Monday, May 05, 2008

Online Fundraising

A while back, someone sent me an article from subscription-only MIRS that's an interesting read. It's got a couple of items worth noting, which will be the subjects of this post and the next one.

In the article, one reads this:
Another interesting twist in the 7th is in bundling money. Last election, the free-market Club for Growth bundled more than $600,000 from donors largely outside Michigan for Walberg. This cycle, the Washington, D.C.-based Club political action committee (PAC) bundled a total of $21,785.

But it was Schauer who showed his bundling prowess, taking home $70,518 thanks to Cambridge, Mass.-based ActBlue, an online liberal fundraiser.
At first read, the good-government-loving person will think, "Oh no! We don't want to replace the Club for Growth with a liberal counterpart! We want honesty and integrity!" But that's not quite the whole story.

The Club for Growth, when it bundles money, sends out solicitations to a wide network of wealthy members on behalf of the candidates it supports. So the Club is actively fundraising for Walberg. There is, in fact, a progressive counterpart, called EMILY's List. But they only support pro-choice women, so they won't be getting involved on behalf of Mark Schauer.

ActBlue works differently. It does bundle money, in that it accepts contributions from individuals and then sends them on to the candidate. However, it does not actively solicit contributions. Instead, it merely lists every single Democratic candidate running in the country. So, it's true that bloggers and liberal activists from across the country could, in fact, be supporting Mark Schauer and urging their readers to do the same. They use ActBlue as a tool for that, but ActBlue itself isn't doing anything except transfer money.

So why is ActBlue a good thing for Mark Schauer? By setting up fundraising pages for every Democrat in the country, it makes online fundraising suddenly a lot simpler for Democrats. Tim Walberg's campaign website has a PayPal page as part of his website and he spent $9,000 last quarter on services from, according to the MIRS article. Schauer... put a link to ActBlue on his website. That's a lot of money and effort saved.

This is what building a progressive infrastructure looks like, and this is the sort of thing that helps Democrats win in ridiculously Republican districts (PVI R+7).

With all of this in mind, let's look at the number the MIRS article quoted:
But it was Schauer who showed his bundling prowess, taking home $70,518 thanks to Cambridge, Mass.-based ActBlue, an online liberal fundraiser.
If that's true, then about 22 percent of the money Schauer raised last quarter came in over the internet. When looking at just individual contributions, that's about 29 percent.

Is raising money on the internet inherently good for a candidate? Well, no. Money is money, and a candidate will take it via any means available. But it's also at least 29 percent of Schauer's contributions that aren't coming in the smoke-filled rooms or behind-the-scenes deals. Strong internet fundraising means that a candidate has strong support from more than big-money interests. The more raised over the internet, the more evidence there is that a candidate is "people-powered."

I just thought it was an interesting item.

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When I went to Schauer's campaign website to contribute, it took me to the ActBlue site, which is where I donated. Since I didn't mail the campaign a check directly, it shows up as going through ActBlue. It all ends up in the same place's not a true reflection of ActBlue's power
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