Beto O'Rourke campaign: Bernie Sanders' supporters fuel misinformation about Texas Democrat's record-breaking fundraising haul

Chris Riotta

Beto O’Rourke's record-breaking fundraising haul has appeared to upset supporters of Bernie Sanders, who began spreading misinformation about how the Texas Democrat’s campaign managed to top that of the Vermont senator’s in its first 24 hours.

A tweet claiming the former congressman’s 2020 campaign was part of a supposed financial kickback with the Texas Democratic Party went viral after Mr O'Rourke released his fundraising figures from his first day on the campaign trail earlier this week.

That tweet was posted by Xavier Perez, a member of the Democratic county committee in Bronx, New York and a former volunteer for Mr Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign.

It read: “Well this is awkward! @BetoORourke gave the remaining $4.5+ mill from his Senate race to @TexasDemocrats a few months ago, & the Party sent the money back to him on the day his announcement.”

“So this is probably why he’s not releasing his individual contribution list.,” the tweet continued.

The tweet accuses the Texas Democratic Party of violating federal campaign laws by contributing more than $5,000 (£3,765) to Mr O’Rourke's presidential campaign. However, the Federal Election Commission only has disclosure information prior to February – meaning there is no way to know how much, if any, the Texas Democratic Party actually donated to Mr O’Rourke's 2020 campaign that kicked off last week, until that information has been filed and published.

Supporters of Mr Sanders responded to a slate of tweets posted by journalists and other Twitter users discussing Mr O'Rourke's fundraising numbers with the same false information about the alleged kickback system between his campaign and the state party.

It remained unclear where the misleading accusations stemmed from and whether or not they were simply based on a general misunderstanding of campaign finances.

(Twitter)

Mr Perez did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Calls to his offices also went unanswered.

It is possible some of the questions surrounding Mr O'Rourke's fundraising comes from a lack of detail in a statement released by his campaign announcing the record-breaking haul on Monday. The campaign did not disclose additional figures on the total number of individual contributors, as well as the average donation made within the first 24 hours of Mr O'Rourke's candidacy.

A spokesperson for the campaign responded to questions from The Independent about those figures in an email shortly after the announcement reading, “We have already released the fundraising numbers we will be putting out.”

On Tuesday, Mr O'Rourke's director of communications Chris Evans told The Independent, "Beto's grassroots campaign raised a record-breaking $6,136,763 online from individuals in the first 24 hours after launching. Each and every single dollar of that came online from people, not from PACs, corporations, special interests or in the way described in this completely false tweet."

The campaign has hired Louis Susman, a top backer for Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign, to secure major investments from top Democratic donors across the country.

Mr O'Rourke proved to be a fundraising juggernaut during his failed 2018 senatorial campaign in the deeply-red state of Texas, breaking senate campaign records while challenging Republican incumbent Ted Cruz.

Mr Sanders also raised a whopping $5.9m (£4.4m) within the first 24 hours of his campaign launch, while California Democrat Kamala Harris also secured $1.5m (£1.1m) after kicking off her campaign with a major rally in Oakland, California.

Campaign finance experts have noted the difficulties female candidates – particularly minority female candidates – face in fundraising their campaigns compared to white, male candidates.