The Top 10 Committees of 2009 by Donors

In our series of posts looking back at 2009 (here, here, & here) there was one list we had not yet made public. So, thanks to popular demand, we’d like to post ActBlue’s Top 10 most active campaigns and committees of all of 2009 when ranked by the number of donors.

 

Committee Race/Type
Contributions Amount
Progressive Change Campaign Committee 39,067 $1,064,408.90
Rob Miller SC-02, 2010 25,669 $957,982.61
Democracy for America 17,255 $416,754.76
No on 1 / Protect Maine Equality Ballot Question 17,125 $1,398,965.97
Alan Grayson FL-08, 2010 13,508 $462,324.84
FDL Action PAC 7,402 $235,973.94
Blue America PAC 5,859 $114,534.53
Gavin Newsom CA-Gov, 2010 4,481 $1,035,928.73
Eric Massa NY-29, 2010 3,493 $208,342.72
Barney Frank MA-04, 2010 3,427 $41,716.45

What a list! Five out of the 10 top committees ranked by total contributions are campaigns. Those campaigns are spread across five entirely different states in all corners of the county. They include challengers and incumbents, statewide and congressional races, and varying degrees of electoral competitiveness. Among the five non-candidate committees, we find a ballot question in Maine’s statewide marriage equality campaign, two Netroots blog based PACs, and Democracy for America (DFA). Topping the list for 2009 is the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) which raised over $1 million for the year. The PCCC and DFA collaborated on multiple joint fundraising pages in 2009 helping increase their total number of contributions and lift both committees to the top of our donor charts.

Congratulations to these 10 campaigns and organizations as well as the thousands of others that raised money through ActBlue in 2009. We’re well on our way to a bigger, better, and bluer year of fundraising in 2010.

If Trouble Was Money

At times, everything comes together. I work for ActBlue and I read Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias regularly. Sometimes I see Prof. Lessig in the distance when I head out for lunch. Yesterday, Ezra and Matt both had posts up about Lessig's presentation on institutional corruption that I wanted to address.

Part I: Lessig's Argument

The video is rather long, so I'll summarize. Lessig defines institutional corruption as follows:

Institutional corruption isn't Blagojevich. It's not bribery or any violation of any existing rules … [it's] a certain kind of influence within an economy of influence. It's institutional corruption if it (1) weakens the effectiveness of an institution to serve its purpose or (2) Weakens the public trust of that institution, leading to the inability of the institution to serve its purpose.

In other words, it's not so much about corruption within an institution as the corruption of the institution itself, or the appearance thereof. That last bit is important in Lessig's formulation: if everyone believes the institution to be corrupted, then it might as well be. They won't trust the process, and they won't trust the results–an idea that's validated to a certain extent by the unfolding healthcare reform crisis.

If you're onboard with that, you're probably wondering what the "economy of influence" Lessig mentions is. Briefly, it works like this:

Special interests have a lot of money, and are in search of favorable policy outcomes. They hire lobbyists, who promote their employer's preferred policy. Legislators grant these lobbyists access because 1) running a campaign is expensive, and lobbyists represent a lot of campaign cash and 2) once a legislator's campaigning days are over, lobbying is a pretty good way to make a living. That results in legislation that meets the needs of the interests that dispatched the lobbyists. So they send more.

In other words, everybody is being rational, but that way of doing business undermines public trust, produces severely compromised policy, and ultimately results in broken political institutions.

Part II: What Is To Be Done?

Driving the whole process is the fact that legislators need money to run their campaigns. If you take that out of the picture, both lobbyist access and the lobbying industry dry up, which also handily removes the lure of a potential second career as a lobbyist from a legislator's calculation.

Lessig advocates public financing for elections as the best way to create this alternate food source for federal campaigns. The problem is that he's just spent 45 minutes explaining why that can't happen. Robust public financing legislation would represent a system-wide failure of the "economy of influence." Assuming the political climate even allows legislators to consider such a bill, chances are it would be imperfect and riddled with loopholes that interests insert in order to exploit them later. Additionally, as the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC demonstrates, even imperfect campaign finance law isn't safe. Clearly, that alternate food source has to come from outside the Washington D.C. economy of influence. Transparency is also crucial, as part of reversing institutional corruption is restoring public trust. People have to know where the money is coming from.

ActBlue does that, and more. We track donors and dollars in real time. We report everything to the FEC. We are, in a word, transparent. Moreover, we work with campaigns at every level of politics. Annise Parker, the newly-elected mayor of Houston, has an ActBlue listing. So do Democratic state legislators and members of Congress. They and their staffers are learning a new participatory model for campaign fundraising. We are building a farm system for the Democratic Party, and the results are real. Read the quarter-by-quarter breakdown of our 2009 numbers for the data on that.

