen during frequent national TV appearances — but not getting much campaign cash from the exposure.