Archive

Author Archives: actblueblog

Relative to our numbers last cycle and the cycle before, ActBlue has seen steady growth in volume and an explosion in grassroots giving related to the upcoming recalls.

ActBlue’s Q2 numbers speak to the seismic impact of Gov. Scott Walker’s (R-WI) overreach in Wisconsin. Five months after his decision to bust public employee unions in Wisconsin first made the headlines, recall committees hold positions 3-4 on the ActBlue leaderboard, with contribution sizes around $10.

Moreover, their success has not gone unnoticed, eliciting attacks on them and ActBlue itself from George Allen and writers on Andrew Breitbart’s big government site.

Number of contributions 142,042
Total raised $9,113,502.20
Average Contribution size $64.16
Committees receiving money 1,106

 

Here’s how those numbers stack up relative to 2009, and to the same point in the last presidential election cycle (2007). Change is calculated with 2009 as the baseline.

Q2 2007 Q2 2009 Q2 2011 Change
Contributions 25,714 31,677 142,042 348%
Volume ($) $3,387,613.13 $6,076,573.92 $9,113,502.20 50%
Mean Donation $131.74 $191.83 $64.16 -66%
Committees 449 810 1,106 36%

 

Here are the five top committees, by number of donors, for Q2 2011.

Name Race Donors Dollars
PCCC Organization 31,718 $310,983
Democracy for America Organization 29,395 $336,451
DFA Wisconsin Recall Organization 22,103 $221,882
PCCC Recall Committee (WI) Organization 21,323 $199,032
Kathy Hochul NY-26 14,640 $616,094

Candidates replaced organizations on the leaderboard in June, as Wisconsin state senate candidates received support in advance of July’s recall elections. Stay tuned for our end of quarter summary tomorrow, which will outline the shape of Democratic giving on ActBlue in the second quarter of this year.

Number of contributions 57,679
Total raised $3,852,947.56
Average Contribution size $66.80
Committees receiving money 862
Fundraising pages receiving money 945
Pages created 505

 

Here’s how those numbers stack up relative to 2009, and to the same point in the last presidential election cycle (2007). Change is calculated with 2009 as the baseline.

Jun 2007 Jun 2009 Jun 2011 Change
Contributions 15,033 19,490 57,679 196%
Volume ($) $2,063,208.94 $3,880,980.16 $3,852,947.56 -.7%
Mean Donation $137.25 $199.13 $66.80 -66%
Committees 354 617 862 39%

 

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

Name Race Donors Dollars
PCCC Organization 11,829 $106,416
Democracy for America Organization 9,839 $121,607
Jessica King WI-SD-18 7,643 $74,841
Shelly Moore WI-SD-10 7,302 $51,393
Sandy Pasch WI-SD-08 7,298 $52,408

May was an interesting month. Kathy Hochul’s race in NY-26 was obviously the headliner, but ActBlue grew relative to April thanks to a variety of other committees posting five-figure totals. It also saw the first appearance of the DCCC in the ActBlue monthly leaderboard.

Number of contributions 45,787
Total raised $2,679,384.73
Average Contribution size $58.52
Committees receiving money 728
Fundraising pages receiving money 789
Pages created 400

 

Here’s how those numbers stack up relative to 2009, and to the same point in the last presidential election cycle (2007). Change is calculated with 2009 as the baseline.

May 2007 May 2009 May 2011 Change
Contributions 6,748 7,806 45,787 486%
Volume ($) $682,873.38 $1,194,114.69 $2,679,384.73 124%
Mean Donation $101.20 $152.97 $58.52 -62%
Committees 282 527 728 38%

 

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

Name Race Donors Dollars
Kathy Hochul NY-26 14,132 $542,786
Democracy for America Organization 7,042 $111,431
PCCC Organization 3,961 $37,746
DCCC Organization 3,134 $69,660
DailyKos Organization 1,963 $25,597

Over at DailyKos, David Nir has a post up asking "what ever happened to the right's version of ActBlue?" It's a good question. As David shows, the right's attempts to replicate our success have resulted in failure after failure. (He misses my all-time favorite, StandUpRed, which is a word-for-word copy of our website.)

Part of the answer to that question lies in the surreal tale of ActRight, as related by Republican Louis J. Marinelli. In brief, ActRight was apparently intended to be an astroturf arm of NOM, based out of a vacant lot in a non-existent area code in Washington D.C. And the underlying weirdness of ActRight speaks to the central tension that's currently roiling the right: their keen appreciation for the symbolic power of grassroots politics and their near-total aversion to it in practice.

The GOP establishment welcomed movement conservatism and the religious right into the Republican fold in the early 80s to help them compete in federal elections. The logic was straightforward: a little lipservice to social conservative rhetoric would give them the votes they'd need to roll back tax rates on corporations and the top income brackets. And though the Rockefeller Republicans who masterminded that Faustian bargain are now all but extinct, that was pretty much the game until now.