Rep. Donna Edwards, MD-04, said it best:

ActBlue removes the K Street lobbyists from the equation … [candidates] can actually act on their own, and work on policy that makes a difference in people’s lives.

Donna Edwards defeated 8-term incumbent Al Wynn in the 2008 Democratic primary. She raised $500,000 on ActBlue from 9,000 donors.  ActBlue unravels the economy of influence, one donor at a time. And we do it through methods I think Prof. Lessig would approve of. While I may disagree with him on the technical aspects, I agree with him on this:

We face as a nation an extraordinary range of critical problems that require serious attention … the responsibility we need to focus is the responsibility of the good people, the decent people, the people who could've picked up a phone. The responsibility of us.

I took the title of this post from a great blues tune by Albert Collins. There's a lyric that comes to mind whenever I get frustrated with American politics–and yes, political professionals do get frustrated with our political system, even as we work within it–that keeps me going. I think I'll end with it.

She said, 'I want you to be a winner / I love you, son, I don't want you to quit.'

ActBlue 2009: Executive Summary

While you should read the quarter-by-quarter analysis of ActBlue’s growth in 2009, the executive summary is as follows:

  • Volume ($) increased 84% over 2007
  • Volue (# of donations) increased 92% over 2007
  • The number of Democratic entities receiving money through ActBlue doubled relative to 2007
  • Successful fundraising pages increased 167% over 2007

It’s worth taking a moment to think about the two moments we’re comparing here. In 2007, the Democrats were fresh off an election that returned both houses of Congress to their control. The popularity of the GOP was tanking, and prospects for retaking the White House looked good.

In 2009 the Democrats had control of Congress and the White House, and were heading towards a midterm election. The anticipation that characterized 2007 had been replaced with the reality of governing. The country continued to struggle under the weight of a prolonged recession. Only a few states had elections.

Nevertheless, 241,000 ActBlue users, overwhelmingly small-dollar donors, combined to send more than $30M to Democratic candidates and committees.

ActBlue exists at the nexus of a number of accelerating trends, all of which share some responsibility for driving our growth in these unlikely circumstances. The main trend is the continued growth of the internet in American life, with an estimated 44% of American households having access. Subsidiary trends include online banking, which grew by 47%, and Twitter and Facebook, which saw an increase in unique visitors of 1382% and 228% respectively. Facebook’s user growth occurred primarily in the 35-54 year old demographic. Whether you’ve embraced the internet for transactional or social reasons, the trend line is clear: you are not alone.

In the past year, ActBlue pioneered integrations with Facebook and Twitter, allowing Democratic donors to give via tweet and share the fact that they’d contributed on both sites. In short, we’re meeting Democratic donors where they are, with overwhelmingly positive results.

The totals for 2009 are below–click to enlarge.

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Responding with strength

The real value of the Citizens United decision might be its crystal-clear affirmation of reality.  Like I said this morning, I'm not a fan of the decision.  But "corporate" money has always been in politics.  The Court itself noted that "political speech is so ingrained in this country’s culture that speakers find ways around campaign finance laws."

The problem is that it's not.  As a country, we don't spend nearly enough energy on politics.  Only a small minority of Americans contribute to candidates.  Campaign finance regulations may have been a comforting check on corporate interests, but they were never the most effective.  With corporations about to enjoy an unencumbered ability to spend money on political advocacy, we must respond with strength.  It's time for a better answer: one that builds a deeper political culture up from its base, friend to friend and community to community.

ActBlue counters corporate money

While I'm disappointed by the decision of the court in the matter of Citizens United v. FEC, we know that corporate money has always maneuvered around the legislative barriers erected by Congress. Moreover, the academic doomsaying around this issue overlooks an essential truth about American politics: millions of engaged Americans are always worth more than millions of corporate dollars.

Denying the agency and power of Americans feeds a culture of cynicism and disengagement that is antithetical to a healthy political process. If defeatist arguments carry the day, we will hand corporate interests a more significant victory than their money could ever buy.

ActBlue's success tells a different story. When we founded ActBlue in 2004, I knew that corporate donations would always be a significant factor in our political process. ActBlue is a counterweight, a means of balancing special interest money through Democratic mobilization. Our model has been proven. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have used ActBlue to raise $118,000,000 for Democrats. That's six times more money than the entire oil and gas industry gave to Democrats over the same period.

ActBlue allows Democrats to shape their political future in profound and enduring ways. Regardless of the court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC, that's change we can believe in.

Acting Blue in Texas: Annise Parker Wins in Houston

Democrats in Texas may not have won a statewide race since 1994, but last Saturday, Democrat Annise Parker won a run-off election with 52.8% of the vote to become Mayor of Houston, America's 4th largest city. 

