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In November, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg will be term-limited out of office, and will no longer hold the title of “Hizzoner.” For the first time in 12 years, the mayoralty will once again be up for grabs, along with at least 22 city council seats, and 4 out of 5 borough presidencies. That’s why we’re excited to announce that after months of work with our partner, the New York City Campaign Finance Board, we are offering our fundraising tools to the city’s municipal candidates–from the mayoral candidates on down–including those who will receive public matching funds.

Here at ActBlue, we’ve always been about making your voice heard, helping you pool the resources of your supporters to increase your impact, and making sure that no donation, no candidate, no vision is too small.

The Board is proactive when it comes to regulating money in politics, and their efforts have created one of the country’s best public financing systems. Naturally, the system comes with strict regulations, especially for credit cards processed online. This means that smaller campaigns don’t always have the opportunity to fundraise online because of time constraints and prohibitive costs–which translates into lost opportunities and fewer connections with supporters. However, since ActBlue shifts much of the resulting burden of compliance and legal work from local campaigns to our staff, even the smallest NYC campaign can now raise money online using our tools.

When candidates sign up for ActBlue, they’re also getting a chance to tap into our community of 500,000 registered ActBlue Express users. They are our most dedicated donors, who make most of their political contributions through ActBlue and convert at a significantly higher rate due to our one-click donation process. This gives candidates a higher return on their fundraising initiatives, making the program a great resource for our campaigns. We’re excited to share it with NYC candidates so they can benefit as well.

Most of the money raised through ActBlue comes in the form of small dollar donations – $50.27 was the average donation during the last election cycle. That’s important for New York City, where candidates can receive matching funds of up to $6 per dollar donated on contributions under $175. ActBlue was built specifically for grassroots fundraising, and we couldn’t pass on a chance to team up with a city that supports our vision.

We hope you’ll take a look around the site, search for your favorite New York City candidates, spread the word or sign up here. No campaign is too small–or too big–to start putting power in the hands of supporters.

 

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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.

Over at Greg Sargent's blog, Adam Serwer (who also blogs at the American Prospect) has a good post up on the GOP reaction to President Obama's executive order requiring contractors who do business with the federal government to disclose their political donations. 

I predicted the GOP would react this way in an earlier post, but I didn't expect the additional layer of irony that is John Yoo arguing for "a right to political privacy" in the Wall Street Journal. John Yoo, you'll recall, is the guy who said the President could order a village massacred. He's the guy who wrote the torture memos and argued that the fourth amendment doesn't apply to the War on Terror. That exemption was the basis for the warrantless wiretapping program exposed by the New York Times in 2005. And the final sign that Yoo is way out on a limb here is simply that Justice Antonin Scalia disagrees with him:

[R]unning a democracy takes a certain amount of civic courage. And the First Amendment does not protect you from criticism or even nasty phone calls when you exercise your political rights…

So, to recap, according to John Yoo, the American people don't have any right to privacy. The government can seize your phone records, lock you away forever, have you tortured, and whatever else seems like it might stop the terrorists. But should Uncle Sam ask contractors that stand to benefit financially from their campaign donations to disclose who they're giving to–well, that would be government overreach.

Since this issue is complicated, let me boil it down to a few key facts:

  1. The Supreme Court has explicity rejected the argument that disclosure "chills speech." When you speak using your voice, people know that it's you speaking. The same should be true when you speak using your money. 
  2. In Citizens United v. FEC, the Supreme Court specifically called for disclosure: "[w]ith the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters… citizens can see whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests."
  3. The Republican Party has blocked off all other avenues for protecting disclosure. The DISCLOSE Act "failed" in the Senate, as a 59-39 majority in favor of it was insuffient to overcome a Republican filibuster. And our General Counsel has written extensively about the way in which the 3-3 Republican-Democrat split in the FEC has rendered the body impotent. The executive order was hardly the preferred option.

Those three facts and the choice of John Yoo as messenger should tell you everything you need to know about the sincerity, coherence and good intentions that underlie the GOP's position on disclosure. 

Read the editorial, it's a masterwork of mendacity, a cavalcade of calumnies, a fraudulent fantasy penned by a man who shouldn't have an iota of credibility on matters of speech, privacy or democracy. On a personal note, I find the sickest thing about Yoo's editorial to be its view that the assault, imprisonment and murder of Civil Rights supporters and disclosure laws are equally injurious to our democracy. Taking a beating in the press is in no way the same as actually taking a beating

Recently a couple of stories broke about attempts to bring disclosure back into the political fundraising process. The first was about a draft executive order that will make it harder for federal contractors to use campaign finance vehicles like American Crossroads GPS to support candidates without disclosing that fact. The second article covers DCCC chairman Rep. Chris Van Hollen's (D-MD) suit against the FEC as part of an attempt to get that very same group (Crossroads GPS) to disclose its donors. 

