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I've talked about the central role that transparency plays getting your fundraising momentum noticed as it's happening. As confirmation, today we have this article by Ryan Grim at the Huffington Post on the gathering pace of small-dollar fundraising around the public option:

Two freshman Democrats who launched a Senate effort to revive the public option have been rewarded by small online donors for their activism. ActBlue, which raises funds and is closely associated with the blogosphere, has seen more than $150,000 come in from more than 8,000 individual donors. That's an average contribution of less than $20.

I'd like to point out a couple of things here: first, ActBlue didn't raise that money. We built the infrastructure that enabled the PCCC/DfA push to rack up $150,000 in 48 hrs, but it wouldn't have happened without the efforts of the candidates and organizations involved and the response from their donors. Each of those things–infrastructure, organizing, response–are necessary but not sufficient conditions for this type of success. Second, they're getting press coverage precisely because Ryan was able to see their numbers. Without that ability, the story doesn't get written. That's the difference between ActBlue and Generic Payment Processor X. Back to the article:

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)
individually raised $70,000 and $40,000, respectively. Bennet, who is
facing a primary challenge in Colorado, led the effort, circulating
what became known as the "Bennet letter," which called on Senate
Majority Leader Reid (D-Nev.) to include a public option in a final
health care bill moved through reconciliation, which only requires a
majority vote. Gillibrand was an original cosigner, along with freshman
Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

Two progressive groups that led the organizing effort also
benefited. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) and
Democracy for America each raised over 20,000 from more than 4,000
donors, for an average contribution of $5.

As late as last week, the consensus was that the public option was dead. Whatever the final outcome of this round of legislation, the ability of these groups to revive a progressive idea, generate buy-in from vulnerable legislators, and buttress that effort with small-dollar donations from real, non-corporation Americans should be considered a signal of things to come.

Yesterday, Nancy Scola asked whether the Netroots could affect the legislative process, and I pointed out that transparent, online fundraising is critical to, in her words, "[pushing] Democrats out in favor of a progressive priority, and then make
the experience a pleasant one for the senator or representative." On the heels of that conversation comes Brian Beutler's TPMDC piece, How Outside Groups And Vulnerable Dems Gave The Public Option A New Pulse. Read it. The story is aptly summarized by a Senate aide, who said:

I would credit a lot the Netroots and then working with members who
had already been previously supportive, and members who have been in
tough positions for re-election.

According to Beutler's sources, the public option was revived by organizations like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) and Democracy for America (DfA), in concert with with Sen. Bennet and Sen. Gillibrand, and Reps. Pingree and Polis.

ActBlue has helped knit that diverse coalition together. The PCCC, DfA, and Sens. Gillibrand and Bennet are at the top of ActBlue's hot candidates and committees list, with Bennet banking nearly 1.5M on ActBlue. The PCCC and DfA were #1 and 3 on ActBlue's list of top 10 committees of 2009, separated only by the overnight (literally) success of Rob Miller. Rep. Pingree raised $730,000 on ActBlue for her 2008 election, while Rep. Polis came in at $510,000.

Now, I don't mean to shortchange the tremendous work that PCCC and DfA have done around this issue. But their ability to convince vulnerable legislators to work the inside game has a lot to do with their demonstrated fundraising power. In other words, their persuasive power is rooted in the idea that there is a cash constituency out there for progressive ideas, an idea that ActBlue has helped make clear, time and time again.

On TPM's editor's blog, Josh Marshall mused

Just a couple weeks ago, not only did reform seem pretty much dead but
any thought that a public option would be included in a deal seemed
pretty much crazy. And yet, out of the blue, through a pretty organic
and somewhat fortuitous process, it's back.

I think you have to give ActBlue credit for helping make that process possible.

The country needs and, unless I mistake its temper, the country demands
bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method
and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above
all, try something.

That was President Frankin Delano Roosevelt in 1932, and his last injunction, “but above all, try something,” seems to have reached Washington D.C. almost 80 years after it was first uttered. On Monday the White House released a healthcare reform plan, and both President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have signaled their willingness to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate bills through–you guessed it–reconciliation.

That movement toward a majority vote on healthcare reform didn’t happen by accident, nor can the re-introduction of the public option be attributed purely to the subtle and inscrutable shifts of power within our nation’s capitol. I happen to think that Nancy Scola, on Techpresident, has it right:

The targeted, sophisticated grassroots drive now unfolding to provide political cover to the nearly two dozen Senate Democrats who signed the so-called Bennet letter, calling on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to include the public option in the great debate over health care reconciliation, is shaping up to be a something of a case study in how the “netroots” might force change by tweaking the legislative process as it functions today. The trick? To push Democrats out in favor of a progressive priority, and then make the experience a pleasant one for the senator or representative. Reward what is, in the eyes of the movement, good behavior, and create an environment where progressive political risk doesn’t necessarily trigger in politicians a negative response.

Or, to return to FDR:

I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.

