CAMBRIDGE — The new headquarters
of ActBlue, with its tangled cords, leftover Deval Patrick signs, and
20-somethings tapping on white MacBook laptops, is what a political
campaign would look like if it shared space with a dot-com start-up.
ActBlue is in fact both — an Internet-based
political action committee that is quietly becoming one of the biggest
forces in Democratic politics. Its founders aim for nothing short of
revolution, and they are already partway there.
The PAC, operated
from a former architecture studio on Arrow Street near Harvard Square,
functions as an online clearinghouse for campaign contributions to
Democrats of all stripes, allowing anyone in the country to donate any
allowable amount to any candidate with the click of a mouse: You send
the money to ActBlue (actblue.com), and ActBlue funnels it to the campaigns. This gives local, state, and national Democratic candidates a cheap, efficient means of building a base of supporters over the Internet.
simple but transformative concept has raised $25.5 million and counting
since its creation in Cambridge in 2004, when two computer-savvy
scientists with liberal leanings set out to take political action in a
new direction. They believed that armies of small donors, mobilized
effectively, could be more potent than the “bun dlers” who have
dominated fund-raising by amassing checks from wealthy contributors.
with that philosophy ascendant and the 2008 presidential campaign
breaking all fund-raising records, ActBlue has become a unique bundler
of the unbundled. It is reshaping political
fund-raising and giving the Democratic Party a powerful, lasting
resource for presidential contests, state legislative races, and
everything in between.
“There’s a huge opportunity to involve
many times more people in this process than we currently have,” said
Benjamin Rahn, 30, a Harvard graduate who suspended his doctoral work
in theoretical physics at the California Institute of Technology to
found ActBlue with Matt DeBergalis, 29, a technology whiz out of MIT.
in coordination with campaigns, bloggers, and individuals across the
country, has funneled donations to 1,500 Democratic candidates to date.
It moved $17 million to candidates in the 2005-2006 election cycle,
including about $15.5 million to congressional campaigns, part of a
tide of support that flipped the House and Senate to Democratic control.
appears to have been far and away the biggest direct donor to
congressional candidates of either party last fall. “They are
revolutionizing approaches to fund-raising,” said Anthony Corrado, a
specialist on campaign finance at Colby College.
DeBergalis say they are just getting started. They predict confidently
that they will move $100 million in the 2007-2008 cycle.
their fund-raising this year suggests that the PAC will be an even
bigger player in the months ahead. Through the end of June, ActBlue had
already raised $6.6 million in 2007. In the last off-year, 2005, it
took ActBlue 12 months to raise $1.6 million. The 28,925 new
contributors who signed up in April, May, and June of this year
represented 13 percent of its overall number of contributors.
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