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It's been a couple of very busy weeks at ActBlue, but I wanted to take a moment to thank our friends at Roots Camp 2010 for awarding us the Most Valuable Technology certificate. The nomination and award were as welcome as they were unexpected. For our part, we're not planning to rest on our multicolored laurels–in 2010, we plan to earn the title of MVT several times over.

A week ago, Ben Smith of POLITICO broke a story about an RNC fundraising presentation held in Washington D.C. The presentation featured a slide of President Obama as the Joker under the heading "the Evil Empire," bracketed by caricatures of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (available here, in .pdf format). A number of other slides contained quotes like "What can you sell when you do not have the White House, the House or the Senate…? Save the country from trending toward socialism!" and urged RNC fundraisers to promote visceral giving based on "fear, extreme negative feelings toward existing Administration."

What's particularly striking about the RNC presentation is the tacit admission that, to paraphrase an old conservative bête noire, the only thing they have to sell is fear itself.

The reaction to that revelation was a collective shrug, as if that sort of fear-mongering were an ineluctable element of grassroots fundraising. It's not, and I ought to know. I built the grassroots fundraising program that sustained ActBlue across 2009–a slow year for political giving. Those donations, drawn from our users, funded the enhancements that enabled us to grow 84% in 2009.

When discussing grassroots fundraising, it's critical to understand the difference between creating urgency and sowing fear. Successful asks underscore the need for the target to give, but negative emotions are hardly the only way to get there. In writing our own asks, I've talked about increasing the influence of grassroots donors and building infrastructure more than I've mentioned Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann, and donors responded better to the former. In fact, our most successful asks are those in which we demonstrate the relevance of grassroots actions on ActBlue to a larger Democratic agenda, or show them how the numbers they put up on ActBlue drive news stories.

In short, there are other ways to appeal to donors; by accepting the fear-based paradigm of the RNC as the sine qua non of grassroots fundraising we're buying into a false equivalence. The grassroots campaigns that take place on ActBlue employ a variety of fundraising strategies, often aimed at a specific goal. Some of the largest grassroots fundraising efforts on ActBlue have focused on granular policy details.

There's a cynical take on all of this that says it all reduces to
fear–fear that Republicans will win, fear that we won't get the
policies we want, fear that our voices will be drowned out by special
interests in Washington. That's a remarkably broad generalization to
apply to hundreds of thousands of ActBlue donors, one that is contemptuous of
the diverse reasons that move us to participate in American politics.

And, apparently, it's a view that the RNC subscribes to. The RNC strategy is built around juvenile imagery and a flair for terrifying GOP donors with the threat of a nebulous, abstract adversary–in this case, a wholly irrelevant political ideology. And rather than give their donors any idea what their money will be used for, the RNC leverages terms of art like "patriotic duty" and "front line mentality" to power an agenda of endless obstruction that negatively impacts the very donors they want to court.

In short, grassroots fundraising on ActBlue reflects the diversity of our user base, while the RNC seeks uniformity through terror. (An objectively socialist approach!) If we assume that these strategies are identical, we're neglecting the difference between real and phony populism, between framing and fiction.

You may be familiar with our quarterly statistics posts on the ActBlue Blog. By popular demand, we're going to start releasing information more frequently, starting with monthly stats posts. The purpose is to highlight successful techniques and strategies, and nothing below should be misconstrued as an endorsement of a particular campaign or committee. In the future we'll also start drilling down to the state level to provide more insight into fundraising dynamics there. 

Let's get started by looking at our February 2010 overview. 

Number of contributions 31,470
Total raised $2,335,868.11
Average contribution size $74.23
Distinct committees receiving money 1,007
Distinct fundrapages receiving money 745
Fundraising pages created 592

When we compare these numbers to February 2008, which was presidential year with a historically active primary season, we see growth across the board. The number of contributions was nearly double the 16,545 from two years ago. The total money raised increased by more than 500k over 2008 and the average contribution size was about 30% smaller. Finally, the number of fundraising pages created and receiving funds were both significantly higher. 

I want to highlight one number that would otherwise be overlooked: the 1,007 separate campaigns and committees that received a check for contributions made through ActBlue in February. That's a 70% increase over February of 2008! Included in those hundreds of new entities are state based campaigns, some local jurisdictions that ActBlue has expanded to, county parties, and more. We're excited about the growth and ability to sustain smaller and more localized committees with the same fundraising platform that has powered U.S. Senate and presidential campaigns. 