Neither article mentions the larger context:

In 2010, a Republican filibuster doomed the DISCLOSE act in the Senate. The DISCLOSE act was a response to the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v FEC, and would've enacted the disclosure requirements explicitly called for by Justice Anthony Kennedy in his majority opinion. Republicans killed the bill because they knew disclosure would limit the amount of money they could raise through vehicles like Crossroads GPS. There are plenty of corporations out there that support Republicans, but not all of them are looking to be Target

With the Senate deadlocked, the FEC seemed like another route for protecting disclosure. Unfortunately, it's also paralyzed. By law, the FEC is composed of 3 Democratic and 3 Republican comissioners. As in the Senate, the Republican members of the FEC are hostile to anything that might increase disclosure and bring transparency into the system. So the FEC remains deadlocked (for more on exactly how/why this is happening, see the link above).

That context is important because, when the legislative and regulatory routes are closed down by Republican obstruction, only the courts and executive branch remain. Any right-wing vitriol directed against these measures that doesn't acknowledge the GOP's role in closing off all other routes is an attempt to deceive the audience.  

The issue of disclosure is of critical importance to our democracy. Think of it this way: speech, as most of us understand it, is associated with identifiable voices. Accordingly, if money is speech, we need to know who is speaking. When that link breaks down, it's hard for voters–and the reporters they depend on–to tell what interests are moving through our political process. The advertisements run by Mom 'n Pop Apple Pie Shop could be a underwritten by money from Big Pie, and there'd be no way for anyone to know. Ultimately, there's no way to make an informed decision about who to vote for if you don't and can't know who's backing them.

One option is to take money out of politics, but I'm not sure there's an effective way to use politics to keep money out of politics. If you accept the proposition that interest groups can affect political outcomes, then it seems only natural that they'd work to ensure their main avenue for exerting that influence isn't cut off by an act of Congress. Even if you're willing to assume a perfect piece of campaign finance legislation, you still run into the problem that the law is constantly evolving. A decision down the road that couldn't possibly have been forseen can punch a hole through even the most well-crafted campaign finance law. In fact, we just saw that very thing happen with the Citizens United decision that undermined years of precedent and opened huge gaps in McCain-Feingold. 

That reality is why ActBlue is so important. We're taking the most settled aspect of campaign finance law (the right of individuals to give to candidates) and using it as a way to demonstrate that small donors can have a powerful voice in our politics. By disclosing those donations, we're working to remove the stigma of political giving and make it an easy and regular part of American life. In the end, we're working to restore the very confidence in our political system that Republicans are actively undermining in search of an ever larger, ever less accountable grip on our political system.

In a pair of articles for the New York Times, Michael Luo delves into the role that anonymous donors are playing in the 2010 elections. Oddly, given his subject matter, he doesn't address the ways in which anonymity conditions what we are willing to say and how we say it.

Anyone who has glanced at a comment thread in the last ten years knows that anonymity and vitriol are intimately linked. Anonymous speakers are insulated from the consequences of their words, and that disconnect inevitably leads to harsher speech. Things we wouldn't say to a stranger on the street are happily tossed around in chat rooms and on forums.

That occurs because anonymity means less accountability: speech by unknown speakers can't rebound to their detriment, though it can damage both the target and the means through which that message was conveyed. That, in turn, incentivizes nastier messages conveyed through disposable conduits. In internet lingo, a flame war started by someone with an anonymous or misleading handle can damage its target, and the reputation of the forum as a whole long before it hurts the author.

These habits have their analogues in our politics. The astonishing growth and success (h/t CRP) of right-wing outside groups this cycle is about damaging Democrats through what are ultimately expendable conduits. Speaking through the ads aired by these organizations, GOP donors are able to elide not one, but two questions: who are you, and what does this ad mean if your guy wins?

Anonymity is the guarantor of security in both cases. It ensures the first question goes unanswered, and prevents the press from doing much more than guesswork when it comes to the second. When a harsh ad debuts, the donor needn't worry about reporters asking them whether they endorse the content. Any politician who benefits from the ad has enough room to distance himself from its content, during the campaign and afterward.

In short, the GOP filibuster of the DISCLOSE Act didn't just enable unlimited spending by anonymous donors. These groups–if they or their equivalents persist after election day–will slowly lead us down the path toward politics-as-flame-war.

Meg Infantino, Treasurer for Sestak For Senate:

ActBlue has been an essential, integral part of our grassroots fundraising efforts.

We've always used ActBlue, starting with Joe Sestak's initial, successful run for Congress back in 2006. That year, Joe led all U.S. House candidates in online fundraising, with contributions totaling almost $1M. Congressman Sestak matched that success during his 2008 re-election campaign, once again leading all US. House candidates with over $1M in online contributions.  Our campaign continues to break new ground this cycle, leading all U.S. Senate candidates on ActBlue with total contributions totaling over $2M and continuing to flow.

ActBlue's ease of use and low cost enabled us to set up our online fundraising operation swiftly, and the knowledge and responsiveness of their support staff continues to impress, year after year. Lastly, but most importantly, ActBlue enables us to receive next-day wire transfers of the money we raise on their site, and that speed is a crucial part of executing a winning campaign strategy in the closing weeks of the election.

ActBlue has been–and continues to be–a valuable partner in offering a convenient and powerful way for our supporters to make a difference in our campaign. Our grassroots campaign doesn't rely on establishment support; for us, and for any successful Democrat, ActBlue is the only way to go!

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