While both run-off candidates happened to be Democrats, Annise Parker was the only one who was part of ActBlue's municipal candidate pilot project, which includes Houston, raising $18,350 through ActBlue for her campaign. A large portion of those funds came from the grassroots efforts of local, state, and national Stonewall Democrats who were interested in supporting an openly lesbian candidate and were able to track donations through their branded ActBlue partnership.

We congratulate Parker on her election as she becomes the highest ranking openly gay person elected as Mayor of a major American city. Her victory is bigger than that, though, as she is also the first candidate in decades to win without the backing of traditional establishment players and the city's business interests.

Annise Danette Parker was elected mayor of Houston on Saturday, winning her seventh consecutive city election and becoming both the first contender in a generation to defeat the hand-picked candidate of Houston's business establishment and the first openly gay person to lead a major U.S. city.

Parker, Houston's current city controller who first emerged in the public arena as a gay rights activist in the 1980s, defeated former City Attorney Gene Locke on an austere platform, convincing voters that her financial bona fides and restrained promises would be best suited in trying financial times. Parker, 53, will replace the term-limited Mayor Bill White on Jan. 1.

Her victory capped an unorthodox election season that lacked a strong conservative mayoral contender and saw her coalition of inside-the-Loop Democrats and moderate conservatives, backed by an army of ardent volunteers, win the day over Locke, a former civil rights activist who attempted to unite African-American voters and Republicans.

The current Houston City Controller and former Councilmember, Annise Parker has been elected 6 times in Houston and is rooted in civic activism. She commanded a dedicaded volunteer army which helped her secure victory in the run-off in face of last minute attacks on her sexuality, which has hardly been an issue in the prior year long campaign. 

And as noted in an article by Politico, her election in Houston is a reflection of a larger trend in politics, where high growth, diverse cities are leading Democrats back to power even in traditional Republican counties and states. 

But the election of Annise Parker in Houston makes clear that the Charlottes and Houstons are now at the forefront of American political change, while the shrinking and declining big cities of the Northeast and Rust Belt are bringing up the rear.

"Houston is your post-racial, post-ethnic future of America," said demographer Joel Kotkin. "It's a leading-edge place."

ActBlue is there to help those candidates get out on that leading edge and connect with a diverse and growing community of small donors. It's a powerful force which is evident even in Texas where Annise Parker recognizes the impact this election has beyond her city. 

“Tonight the voters of Houston have opened the doors to history,” she said. “I acknowledge that. I embrace that. I know what this win means to many of us who thought we could never achieve high office. I know what it means. I understand, because I feel it, too. But now, from this moment, let us join as one community. We are united in one goal in making this city the city that it could be, should be, can be and will be.”

“Hear me: The city is on your side,” she said. “I learned about the problems and the needs and hopes of our city at the neighborhood level. I understand what needs to be done to move us forward. … I promise to give to citizens an administration of honesty, integrity and transparency,” she said. “The only special interest will be the public. We are in this together. We rise or fall together.”

Campaigns: Donor Data Matters

Normal
0
0
1
498
2839
The Institute for Strategic Threat Analysis and Resp
23
5
3486
11.1282

0

0
0

Amassing the financial resources you need to run for office
can be difficult. You need to hit your list, get that money, flip that money
into advertisements, paychecks, and all the other things that make a campaign
tick. The time window for all of that is extremely short. At the same time,
national and state campaign finance laws also require that you capture a
tremendous amount of information about your donors.

You’d think the breakneck pace of campaign season and data
analysis would be in opposition, but they’re not. In fact, knowing your list is
key to producing the financial returns you’ll need to run a successful
campaign. If you don’t take the time to find out who is supporting you, you’ll
end up leaving a lot of money on the table come Election Day.

Donors are investing in your campaign, and doing your due diligence is a great way to signal that you don’t see them as an
undifferentiated mass of walking wallets. Jesse Greenberg, a Chicago-area political consultant, summed it up well in a post on social media in politics:

Earlier this summer, I attended a campaign
event for Debbie Halvorsen, a congressional candidate in Illinois’ 11th
district. I registered and paid my contribution through ActBlue. This
online transaction called for my email. It surprises me
that today I received, not one, but two letters from the Halvorson campaign
soliciting me for funds. As a “supporter” I’d like to be listened to and
clearly their direct mail piece doesn’t indicate they are listening.  If I
used ActBlue to register for an event and make a donation, doesn’t that mean
I’m more likely to respond to online communications rather than direct
mail?

