Over 60% of political donations to prominent political committees made by employees of the federal government’s 15 cabinet-level departments flowed to President Joe Biden and other Democrats in 2023, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation analysis of Federal Election Commission records.
The DCNF filtered donations in calendar year 2023 by individuals who listed their employer as one of 15 cabinet agencies, and who donated to the Biden campaign, the Biden Victory Fund, the Trump campaign, Save America PAC, and the respective congressional and senatorial fundraising committees for each party.
Federal employees donated almost $200,000 to Biden’s campaign fundraising arms, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee between January and November 2023. Conversely, federal employees only donated a little over half of that sum, about $116,000, to former President Donald Trump’s campaign committees, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee during that same period.
The DCNF’s findings are likely a significant undercount of total donations as not all people who donate to political campaigns list their employers, and some federal employees may list their employers as subdivisions of cabinet-level agencies not captured in the search of FEC records.
Donors who said they were retired were excluded from the DCNF’s analysis.
The preference for Democrats among bureaucrats is even more apparent in the organizations that represent them.
American Federation of Government Employees is a union that represents 750,000 workers “in nearly every agency of the federal and D.C. governments,” according to its website. The organization’s PAC has donated $278,000 so far during the 2024 election cycle, with 93.9% of that going to Democrats, according to OpenSecrets.
National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, which advocates on behalf of current and former federal employees as well as their families, runs a PAC that has donated $153,000 to candidates during the 2024 cycle, 76.5% of which went to Democrats.
Disproportionally high support for Democrats among federal bureaucrats is not a new development; of the roughly $2 million that federal employees donated to presidential campaigns in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, approximately 95% went to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, according to The Hill.
Even when Trump controlled the executive branch in leading up to the 2020 election, donations from federal employees showed a similar bias toward Democrats. Between January 2019 and October 2020, then-Democratic nominee Joe Biden raised $1.06 million from federal employees, compared to the $743,000 raised by Trump, according to Government Executive.
Biden, after enjoying high levels of financial support from federal employees during both his 2020 and 2024 presidential campaigns, has repeatedly given them historically high raises.
While Biden has a warm relationship with the federal bureaucracy, Trump’s was less amicable. The former President regularly called out the “deep state,” a term used by some to refer to entrenched members of the federal bureaucracy, for obstructing his agenda.
Some federal officials even bragged about working against the president, going as far as to author an anonymous piece in the New York Times about it.
Not all agencies were as homogeneous as others in their employee donations.
Employees of the Department of Defense (DOD), which includes members of the armed forces, were among the most Republican-friendly in terms of political donations.
Trump and Republicans raised significantly more money from DOD employees, about $67,000, than the $20,632 Biden and Democrats raised, according to FEC records. The majority of federal employee donations received by Trump and Republicans came from the DOD.
Trump’s lead among individuals working for branches of the armed forces was even larger.
Individuals working for the United States Air Force, Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Coast Guard donated about $62,000 to Trump’s fundraising committees and only about $24,000 to Biden’s committees.
The Biden administration has expressed concerns over the ideology of people working for the DOD and serving in the armed forces.
Lloyd Austin, Biden’s defense secretary, spearheaded an effort to purge the armed forces and the DOD of “extremism” in 2021, shortly after being appointed. Conservative critics characterized the effort as a ploy to remove right-of-center individuals from the armed forces and the Pentagon.
A DOD study found that the effort may have worsened morale within the armed forces.
Donations from employees of the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury and Veterans Affairs were included in the DCNF’s analysis of FEC records.
“The Department is committed to advancing the national interest in a non-partisan manner,” a State Department spokesperson told the DCNF.
“All employees are barred by statute from engaging in partisan political activity while on duty or in a federal workplace, and employees may not use their position or official authority to affect the outcome of an election,” they continued.
None of the agencies mentioned, except the State Department, responded to the DCNF’s requests for comment.
Robert Schmad on January 5, 2024