A few weeks ago, I blogged about Larry Lessig’s idea of an economy of influence in Washington D.C. What Nancy underscores in her post is the beginning of an important and very welcome revision to that dynamic:

  • The Old Way: Lobbyists place phone calls to legislators, tantalizing them with the prospect of special interest money for future elections and, perhaps, a career as a lobbyist should the election go against them. The price of that deal? Servicing the policy needs of a given special interest.
  • The New Way: Americans advocating for the public option (a policy they support) where everyone can see it, in real time. As for the price, well, it’s hard to imagine that giving the American people the same voice in Washington that special interests already have is much of a burden.

Underlying our work at ActBlue is the belief that if you give Americans a means to speak to power, they will. In two days, 7,500 Americans have doled out almost $150,000 to support the public option. Last summer, another drive supporting the public option raised $400,000 in a week. In the midst of the worst recession since FDR urged Washington to “try something,” those accomplishments aren’t just news, they’re a testament to the faith that Americans have in our democracy.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama said:

We face a deficit of trust–deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years. To close that credibility gap we must take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; and to give our people the government they deserve.

In light of that statement, the early release of the White House healthcare plan and the televised summit with the GOP on Thursday confirm the basic intuition we have about our system of government: if we speak, we ought to be heard. And if we speak the language of Washington ($), we will be.

For more than forty years, everyone who works in
Massachusetts politics has done so in the shadow of  Senator Edward Kennedy and his passing will do little to
change that. ActBlue in particular owes him a profound debt of gratitude. When many in the
Democratic Party had yet to see the potential of ActBlue, Senator Kennedy
offered us his support and became an early champion of our goals.

We were proud to call him our senator and humbled to have
his blessing. Today, we celebrate his accomplishments and mourn his loss with
the rest of the country.

picture_1 Washington state’s
first top-two primary election was held yesterday, August 19, and
ActBlue superstar Darcy Burner has offered further proof of her
campaign’s building momentum in the weeks leading to the November
general elections.

Burner came within three points of Republican incumbent Dave
Reichert in yesterday’s primary, and left Reichert with fewer votes
than were cast for the three Democratic candidates. Burner and Reichert
will advance to the November round. (Washington State is one of few
jurisdictions to offer what’s called a ‘top-two primary,’ wherein the
two candidates who receive the most votes will advance to the general,
regardless of party affiliation.)

Burner has been one of ActBlue’s most successful candidates,
raising more than $420,000 this cycle from a whopping 11,300 donors. For more about Burner and the
race, see our video blog post from last week. 

gary_trauner

In Wyoming, Gary Trauner is officially the Democratic
nominee for
Congress. Trauner, a former elected official, has served as chair of
his school board and on the Jackson Hole Land Trust. An accomplished
entrepreneur, Trauner co-founded Cell Response Formulation and
OneWest.net and served as Vice President of Teton Trust Company. Trauner, who has been using ActBlue since 2006, has raised more than $215,000 on ActBlue this cycle. He
will stand against former State Treasurer Cynthia Lummis in November.

Congratulations to Darcy Burner, Gary Trauner, and their campaigns. And congratulations to all of you. Keep up the good work!

*ActBlue does not take sides in contested primaries, and does not endorse particular candidates for office.

ActBlue just released the following statement in response to the Obama campaign’s decision to opt out of the public financing system.

Barack Obama announced this week that his presidential campaign would be opting out of the public financing system.

The decision has been met with considerable, and we think misguided, consternation in the press.

As delightful as it can be to note, and be noted for noting, apparent
contradictions in the actions of public figures, we fear that the media
are missing the broader point here: that in an era of extraordinarily
complex politics, this most recent decision of the Obama campaign
undergirds, rather than undercuts, the campaign’s unwavering commitment
to participatory democracy.

Public financing could work, in a closed system, and it may well be
that such a system would carry certain advantages. But the system, as
it exists, is not closed; funds from special interests often drown out
public monies.

Recognizing this, the Obama campaign chose to opt out of public
financing. The grand irony, of course, is that it would have been
Obama’s other, and far more virtuous, choices-the decision not to
accept money from special interests and lobbyists, for instance-that
would have placed him at a disadvantage relative to the Republican
apparatus, which has not made similar commitments. Had Obama not opted
out, Democrats would have suffered from the apparently virtuous
constraints of the public financing system, gaining perhaps in public
perception but losing ground to a Republican machine that carried in
one hand the banner of campaign finance reform and in the other great
wads of checks from lobbyists.

To accept public financing, in Obama’s case, would have been to choose
a strategy because it looked virtuous. But there is nothing virtuous
about martyring a campaign for the passing glory of a good news cycle.
There is glory in victory, and there is virtue in playing fair. We hope
that the public sees this decision for what it is: a commitment to the
idea that the financing of elections should be the province of the
many, not of the few.

Jonathan Zucker
Executive Director

       
       
       
       
       
       

We hit a new record yesterday, and we’re pretty excited. That’s right: $50 million raised for Democrats since 2004. And we’re just getting started.

