Ocasio-Cortez enters the House with highest portion of small contributions • OpenSecrets

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a household name now, but just a few months ago she was a complete political outsider, relying almost entirely on small donors in the Bronx and Queens.

The newly-elected representative for New York’s 14th District got nearly 62 percent of her $2 million haul from small individual contributions — less than $200 — giving her the highest rate of funding from small donors of any member of the 116th House of Representatives.

Ocasio-Cortez is one of several newly-elected Democrats who did not accept any money from business-related PACs. She successfully primaried Rep. Joe Crowley — who had risen to the rank of Chair of the House Democratic Caucus — despite raising just $300,709 to his $3 million.

Data from the Center for Responsive Politics reveals the small donor club isn’t exclusive to Democrats.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) comes in third place after Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) when it comes to the percentage of funds from bite-sized contributions. The California Republican got 49 percent of his $12.5 million from small donors.

As chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Nunes has painted himself as a staunch defender of President Donald Trump, going as far as telling donors that the GOP needs to protect Trump from special counsel Robert Mueller.

That reputation netted Nunes more campaign cash than he has ever had, by far, as more than half of Nunes’ career $24 million in fundraising came this cycle. It also earned Nunes a wealthy challenger. Democrat Andrew Janz wasn’t able to take down Nunes, but he raised $9 million — more than half of which came from small donors — while tying his Republican opponent to Trump.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), another well-known Trump defender, just makes the top 10, collecting nearly one-third of his $1.8 million from small contributions.

Rep.-elect Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.) is a unique name on the top 10 as the only candidate that was locked in a tight race. Brindisi defeated Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) by fewer than 4,000 votes in a Trump district, while raising $1.6 million from small donors.

The list of small donor favorites features some well-known fundraising gurus. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) raised $4.8 million — accounting for 37 percent of his funds — from small contributions despite sitting in a safe seat.

Scalise didn’t need to spend too much of it, so he and his joint fundraising committee transferred a total of nearly $5 million to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

Scalise’s Eye of the Tiger PAC was active too, giving more than $1 million to Republican candidates. The leadership PAC has come a long way since its founding in 2010 when it gave $61,150.

Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi raised 31 percent of her dollars from small contributions for a total of $1.4 million. Between her campaign and victory fund, Pelosi contributed $4 million to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

Pelosi’s PAC to the Future gave $690,000 to Democratic hopefuls, the most her leadership PAC has handed out since 2012.

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For permission to reprint for commercial uses, such as textbooks, contact the Center: [email protected]

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Karl Evers-Hillstrom

Karl joined the Center for Responsive Politics in October 2018. As CRP’s money-in-politics reporter, he writes and edits stories for the news section and helps manage a team of diligent writers. A native of Brooklyn, New York, Karl graduated from State University of New York at New Paltz in 2016 with a B.A. in journalism. He previously worked at The Globe, a regional newspaper based in Worthington, Minnesota. His email is [email protected]

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