I’d like to amplify that a bit. I’m a 20-something who works
in Democratic politics. It’s what I do every day. But if you, theoretical
Democratic candidate, USPS me an envelope asking me to send you a check, I
won’t even know what to do with it. I pay my bills, my rent, and just about everything
else online. Established media empires are crumbling because folks my age don’t
buy newspapers anymore. Asking me to write you a check and take it
to the post office is very, very unlikely to produce a response. Even if I do
mail you a check, the costs you incur for direct mail solicitations—staff time,
printing, postage and processing—are astronomically high compared to sending me
an email.

ActBlue allows you to sidestep those costs and makes it easy for you to see who your donors are. When donors sign up for a free ActBlue Express account, they have the option to click a box that appends “donor prefers email” to their contributions. As a candidate, all you have to do is look for that little tell in your contribution reports and make sure you communicate with them via email.

Encouraging your donors to sign up for free ActBlue Express
accounts
also provides a number of other advantages to your campaign. While
donating through ActBlue is always faster than writing and mailing a check,
ActBlue Express stores all their donor information. That means that when they
get your email, all they have to do is enter their password and their donation
is on its way to you at digital speed. That means more conversions per email,
and more money in your war chest.

Making use of the tools at your disposal isn’t about being hip, or new media savvy. It’s about winning. As Obama for America demonstrated, the payoffs for campaigns that are ahead of the curve in this area are
enormous.

CQ: most top ActBlue candidates won their elections

I don’t understand Jonathan Allen’s CQ article on ActBlue fundraising.

His initial point: candidates who raise a lot of money on ActBlue don’t necessarily win their elections. Well, no kidding. Adequate funding is a necessary but by no means sufficient condition for victory. Rob Miller isn’t guaranteed anything, but what he does have now is a solid financial base 14 months out from the election that will allow his campaign to fund critical field and outreach efforts. The next time Joe Wilson screams at someone, chances are good it’ll be from his own district trying to keep his job.

But the rest of the article starts to read like a snub on these candidates and their grassroots donors. He offers an incomplete list of eight losing efforts and two victors. In fact, 12 of our 20 top candidates won their races in 2008 (below).

The final paragraph is the most revealing:

Still, it’s worth wondering whether some of the money could be better invested in candidates who are more likely to win.

Unfortunately, I don’t have that crystal ball. In any case, we’ve long been proud of our diverse fundraising community, many who search out the highest-leverage opportunities for online giving and small dollar contributions, both to win races and to influence the national discussion. If all our candidates won every cycle, we’d be spending money on the wrong races. I’d hate to see that spirit change.

§

For the record, here is the complete top-20 list of funds raised by candidates on ActBlue during the 2007-2008 election cycle.

Candidate Result Amount
John Edwards (Pres) Lost $4,136,518.67
Kay Hagan (NC-Sen) WON $2,433,543.55
Rick Noriega (TX-Sen) Lost $1,798,743.98
Jim Martin (GA-Sen) Lost $1,708,812.78
Mark Warner (VA-Sen) WON $1,368,333.13
Dan Seals (IL-10) Lost $1,103,181.09
Barack Obama (Pres) WON $1,068,305.87
Joseph Sestak Jr (PA-7) WON $1,027,375.74
Darcy Burner (WA-8) Lost $764,796.65
Chellie Pingree (ME-1) WON $734,430.77
Scott Kleeb (NE-Sen) Lost $733,965.75
Eric Massa (NY-29) WON $726,732.32
Gary Peters (MI-9) WON $707,713.65
Martin Heinrich (NM-1) WON $663,681.31
Bob Lord (AZ-3) Lost $600,097.26
Steve Novick (OR-Sen) Lost $542,144.71
Jeff Merkley (OR-Sen) WON $536,619.52
Jared Polis (CO-2) WON $514,876.42
Al Franken (MN-Sen) WON $509,006.34
Mark Schauer (MI-7) WON $491,680.04

And the winner is… Monk Elmer

What does Monk Elmer, a first time Democratic candidate running against a 32 year Republican incumbent in a state senate district in Wisconsin, have to do with ActBlue’s landmark $100 Million fundraising milestone?

According to our records, it was a donation to Monk Elmer’s campaign that pushed us past $100 million! A physician, Elmer just launched his campaign (and has raised over $1,000 on ActBlue). He was recently profiled by his local WI paper, the Post-Crescent where you can learn more information about his background, issues, and how he got the name “Monk”.

It’s not entirely surprising that such a landmark contribution comes from one of of the many state district level candidates that use ActBlue. In fact, it’s candidates like Dr. Elmer which are why we work so hard to democratize fundraising and offer online fundraising tools to support thousands of Democratic campaigns.

Congratulations Monk Elmer- this graphic is all yours.

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