But the groups ushered in under Reagan weren't content with their lot as rubes to be shaken down for votes, and slowly increased their clout in congress. As Nate Silver has shown, in 2010 these very conservative voters turned out at a much higher rate than moderates or liberals, finally capturing the Republican Party.

Today, issues like the debt ceiling have put the conservative grassroots at loggerheads with Republican business elites. Moderate Republicans have nowhere to go. They'll be punished for providing anything less than total victory, and punished all the harder if a compromise agreement involves concessions to Democrats. However, if they don't compromise, they'll send the economy back into recession, alienate their fundraising base, and severely damage their presidential prospects. 

A tool like ActBlue for the right only worsens that problem. It would empower exactly the sort of candidates and donors the GOP establishment doesn't want empowered. Their highly insular fundraising networks are one of the only ways they have to keep the wolves at bay; their stranglehold on congressional leadership positions is another. Access to the former is the key to the latter. Until the tension between GOP activists and elites is resolved, Republican attempts to replicate our platform will continue to founder, or limp along as particularly sad patches of astroturf.

Last week, much of the ActBlue office packed our bags and headed to Minneapolis for Netroots Nation 2011 for an opportunity to mingle with our users and fans–thanks to all of you who dropped by our booth for your kind words.

Reflecting on the conference, a number of press figures referred to the atmosphere as "dispirited," or other adjectives amounting to roughly the same thing. I attended panels on campaign finance, the courts, and Afghanistan, and what I saw in those panels was the maturing of a movement. Though the 2010 elections largely obliterated the giddiness of '06-'08, it also gave Democrats a sense of the breadth of the field they need to play on.

Republicans are pushing their agenda at every level: in the states, through the courts, and in Congress. The progressives gathered at Netroots Nation were focused on how they could impact issues that are decided far from the federal battlefields they won in '06 and '08, like campaign finance regulations, court appointments, state laws and national security decisions.

In that sense, "energy" is a really poor gauge of how successful the conference was. Any large, long-term project isn't going to be amenable to the sort of triumphalism and buzz that is the pulse of politics as measured by the media. I'd urge people to look instead at markers of success like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee's $3 million raised from 190,000 donors on ActBlue. As POLITICO notes, they are "loaded for battle," a remarkable feat of grassroots fundraising for a group that didn't exist in 2008. Moreover, the PCCC has elected to play a broad role, engaging in federal primaries and working hard to support the recall efforts in Wisconsin. 

The PCCC's combination of talented organizing and effective fundraising through ActBlue means they can engage people and issues that wouldn't get attention otherwise and bring them to the forefront of politics. Progressives looking to do the same in other areas might want to take a cue from them. 

It's worth noting that the RightOnline Convention, in contrast, featured plenty of energy–a firebreathing speech from Michelle Bachmann, a little lighthearted Obama minstrelsy, and an invasion of NN11 by Andrew Breitbart–but the underlying reality was rather grim:

“We’re trying to compete with ActBlue but they’re way, way ahead of us. We’re playing catch-up,” said John Hawkins of Right Wing News. “Their panels are for advanced activism. This is basic, for getting into activism.” A sign in the hallway of RightOnline advertised “proven technology used by millions of Democrats.”

Indeed.

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.

** Full list: 
Every city and county in Virginia; Arapahoe County, CO; Austin; Ayer, MA; Boston; Baltimore; Cambridge; Charlotte; Chicago; Cleveland; Columbus, OH; Cook County, IL; Cottage Grove, MN; Dallas; Denver; El Paso County, CO; Franklin County, OH; Houston; Indianapolis and Marion County, IN; Island County, WA; Jacksonville; Jefferson County, CO; King County, WA; Los Angeles; Madison, WI; Malden, MA; Medfield, MA; Memphis; Miami-Dade County, FL; New Bedford, MA; Newton, MA; Oakland; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Pittsburgh; Portland, OR; San Francisco; Scituate, MA; Somerville, MA; Southbridge, MA; Waltham, MA; Washington, DC; Yonkers, NY. If you want us to include your city or town, email us at info@actblue.com.

 

As a follow-on to my previous post, I'd like to emphasize that groups like American Action Network and Crossroads GPS are not infrastructure in the ActBlue sense. 

These groups are a means for very wealthy individuals–upon whom AAN and GPS depend to survive–to influence our electoral process through large undisclosed donations. Those donations aren't popular among the electorate, and the organizations themselves exist largely as a result of the Citizens United decision and the disarray of the RNC under Chairman Steele. It's a winning combination of dependence, insecurity and loathing: dependent on a small number people, founded in shifting legal ground, and widely loathed by the American people. 

ActBlue is rooted in the least controversial aspect of campaign finance law: the ability of actual (not corporate) persons to give to campaigns. The sort of giving our platform enables is tremendously important to a community of donors over a million strong, and is exactly the sort of credential candidates like to burnish. 

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. 

 

6a00d834564b8869e20154326d835e970c

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

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 27 other followers