All Hail the Queen

Yes, it’s Photoshopped.

But seriously, Becca Balint’s latest campaign finance report is a wonder to behold. And it couldn’t be more different than Molly Gray’s.

The most dramatic number isn’t the bottom line, in which Balint outraised her Democratic rival in the race for Congress between July 1-20 by a margin of $145,000 to $65,000, putting her narrowly in the lead for the campaign to date. (And leaving her at a disadvantage in cash on hand, thanks to Gray’s lower spending.)

But that pales in comparison to the margin in unique donors, where Balint outguns Gray by basically a 12-to-1 margin.

Yes, I said twelve to one.

Balint’s FEC filing includes 6,548 “itemized receipts.” Gray’s: 532*. Balint’s campaign was absolutely flooded with donations in that 20-day period.

*Note: When a donor gives via ActBlue, the donation is credited to the donor AND to ActBlue. It’s counted once in the dollar total, but listed twice. There are a lot of these; many donors use ActBlue. So the number of donors is much lower than the number of “itemized receipts.” but that’s true for both campaigns. If Balint’s actual number of unique donors is 30-40% lower than 6,548, the same is true for Gray. The ratio remains more or less the same. Also, even if Balint “only” got donations from, say, 4,000 people in 20 days, that’s still incredible.

Balint’s list of donors is a remarkable thing. The vast majority of donors gave less than $100, and most of those gave $50 or less. Quite a few gave less than $10. There were very few large-dollar donations.

How few? Balint received 16 donations of $1,000 or more. Gray, with a far lower total number of donors, also received 16 four-figure gifts. Oh, and if we’re still arguing about Vermonters deciding Vermont elections, consider this: Of Balint’s 16 big donors, 12 were from Vermont — and one of the out-of-staters was Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s.

Of Gray’s top donors, only four were from Vermont. Twelve were out-of-staters. That’s only one data point, but it runs counter to Gray’s claim to be the doughty little Vermonter up against big outside money.

These filings show that Balint’s campaign is resonating far and wide, particularly among small-dollar donors. I’d guess this is a combined effect of Balint’s support from the LGBTQ+ community and Bernie Sanders’ endorsement. (There were a lot of $27 gifts. That’s the number Bernie used in his campaigns for president.)

The only reporting I’ve seen on these filings was from VTDigger, and I have to say they completely missed the boat. The story was all about the toplines. It was as if they never went past the summary page or scanned the donor lists.

Which is par for the course with every outlet’s campaign finance coverage. Every story looks at the bottom line and little else.

In this case, the bottom line told part of the story — that Balint has been raising and spending money at a brisk pace. But the rest of the story is far more telling. Balint has inspired a Bernie-like legion of small-dollar donors; Gray’s reports are same-old, same-old. The money gap is only going to get bigger.

This isn’t a campaign. It’s a juggernaut.

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