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Monthly Archives: May 2011

On Wednesday, the Washington Post broke the news that the American Action Network, a Republican "charitable organization" along the lines of American Crossroads GPS, was financed entirely by 11 checks, with 82% of its funding coming from just three donors.

AAN and Crossroads GPS are not required to disclose donor information and can protect donors from any blowback that might result from their decision to influence the political process or the specific ways in which AAN/Crossroads GPS employ their money to accomplish that goal. As a result, donors get to have their cake and eat it too: they're largely invisible to the American voter, but highly influential within the small community of policymakers that make legislative decisions. It's an appealing proposition.

There are a number of significant downsides to this arrangement, however. Before I get into them, I'd like to be clear: there's no problem with giving money to political candidates. There's no problem with giving a lot of money to political candidates. There is a problem with giving undisclosed money to political candidates. 

At the most basic level, disclosure is a mental shortcut for voters. It's a way for them to consider the source, to divine what interests believe supporting this candidate is in their interest. If that information isn't available, it undermines democratic accountability. If voters can't get access to any information about who is backing whom, their role in the political process becomes little more than a patina of consent on top of a structure they are prevented from informing themselves about.

So you have a situation in which, over the long term, rational actors are undermining the very system they depend on. Politicians need to finance their campaigns and want to outraise their opponents. Their donors want to insulate themselves from the consequences of their speech. The tragic irony is that in doing so, they are sawing the foundations of a functioning democracy–information and accountability–out from underneath themselves. Left to its own devices, the emerging situation becomes a race to the bottom: who can raise the most money while revealing the least information about its source. It's not hard to see how that worsens what Prof. Larry Lessig calls "institutional corruption," and ultimately paralyzes our government. 

That's why what we do here at ActBlue is so important. Our platform gives small donors a stake in the process and enables them to make themselves felt in major races, while also preserving the transparency that's key to a stable democracy. That transparency, in turn, lets donors assess the impact of their donations in aggregate, which makes them more likely to give again. In short, our virtuous cycle counteracts the vicious cycle kickstarted by Citizens United. 

 

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Congressional gridlock, persistent unemployment, President Obama’s re-election chances–none of these will be a problem for Democrats after this Saturday. According to Christian radio host Harold Camping, May 21st, 2011 is the date the Rapture will occur:

I know it’s absolutely true, because the Bible is always absolutely true.

You can check his math here, though if it’s been a while since you took Algebra I and you’re not sure what (atonement x completeness x Heaven)^2 is, you may need to crack the textbook. Also note that Mr. Camping’s track record isn’t spotless; the original Rapture date was September 1994, but a mathematical error skewed his calculations.

However, as a political organization, we like to focus on the political ramifications of God’s elect being called to his side.

Congress

The gridlock that has stymied the Democratic agenda will clear up, as congressional delegations lose their most moralistic members and those Representatives that remain are, presumably, too embarrassed to engage in high profile obstruction. Relatedly, Republicans will no longer need to pander to hardline social conservatives and will compromise with Democrats to address the unending destruction unleashed upon humankind.

Labor

Unemployment will fall as the elect leave the workforce, opening up more positions and reducing competition for those positions. The improving economy will bolster the chances of Democrats up and down the ballot in 2012, and should assure President Obama–or, should he be called, his designated successor–of a smooth path to re-election.

Catastrophe

That’s not to say there’s no bad news for Democrats. The sun will go dark, putting a dagger through the heart of solar power initiatives, and the people of Judea will flee to the mountains, further complicating the peace process that President Obama recently put at the center of his foreign policy. There will be additional wars, famines and earthquakes, as well as a series of devastating meteorite impacts across the world.

That said, financial armageddon should be somewhat easier to avert in a post-Rapture House of Representatives, which would be more amenable to a clean debt ceiling vote, and it seems unlikely that Wall Street will be significantly impacted by Saturday’s events. In fact, rising commodity prices should offset the recent crash in that market, and there will be significant new opportunities for currency arbitrage due to volatile exchange rates.

Finally, depending on your interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 4:16, “the dead in Christ will rise first,” you may want to familiarize yourself with the CDC’s recent Emergency Preparedness and Response guidelines.

The torrent of grassroots money flowing into Wisconsin peaked in March, but it continues flowing in April, funding a variety of organizations that are laying the groundwork for the summer’s recall elections.

Number of contributions 51,733
Total raised $2,581,828.41
Average Contribution size $49.91
Committees receiving money 678
Fundraising pages receiving money 763
Pages created 350

 

Here’s how those numbers stack up relative to 2009, and to the same point in the last presidential election cycle.

Apr 2007 Apr 2009 Apr 2011 Change
Contributions 6,978 7,260 51,733 613%
Volume ($) $641,530.81 $1,001,479.07 $2,581,828.41 158%
Mean Donation $91.94 $137.94 $49.91 -64%
Committees 200 434 678 56%

 

As you can see, ActBlue surpassed last cycle’s numbers by leaps and bounds, while the pool of donors grew considerably. That growth speaks to our success at reducing the barriers to entry in political fundraising, and to the commitment of thousands of grassroots donors across the United States.

Here are the five top committees, by number of donors, for April 2011.

Name Race Donors Dollars
PCCC Wisconsin Recall Fund Organization 21,190 $176,242
PCCC Organization 20,223 $166,820
DfA, Wisconsin Recall Organization 18,729 $158,910
Democracy for America Organization 14,409 $103,413
WI State Senate Democratic Committee Organization 3,213 $47,883

 

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