JULIE BYKOWICZ, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Vacation-filled August is typically one of the worst months for any politician to raise money. But it was Ben Carson’s best yet.
The political novice, a retired neurosurgeon seeking the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, raised $6 million, doubling his July total, his campaign told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Carson’s supporters have handed over roughly $20 million since he began raising money in March, making him a fundraising standout in a sprawling field of 17 Republican contenders.
He enters the fall well-funded and rising in the polls, having carved out a niche as the mild-mannered version of bombastic Republican front-runner Donald Trump. Both appeal to voters — and small donors — who reject politics as usual.
The doctor’s campaign is unusually reliant on small donors when others have turned to super PACs for million-dollar checks. Trump, a multibillionaire, is largely paying his own way. Of Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, only Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has a higher percentage of small contributions, defined as $200 or less per election cycle, than Carson.
The dollars have arrived through innovative marketing campaigns and brisk sales of swag.
“Carson for president” ball caps have netted $700,000 and individually numbered lithographs of the doctor an additional $500,000. A 90-page abridged version of Carson’s best-selling book “Gifted Hands” has sold 47,000 copies at $20 apiece.
Even Carson’s campaign bus — dubbed the “Healer Hauler” by his fans and given its own Twitter handle (@healerhauler) — became a fundraising opportunity. The vehicle will soon be adorned with the names of some 4,000 children whose parents each paid $50 for the privilege.
Carson turns his attention to traditional political fundraising this month, as he attends 25 events across the country where price of entry starts at $1,000. And a trio of pro-Carson super PACs and a nonprofit policy group in recent days got a boost when it became legal for his former campaign manager, Terry Giles, to coordinate their efforts. By law, Giles had to “cool off” for 120 days before joining the outside groups, which unlike the campaign, can accept donations of unlimited size.
Carson posted strong initial fundraising numbers when his campaign filed its first two reports this year. Through the end of June, no Republican campaign had raised more except former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. (Govs. Scott Walker, John Kasich and Chris Christie hadn’t been in the race long enough to file reports at the time.)
Carson’s money is paying for about 50 campaign employees and an intense travel schedule for the candidate.
Campaigns aren’t due to file their next fundraising reports, covering July through September, to federal regulators until mid-October. Most have been reluctant to share summer fundraising totals.
Associated Press writer Steve Peoples contributed to this report.
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