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Financials top Trump, Biden contributions as political donations shatter records

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Financials top Trump, Biden contributions as political donations shatter records

With the rest of the U.S. economy in a tailspin in 2020, presidential politics is a growth industry.

Spending on the presidential election alone is expected to hit $6.6 billion, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tallies political donations to campaigns and to political action committees supporting campaigns by individuals giving more than $200 and by PACs. The previous record, in 2016, was $2.4 billion.

Contributions affiliated with the financial, insurance and real estate sectors to both candidates topped other industries as of Oct. 16, according to CRP data, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden's donation lead narrower than 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton's lead over President Donald Trump.

Biden's campaign and groups backing him have collected $101 million from donors in the financial, insurance and real estate industries, according to data from the CRP, a nonpartisan research group. That compares with $59.9 million in industry donations for Trump and groups backing him.

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"Minorities, women and younger employees are pushing for a new direction" on Wall Street, Larry Sabato, a politics professor at the University of Virginia who also runs the university's Center for Politics, said in an interview.

With a $43.5 million to $5.7 million lead for Biden, the communications and electronics sector's favoritism toward Democratic presidential nominees has only escalated over the years, Mike Hettinger, president and founding principal for government relations firm Hettinger Strategy Group, said in an interview. The sector includes Amazon.com Inc., Alphabet Inc., Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. as well as software developers Microsoft Corp. and Oracle Corp.

"Tech is far more active politically today than it was even eight years ago and has a clear favorite, much more than it did even in 2012," Hettinger said.

On the other side of the spectrum, energy-affiliated donors flocked to Trump by a $15.6 million to $3.7 million margin, a huge gain for the president over the 2016 cycle. "We continue to think the 2020 election could set up binary outcomes for fossil fuels and green energy," the energy policy analysts at ClearView Energy Partners LLC told their clients in a Sept. 24 election update. "The two presidential candidates are not merely pursuing dramatically different goals; they also face dramatically different windows for action."

The health sector raised about $22 million more for Trump than for Biden, according to the CRP, but the majority of contributions to Trump came from a single $37.5 million donation by Las Vegas-based billionaires Sheldon and Miriam Adelson that was attributed to the Adelson Clinic for Drug Abuse Treatment and Research.