More than 600 delegates pledged to Bernie Sanders have taken to online crowdfunding to help pay for their expensive trips to the Democratic National Convention to be held in Philadelphia this July.
They have raised some $570,000 through this week on sites like GoFundMe. That is out of a collective $1.6 million they are asking for, according to a tally by Fund Bernie Delegates, an umbrella site started by a Tennessee woman to promote delegates' efforts.
For weeks, many supporters quietly wondered if the Sanders campaign would help his delegates, who are coming from all 50 states to the convention. It runs July 25-28, and delegates have been asked to book at least four nights in hotels across the Philadelphia region.
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Finally, it appears, the cavalry has arrived. Sanders' campaign manager Jeff Weaver wrote Tuesday in an email to supporters that new contributions to the presidential candidate will go toward helping delegates get to Philadelphia.
"Our delegates are not wealthy campaign contributors. They're not party insiders or establishment elites. They're working folks, and it's not easy for many of them to fly to Philly and stay in hotels for a week," Weaver wrote. "We really need to have all of our delegates at the Democratic convention because we expect there could be critical votes for the party platform and electoral process."
Sanders received 1,831 pledged delegates in the primaries. Hillary Clinton received 2,220, plus the support of 591 party officials known as superdelegates, and has been deemed the presumptive nominee for the Democratic party. Sanders has acknowledged he will likely lose the nomination to Clinton but intends to continue as a candidate to the convention.
In May, NBC10.com first reported on the GoFundMe efforts of numerous Sanders delegates, most who are in their 20s and don't have the financial means to spend $4,000 to $6,000 to come from far-flung states like Minnesota or Colorado.
"I’ve got a few fundraisers in my hometown," said 27-year-old diesel mechanic Dylan Parker, who will represent Illinois’ 17th Congressional District as a Sanders delegate. "Otherwise, it’s going to come out of me and my family’s pockets."
Parker is nearing his $5,000 GoFundMe goal, with $3,675 as of June 29. But many others remain below $1,000.
Many have been forced to use credit cards to expense their flights and hotel stays while waiting for donations, according to Katie Tillman, a mother of two from Tennessee who started the website Fund Bernie Delegates a month ago with the help of a Kansas man named Michael Doyle.
"A problem is not all states can wait until the convention date to pay for their hotels. We have those states on there. [Monday] was South Carolina's deadline for paying," Tillman said of some state delegations' deadlines to pay for the trip. "We don’t want them in debt."
Messages sent to the Sanders campaign were not immediately returned.
In the email, Weaver wrote that donations should be made before the campaign files its monthly finance report with the Federal Election Commission.
Delegates may receive donations from candidates, but not from corporations, labor organizations, foreign nationals or federal government contractors, according to FEC regulations.
Delegates may also raise their own funds, as many have said they planned to do through hometown fundraisers and parties. State political parties are allowed to give to delegates. But with more than 4,000 delegates in Democratic primaries this year, some state organizations said supporting so many people wasn't possible.
Sanders' presidential political action committee, Bernie 2016, had $9.2 million on hand of a total $220 million raised, according to the PAC's May 31 report filed with the FEC.