Here are the Top 10 Campaigns & Committees for February 2010 (by donors)

Committee Name

PCCC – Progressive Change Campaign Committee

Type

Organization

Donors

8,744

Amount

$71,999.48

Michael Bennet CO-Sen, 2010 8,237 $72,533.75
Democracy for America 6,594 $38,796.98
Kirsten Gillibrand NY-Sen, 2010 6,273 $41,241.93
Alan Grayson FL-08, 2010 4,646 $45,791.43
Chellie Pingree ME-01, 2010 3,930 $29,199.58
Jared Polis CO-02, 2010 3,892 $27,740.12
Anthony Weiner NY-09, 2010 2,766 $74,102.82
FDL Action PAC PAC 1,126 $29,038.28
Jennifer Brunner OH-Sen, 2010 479 $20,024.05

Just missing the top 10 were a Florida attorney general candidate and a Virginia state house candidate. At the federal level, ActBlue funds went to a healthy mix of Netroots-oriented organizations & PACs, US Senate candidates, and US House candidates. 

In fact, the two highest ranked candidates Michael Bennett & Kirsten Gillibrand are connected to the top two organizations–they were all part of February's singular most successful fundraising page. That page, created by the PCCC & DFA, encouraged donations to the two Senators leading the effort to restore a public option to the developing healthcare bill.

The PCCC/DFA page made use of the strengths inherent in ActBlue: it demonstrated the financial muscle of those organizations–specifically, their ability to provide financial support to like-minded legislators–and directed positive attention toward those fundraising efforts.

You can see the full list of the top 10 fundraising pages (by donors) below.

Name Donors Raised Average
senateheroes-letter 8183 $157,426.74 $19.23
polispingreegrayson 3992 $109,397.86 $27.40
weinercdthc02242010 2358 $53,342.01 $22.62
pccc_main 1228 $25,544.36 $20.80
firedogs 976 $27,280.03 $27.95
jenniferbrunner 420 $17,815.39 $42.41
fdlfiredogs 206 $9,040.50 $43.88
heat4mdp 126 $6,346.00 $50.36
washingtondays2010 112 $16,596.00 $148.17
allaboutjoe 109 $2,184.00 $20.03

I always enjoy looking at the top fundraising pages list because it shines a light on some of the more unique pages. We've talked about the top page already, and there are others in the top 10 that use similar strategies of rewarding "good" behavior by fundraising on a candidate's behalf. But there is some great diversity at the bottom of this Top 10 list. Pages like "Washington Days," a fundraiser for the Kansas Democratic Party and (my favorite) the Fix our Furnace Fund page. The latter uses a fundraising thermometer, picture, and compelling story to raise money for the Maine Democratic Party to replace a broken furnace at their Augusta Headquarters! 

Be sure to take a look at the linked pages to get some ideas on how you can create your own successful fundraising pages for your candidates and committees.  

On Monday, Democrat Bill Halter, currently the Lt. Governor of Arkansas, entered the AR-Sen race, challenging the incumbent Democrat, Sen. Blanche Lincoln. Later that day, DailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas and NBC's Chuck Todd had a brief exchange on Twitter about Bill Halter's fundraising numbers.

Chuck Todd:

Would be a big statement RT @markos: Netroots funding for Bill Halter (Netroots + MoveOn) now just shy of 500k

Markos:

Getting there. RT @chucktodd Progressives as fired up for Halter as Lamont RT @markos MoveOn+ActBlue just hit 500k for Bill Halter

Today, MoveOn reported raising nearly $600,000 for Bill Halter, while ActBlue displays a total of $170,000 and counting, raised by groups like the PCCC and DailyKos. In other words, the statement has been made. Now the hard part: what does it mean?

First, some context: Sen. Blanche Lincoln has a war chest of around $5M. Or, put slightly differently, Bill Halter raised 10% of an incumbent Senator's war chest in one day. If his supporters reach their goal of $1M [Edit--Halter reached $1M in 48 hrs] by the end of this week, that'll be 20% of her funds. Moreover, Halter's success produced a flurry of media coverage, further elevating his profile. Finally, the AFL-CIO committed to $3M in expenditures on Halter's behalf. As a result, Sen. Lincoln will have to spend some of her money to fend off what looks destined to be a well-funded primary challenge from a candidate with significant name recognition both in Arkansas and beyond.

Someone ought to send a memo to Chris Matthews, who lamented late last year that the Netroots weren't grown-up Democrats:

I don’t consider them Democrats, I consider them netroots, and they’re different. And if I see that they vote in every election or most elections, I’ll be worried. But I’m not sure that they’re regular grown-up Democrats… They get their giggles from sitting in the backseat and bitching.

Yet today we have an insurgent candidate propelled to the forefront of national politics in one day by the Netroots and MoveOn. That's a far cry from the sort of Monday-morning quarterbacking that so upset Chris Matthews in late 2009, and it's worth revisiting why that $770,000 boost happened.

Whether it's political campaigns or media outlets, the organizations that make a splash are the ones that have mastered the breakneck pace and inclusive nature of the internet. And yes, I have to count Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) among those success stories. As Americans, our admiration for the spectacle of political participation is innate, as evidenced by the breathless coverage accorded to the Tea Party movement. However, in our increasingly digital age, political participation shouldn't be solely the province of people waving signs. The communities that exist online are every bit as vital, contentious and arguably more diverse than the arbitrarily large crowds that descend on the National Mall. 

