Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), an outspoken critic of what she calls a "rigged" economic system that has hurt the middle class, has turned herself into a fundraising powerhouse in the Democratic Party because of her economic message.
Warren has developed a massive fundraising operation that she will use for her uphill reelection efforts in 2018–and supporters hope a potential presidential run in 2020.
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The Massachusetts Democrat, known as one of the more progressive lawmakers in her party, had $4.8 million in her campaign account at the beginning of 2017, which is more than any other Senate Democrat up for reelection in 2018, the Associated Press reported.
That's also $1 million more than any Democratic member of the Senate except for Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, of New York, with $10.7 million. Schumer won reelection last year.
Warren is also ahead of eight of the nine Senate Republicans running for reelection next year. Republican Sen. Bob Corker, of Tennessee, ended 2016 with $5.9 million. Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, trailed Warren with $3.8 million. Sanders also had $5.5 million in his presidential campaign account.
Key to Warren's fundraising muscle is a wide base of supporters. Warren raked in donations from virtually every state in the past two years. Nearly all her contributions came from individual supporters, with just $34,000 from political action committees and other groups.
The former Harvard Law professor was also able to find tiny pockets of support in states where President Trump beat Hillary Clinton by double digits. Between Kentucky, Alabama, and Tennessee, three states where Trump exceeded 60 percent of the vote, Warren collected $18,000, according to the AP.
The totals count only contributions above $200 during the election cycle. Just 36 percent of the $5.8 million Warren raised in 2015 and 2016 crossed that threshold.
The low average donation means Warren can return to those supporters again and again before they hit the maximum of $2,700 per election cycle.
Warren has raised millions from small-dollar donors despite her vocal opposition to large sums of money in politics.
Warren has often said her message is for the "little guy" and has publicly castigated the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision, although that criticism is mainly targeted at corporations and political action committees that give big money to politicians.
"Thanks to the Supreme Court, our system of elections is riddled with corruption. Money floods our political system, money that lets a handful of billionaires shape who gets into Congress and may decide who sits in the White House," Warren said on the Senate floor in January 2016.
"Washington works just great for a handful of wealthy individuals and powerful corporations that manipulate the system to benefit themselves," Warren added. "But for everyone else, Washington's not working so well. And if we don't change that, this rigged political game will break our country."
Since running for Congress in 2011, Warren has collected over $630,000 from the securities and investments industry and over $2.3 million in contributions from lawyers and law firms that represent Wall Street interests, the Washington Free Beacon reported last year.
"It is no surprise that Elizabeth Warren says one thing and does another when it comes to corporate interests," William Jacobson, clinical professor of Law at Cornell Law School, said at the time.
"Warren claimed that when she made several hundred thousand dollars in her private law practice while still a Harvard Law professor, she did it to help consumers and women," Jacobson continued. "In fact, as my research demonstrated, Warren represented large corporations such as Dow Chemical, a major utility company and Travelers Insurance, against the interest of consumers."
Warren raised $1 million in the last three months of 2016, which included part of the transition period after President Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, the AP reported.
The liberal advocacy group Moveon.org also raised another $250,000 for Warren after she sent an email to outraged supporters when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) rebuked her for breaking Senate rules by attacking the character of then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) during his confirmation process to become attorney general.