Entering the 2020 presidential field as an ascendant first-term California senator, Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) was perceived by many as a “rising star.”
But now, as her light appears to be dimming, some of her biggest supporters are hedging their bets.
Many of Harris’ more than 100 “bundlers”— well-connected fundraisers who, according to her campaign, each helped raise at least $25,000 for her presidential bid — are giving to her primary opponents, maxing out to several other 2020 Democrats as early as February, an OpenSecrets analysis found.
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The California Democrat is one of the only two presidential candidates to disclose their bundlers so far. Almost half of her disclosed big-money supporters — 67 out of 137 — gave to at least one Democratic candidate other than Harris. Three of those bundlers — along with their family members — each donated to as many as eight other candidates.
Harris, who surged in polls after a strong June debate performance, narrowly qualified for the December debate. Her cash-strapped campaign, beleaguered by lagging performance in polls, is bleeding cash and slashing staff to save for a seven-figure ad buy in Iowa.
The California Democrat has reportedly vacated her New Hampshire headquarters and plans to downsize or relocate her staff in several states including her home state, a vital liberal stronghold that moved its primary date to Super Tuesday in March. Harris’ major staffers and consultants will also see diminished paychecks, Politico reported.
The decision comes as the former California prosecutor digs into her cash reserves. The Harris campaign burned more cash than it raised during the third quarter, leaving $10.5 million in the bank through the end of September. The $14.4 million she spent in the past three months, however, did little to revive her dwindling polling results since she spiked at 20 percent in a June/July national poll. As Democratic frontrunners score high points in national and key state polls, Harris remains in the low single digits — a worrisome performance to some of her top donors.
Unlike her primary opponents Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), whose campaigns rely heavily on cash from small-dollar donors, Harris lags in grassroots support. Less than 39 percent of her campaign cash came from those who each gave less than $200.
Most Democratic presidential candidates in the 2020 cycle have not broken away from high-dollar fundraisers. Only six of the 18 Democrats received more than half of their cash from small donors, and some who previously shunned super PACs now have allies forming big-money outside groups.
Many presidential contenders in previous elections sought help from bundlers. So far, however, almost all of the presidential candidates have kept their lists hidden. The Center for Responsive Politics joined a coalition of organizations last month in urging all candidates to make the names of their big-money donors public.
Some of Harris’ big fundraisers used to collect checks for former President Barack Obama and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The former California attorney general was among former Obama and Clinton bundlers’ favorite presidential contenders, attracting money from 246 of the nearly 2,000 fundraisers during the first half of 2019, Politico reported.
An OpenSecrets analysis found that 24 former Clinton bundlers are now raising money for Harris, most of whom are also doling out cash to multiple Democratic presidential contenders.
Billionaire hedge fund manager Marc Lasry, who helped raise more than $100,000 to support Clinton in 2016, is now backing Harris. Lasry and his wife Cathy Lasry, along with their two daughters, combined to give Harris’ campaign $16,700 during the first half of this year. Lasry, who hosted a fundraiser for Harris in June, pledged full support for the California Democrat to become the party’s nominee despite also maxing out to several of her strongest primary opponents, including Buttigieg and former vice president Joe Biden.
Investment banker Blair Effron and his wife Cheryl Cohen Effron are also among Harris’ big-money fundraisers who previously bundled for Clinton. Blair Effron is estimated to have given between $100,001 and $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation. The couple combined to give Harris’ campaign $5,600 in May after maxing out to other Democrats, such as Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
Some of Harris’ wealthiest bundlers are also raising money for other candidates.
LinkedIn co-founder and venture capitalist Reid Hoffman doled out the most money among all Harris bundlers — more than $1.1 million this cycle — to Democratic candidates and liberal groups. The Silicon Valley billionaire hosted a high-dollar fundraiser in May for Booker, his college classmate, the first presidential fundraising event he’s hosted ahead of 2020.
Susie Tompkins Buell, a longtime Clinton friend and Democratic megadonor, has known Harris for more than a decade. Tompkins Buell’s husband, Mark Buell, raised six figures for Harris by the end of 2002 as the finance chair of her bid for district attorney of San Francisco, her first-ever race, Politico reported.
Tompkins Buell declared her support for Harris days after the California senator announced her run. The couple each gave Harris $5,400 at the beginning of February. In August, however, the Buells combined to give $2,000 each to Booker, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). On top of dispersing cash to other Democratic contenders, Susie is also bundling for Buttigieg.
Only 64 of Harris’ bundlers and their family members gave exclusively to her campaign. Half of these big donors — 32 of the 64 — are from her home state of California.
Harris garnered support from multiple famous Hollywood figures. Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer and his family members gave Harris’ campaign a total of $27,262. The head of the entertainment giant attended fundraisers for Harris’ Senate bid in 2015 as well as her presidential run. Film director and producer Reggie Hudlin and his wife Chrisette Hudlin, who said she became friends with Harris at the age of 18, combined to give her campaign $11,398.
Researcher Alex Baumgart contributed to this report.