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Here’s where Mike Huckabee gets his campaign money

Rick Newman
Senior Columnist
U.S. Republican presidential candidate, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, formallly launches his bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination during an event in Hope, Arkansas May 5, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Stone

Since he last ran for president in 2008, Mike Huckabee has upgraded from coach class to private jet and built a $3 million Florida Panhandle beach palace. His campaign bank account could use the same sort of enrichment now that Huck, as he’s known, has declared he’s running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

The former Arkansas governor was the people’s candidate back in 2008, highlighting his thrifty ways as an antidote to the big money dominating many political campaigns. But Huckabee now commands some pretty big money himself. He has enjoyed lucrative gigs as a Fox News contributor and paid speechmaker at Republican and religious events. Such publicity has helped him raise money through at least two political action groups, getting the kind of head start he lacked in 2008.

Huckabee, who formally announced his bid Tuesday morning, raised about $16 million during the 2008 presidential race before dropping out eight months before Election Day. He finished 11th in the fundraising derby, behind the two nominees—Barack Obama and John McCain—and several also-rans, including Democrats Chris Dodd and John Edwards and Republicans Fred Thompson and Ron Paul.

But Huckabee also found a few natural constituencies in 2008, including religious groups who have become even more closely aligned with the fundamentalist, southern Baptist minister since then. “He receives regular exposure from pastors’ gatherings and he does have access to people who could write some big checks,” says one Republican strategist. “Some of those people can write a half-a-million-dollar check and not miss it.”

Huckabee, 59, will need their support, and then some, to compete with prodigious fundraisers such as Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and, of course, Democrat Hillary Clinton. Here are some top donors from past campaigns Huckabee is likely to lean on:

Stephens Group, an investing firm based in Little Rock. Individuals associated with Stephens contributed nearly $51,000 to Huckabee’s 2008 presidential run, making the firm the single biggest source of funding for that campaign.

Celebrity Attractions, a theatrical production company based in Tulsa, Okla. Individuals associated with this company, which stages productions in Arkansas and three other states, have donated at least $35,000 to Huckabee’s political-action group, Huck PAC, since 2010.

Walmart. Individuals associated with the Arkansas-based retail giant donated $26,629 to Huckabee’s 2008 campaign. Huckabee ranked fourth that year in donations from Walmart, behind Obama, John McCain and Hillary Clinton.

Panduit Corp. People affiliated with this Illinois-based building-materials firm gave $28,200 to Huckabee’s 2008 campaign.

Kenneth Copeland Ministries. Huckabee is close with Texas televangelist Kenneth Copeland and his wife Gloria, whose group pumped nearly $21,000 into the 2008 campaign (and helped promote Huckabee’s several books). Huckabee defended the Copelands as a Senate panel investigated their finances and spending habits. (In its final report, the panel urged “self-reform” but took no further action.)

Huckabee’s past donor lists lack the sort of billionaires who have become staples of high-profile campaigns, since recent Supreme Court decisions allow them to give unlimited funds to “super PACs” that campaign on behalf of candidates or issues. So in that sense, Huckabee is still a man of the people. If he wants to get elected, however, he’ll probably have to drift closer to the billionaires.

Rick Newman’s latest book is Liberty for All: A Manifesto for Reclaiming Financial and Political Freedom. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.