As ActBlue has grown over the past seven years, one of the challenges that we have gladly faced is too much demand. Not to pat ourselves on the back too much, but we think we've met this demand pretty well: we've sent money to every state in the country, plus DC and the Marianas Islands. In addition to the federal and state races that we're known for, we regularly get inquiries for every local office imaginable,* including such tiny offices as Clerk of the Court in Charlottesville, VA and Chester County, PA Recorder of Deeds.
I have to admit, these inquiries make my day. Municipal officials are the Democratic bench – countless well-known Democrats started off as city councilors and county commissioners – and they make a real difference in bringing Democratic values to public policy. However, until 2009, we were unable to offer our services to any of them.
While that may seem crazy (after all, most mayoral races are bigger than state legislative races), it actually gets into the guts of why ActBlue is so different from any other political technology out there. In order for our model as a nonprofit PAC to work, we had to do legal gruntwork in every single state we are active in to make sure we were doing everything by the book. We were founded in 2004 with the goal of helping federal candidates, and by 2008 we were active in all 50 states. No other PAC has been able to function effectively in so many states, and it took a lot of work to do so.
In 2009, then, we got to start that whole process over for every local jurisdiction we wanted to help. Just like they did with each state, our legal team has to vet every new town, city, or county that we want to offer ActBlue's services in. We started off with six municipalities: Boston, San Francisco, Charlotte, Cleveland, Houston, and Cook County (IL), and by the end of 2009, 21 candidates (including Houston Mayor-elect Annise Parker) had raised over $160,000. Not too shabby, especially given the limited number of candidates running, and more than enough to convince us to continue expanding.
Since then, we've more than quadrupled the size of our local races project. We are now active in over 40 municipalities nationwide**, easily outpacing our rate of expansion to the various states. Over 90 candidates and committees have raised over $1.2 million, including the mayors of Charlotte, Philadelphia, Houston, and Oakland, and we're still expanding to new cities every month.
In the short run, this means more Democrats can take advantage of our tools for online small-dollar fundraising, which means more elected officials who listen to their constituents and grassroots supporters instead of donors who can buy a seat at the table. In the long run, however, this means something much bigger. By helping this generation of the Democratic bench to realize the power of grassroots fundraising, we will ensure that the next generation of Democratic Representatives, Senators, and Governors do the same. That's the big picture, and that's why we're investing in the next Charlottesville Clerk of the Court now.
*Not actually including dogcatcher.