Here’s the release we just sent out, and a picture to mark the occasion.

picture_1

DEMOCRATIC FUNDRAISING ON ACTBLUE TOPS $50 MILLION

CAMBRIDGE, MA, JUNE 10, 2008– Democratic fundraising topped $50
million on ActBlue yesterday evening, signaling a surge in fundraising
well beyond the presidential contest. The $50 million total represents
contributions from more than 395,000 donors to more than 3000
candidates and committees, with a median contribution of $50.

Propelled by high numbers from, among others, Rick Noriega’s Texas
Senate campaign and Leslie Byrne’s bid for a Virginia Congressional
seat, ActBlue’s totals also reflect records from some unlikely
directions. In California’s Third Senate District, all four Democratic
primary challengers used ActBlue, raising more than $500,000 ahead of
last week’s primary. The victor in that contest, Mark Leno, raised more
than $227,000 from 600 donors, an ActBlue record for a state race.

“Small dollar donations are the key to Democratic strength, because as
we’ve seen with the Obama campaign, sustainability comes from being
able to return to your base and ask for help when you need it,” says
ActBlue’s executive director, Jonathan Zucker. “We’re building that
capacity for Democrats at every level. You don’t have to be a national
campaign to harness the power of small donors.”

ActBlue’s nearest Republican counterpart, Slatecard.com, has raised
$350,000 since 2007. (For comparison, ActBlue raised more than $890,000
in its first six months of operation.)

The nation’s largest source of funds for Democrats, ActBlue produces a
set of tools that allow individuals and groups to raise money for the
candidates and causes of their choice, tools that now power the
fundraising operations of hundreds of campaigns, from the state house
to the White House. Top fundraisers on ActBlue include groups from
every part of the Democratic spectrum, from establishment Democrats and
elected officials to insurgent Democratic candidates to networks of
prominent bloggers.

Another great day.

Thanks from all of us. Keep up the good work!

We’ve been extremely busy at ActBlue this week, as Democrats come together to support the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama.

After Senator Obama reached the delegate numbers needed to clinch the nomination on Tuesday night, we sent an email encouraging ActBlue Democrats to show their support by creating a personal fundraising page for Obama.

Here is an excerpt of the email:

Now it’s time for Democrats to come together and start working for victory in November. ActBlue wants to help you do your part.

Build a personal fundraising page and ask each of your friends and family members to contribute to the Obama campaign.
Build it right here. Ask right now.

Join the legions of Democrats who are ready to fight.
Become a fundraiser and create a fundraising page.

Less than 36 hours later, dozens of people have taken up the fight for the White House and started fundraising for Obama on ActBlue. This morning, the Los Angeles Times cited these new ActBlue pages as "a measure of [Obama's] power on the Internet." As ActBlue is a barometer for the strength of Obama’s online support, we need you to get involved and prove that a united Democratic Party cannot and will not be defeated.

Keep the buzz going and build a page for our nominee, Barack Obama.

From all of us here at ActBlue, thanks.

Image Speier

Longtime Democratic activist and former state Senator Jackie Speier flies to Washington this morning after winning a special election yesterday to replace the late Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA). Speier took 78 percent of the vote in a field of five, and will represent California’s Twelfth Congressional District.

Image Carson

Speier will join two other ActBlue phenoms, Indiana’s Andre Carson and Bill Foster of Illinois, both elected in special elections in March, in the House after being sworn in on Thursday.

For anyone who doubts that special elections matter, or questions the need to fight for every seat, consider this: On the day that Bill Foster was sworn into office, replacing former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an ethics bill came up for a vote. Democrats eventually passed ethics reform legislation, but not without a struggle.

Image Foster

Before passage, House members had a chance to kill the bill without voting against it.

But the bill was kept alive by a single vote.

Foster’s.

This is why we fight, folks. Congratulations today to Jackie Speier, and to all of those who are working hard in every corner of the country for Democrats. We’re behind you all here at ActBlue.

Raw Numbers System-Wide

Total Contributions
2007 Q4 $5,581,770.40
2008 Q1 $7,091,127.39
Lifetime $42,351,009.00

The first quarter of 2008 represents 16.7% of lifetime
contributions made to ActBlue since 2004. This percentage is a 1.5%
increase from last quarter and sets ActBlue on a path to raise $100
million for Democrats by election day. 

Total Donors
2007 Q4 41,628
2008 Q1 54,918
Lifetime 357,341

The first quarter of 2008 represents 15.4% of all ActBlue donors since
2004, and an increase of 3.7% in donors from last quarter. As the
number of donors skyrockets, we want the number of fundraising pages to
soar as well.  You can help us reach our goal of adding 10,000 new
fundraising pages by election day by starting your own fundraising page
and reaching out to your personal network to raise money for Democrats.

Average Contribution
size made to ActBlue
2007 Q4 $134.08
2008 Q1 $129.12
Lifetime $118.42

The average contribution size for the first quarter of 2008 reflects a 4.1%
decrease in the average contribution from last quarter.  This decline
shows that individuals and organizations can create powerful
fundraising networks using small donations, which is what ActBlue is
all about.

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