Editor's Pick: Originally Published Monday, Dec. 21.
Regardless of what you think of Bernie Sanders, there's no denying he has a talent for grassroots fundraising. The U.S. Senator from Vermont hit the two million donations mark this week thanks to a diverse group of small-money supporters and the internet.
Pinpointing the source of much of Sanders' campaign funds is difficult, in large part because of campaign laws that allow small donations to be kept under wraps.
"The vast majority of his money comes from donors with $200 or less, and he doesn't have to disclose who they are," said Viveca Novak, editorial and communications director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-profit research group that operates campaign funding website OpenSecrets.
Sanders has raised $41.5 million in the 2016 election cycle through the end of the third quarter and ended the period with $27.1 million on the books, according to the FEC website. About three quarters of the contributions received have been unitemized, meaning individuals have contributed $200 or less during the calendar year and their identities do not have to be disclosed.
This is in stark contrast to frontrunner Hillary Clinton, whose campaign has brought in $77.5 million, roughly 80% being itemized -- as in, bigger-ticket and therefore public -- donations. Her super PACs have raised millions more.
According to the Sanders camp, just 261 backers have contributed the maximum allowable amount of $2,700, accounting for 1.7% of the total reported money raised. This week, a fundraising push brought the campaign an additional $3 million, the average donation being just $20.
The internet has helped to spur much of Sanders' success on the campaign trail, and that has converted into funding, too. For example, through ActBlue, an online fundraising committee that backs Democratic campaigns, FEC filings indicate Sanders has brought in more than $4.5 million.
"The Sanders campaign has been very effective at coming up with a message that appeals to [the progressive] wing of the party, mobilizing that wing of the party and then using digital media very effectively to translate that enthusiasm into money," said Daniel Kreiss, assistant professor of political communications at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.