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Grassroots fundraising is a method of fundraising used by or for candidates, which has grown in popularity with the emergence of the Internet and its use by US presidential candidates like Howard Dean, Barack Obama, Ron Paul, and most recently Bernie Sanders. Grassroots fundraising is a way of financing their campaigns for candidates who don't have significant media exposure of frontrunner status, or who are perhaps in opposition to the powerful lobby groups which influence the political party nominating process. It often involves mobilizing grassroots support to meet a specific fundraising goal or sets a specific day for grassroots supporters to donate to the campaign.
In the 2000 elections, 66.1% of campaign contributions of $200 or less came from American households earning less than $100,000, who make 86.6% of the general population, but only 14.3% of the contributions over $200 come from these households.
In 2004, presidential candidate Howard Dean built up his campaign around grassroots fundraising. In an interview with Jeff Howe, Dean described a $2,000-per-plate fundraising lunch organized by Vice President Dick Cheney for George W. Bush's re-election. In response, Dean challenged his supporters to come to their computers with him "for lunch". Dean was able to match the amount raised by Cheney's fundraiser. He remarked, on his use of the Internet to raise funds for his campaign, "The Internet isn't magic, it's just a tool that can be used to do things differently."
According to Spencer A. Overton, a professor at George Washington University, Obama's presidential campaign received the most grassroots fundraising of presidential candidates in the first Quarter 2007 based on contributions under $200 with $5.77 million, more than double the nearest candidate, John McCain, who got $2.54 million. Out of Obama's quarter fundraising total, 22% came from contributions under $200 with McCain again second at 19%. However, candidates outside the top tier received larger portions of their funds in contributions under $200 with Tancredo at 78%, Brownback 61%, Paul 39% and Kucinich at 68%.
In the 2008 Republican primaries, presidential candidate Ron Paul has made significant use of the Internet to organize grassroots fundraising efforts. His campaign is unique in seeing many grassroots fundraising events begin completely independent of the campaign. The most notable of these was the November 5, 2007 "moneybomb", spread virally through forums like YouTube and Myspace. It managed to earn Paul $4.2 million in one day, breaking the online fundraising record as well as raising more than any other Republican candidate in the election. Ed Rollins, the manager of Ross Perot's 1992 presidential campaign, said of Paul's grassroots support, "What he's done - what his supporters have done - is astonishing. You can't dismiss his anti-war vote. You can't dismiss the power of one man standing up with a powerful message. I'll tell you, I've been in politics for 40 years, and these days everything I've learned about politics is totally irrelevant because there's this uncontrollable thing like the Internet. Washington insiders don't know what to make of it."