Halter's primary challenge represents the political emergence of these groups into an arena that, until recently, was the sole province of Chris Matthews' "grown-up Democrats." It's not a trend that can be reversed, either. The organizations involved know they have the reach and scope to affect national politics, and after Rob Miller, Alan Grayson and Bill Halter, candidates know it too.

That change owes a lot to the infrastructure that ActBlue built over the last five years. Without the means to translate the Democratic passion of these communities into language that politicians can understand: campaign funds. And you can't build it in the moment, either. You have to have robust structures in place ahead of time, so that when the surge comes you don't miss out on a single dollar. ActBlue handled both public option pushes, Rob Miller, and, heck, even Martha Coakley. Our work has enabled new voices to emerge, and emerge powerfully. It's the beginning of a structural shift in American politics, more powerful and enduring than any Supreme Court decision.

*Ah yes, the much-lamented horse race metaphor. I didn't see anyone else making one, so I figured I'd be the first. Considered but rejected: "Halter Loosed" and "Halter Given Free Rein."

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.

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

Progressive Change Campaign Committee

Race/Type

Contributions

39,067

Amount 

$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.

Welcome to the third installment of ActBlue data disclosure, 2009 edition!

Last week we presented a big picture overview of what 2009 looked like as well as how it compared to 2007, the most comparable year we have data for at ActBlue. These reviews highlighted our growth in donors, in donations, in recipients campaigns & committees, as well as personal grassroots fundraising efforts.

Since we are in the midst of a period of federal campaign finance reporting, it's time for us to reveal some more information specific to the fourth quarter of 2009. We will begin with some of the Q4 2009 categorical totals.

Number of contributions 86,158
Total raised $10,021,907.33
Average contribution size $116.32
Distinct committees receiving money 1,420
Distinct fundraising pages receiving money 1,540
Fundraising pages created 1,602

Now let's look at the top 10 recipient campaigns & committees of 2009's 4th quarter, ranked by number of donors. Topping the list are two progressive pugilists, Rep. Alan Grayson (FL-08) and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. Below them, the list diversifies, including a ballot committee (No On 1), the FireDogLake Action PAC, and a grab bag of federal candidates spanning the spectrum of the Democratic Party from Bernie Sanders to Bill Owens. It's a glimpse of the breadth that makes ActBlue unique. 


Name     

PCCC – Progressive Change Campaign Committee

Type

Organization

Donors

15,474

Raised

$407,439.22

Alan Grayson FL-08, 2010 11,362 $393,433.04
No on 1 / Protect Maine Equality Ballot Prop 8,517 $570,957.55
FDL Action PAC PAC 5,024 $156,099.32
Bill Owens NY-23, 2010 2,891 $335,112.52
Democracy for America Organization 2,593 $75,347.89
Joe Sestak PA-Sen, 2010 1,551 $242,836.66
John Kerry MA-Sen, 2014 1,237 $82,166.67
Bernie Sanders VT-Sen, 2012 996 $25,604.41
Deval Patrick MA-Gov, 2010 890 $292,582.50

If we change our ranking criteria to the top 10 recipient campaigns & committees by number of dollars we get the following table:

Name

No on 1 / Protect Maine Equality

Type

Ballot Prop

$ Raised

$570,957.55
Progressive Change Campaign Committee Organization $407,439.22
Alan Grayson FL-08, 2010 $393,433.04
Bill Owens NY-23, 2010 $335,112.52
Steve Pagliuca MA-Sen, 2010 $303,640.00
Massachusetts Democratic Party State Party $295,510.00
Deval Patrick MA-Gov, 2010 $292,582.50
Joe Sestak PA-Sen, 2010 $242,836.66
House Senate Victory Fund Committee $224,301.00
Cal Cunningham NC-Sen, 2010 $182,726.51


Beyond recipients, we like to look at successful fundraising pages. Unlike general recipient data, fundraising pages make a specific ask, and provide more information about which asks gained traction during Q4. Below, we've listed the top ten fundraising pages in Q4 by number of donors. Click on the name to be redirected to the page itself.

While these pages were the most successful, they are just a small sampling of the more than a thousand successful fundraising pages
created in the last quarter of the year for candidates and causes big
and small. To learn more and start creating your own personal
fundraising page for a Democratic cause or candidate, click here.

Name Donors Raised Average
congressmanwithguts 4822 $171,425.00 $35.55
allaboutjoe 3685 $76,478.66 $20.75
noon1 3177 $123,179.11 $38.77
reconciliation 2631 $84,788.83 $32.22
liebermanaccountable 2032 $48,550.34 $23.89
pressurelandrieu 1882 $57,858.11 $30.74
harryreidad 1669 $58,935.30 $35.31
obamafight 1422 $48,487.26 $34.09
noon1redalert 1382 $76,031.97 $55.01
obamapromise 1316 $26,913.37 $20.45

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.'

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