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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

 

The first quarter of the 2011-12 election cycle is on the books, and it’s a doozy. We saw a massive uptick in contributions relative to previous cycles, driven by the backlash against Gov. Walker’s union-busting in Wisconsin. That drove a precipitous drop in the average contribution size relative to 2009, which was made starker by a higher-than-usual contribution size in 2009 thanks to inaugural events. All in all, the trends are exactly what we want to see: more money, coming from more people and going to more Democrats.

Number of contributions 180,547
Total raised $8,715,611.77
Average Contribution size $48.27
Committees receiving money 881
Fundraising pages receiving money 974
Pages created 1,029

 

And here’s how those numbers stack up to the last few cycles. Remember that we offer 2007 as a benchmark for a pre-presidential off-year and 2009 to illustrate cycle over cycle growth:

Q1 2007 Q1 2009 Q1 2011 Change
Contributions 31,441 24,361 180,547 641%
Volume ($) $3,141,038.27 $5,343,772.70 $8,715,611.77 63%
Mean Donation $99.90 $219.36 $48.27 -78%
Committees 235 651 881 35%
Pages Created 346 1,026 1,029 .3%
Pages w/ Money 203 684 974 13%

 

 
And here are the five top committees, ranked by number of donors, for Q1 2011.

Name Race Donors Dollars
PCCC Organization 61,542 $691,584
Democracy for America Organization 44,767 $503,841
Democratic Party of Wisconsin Organization 43,595 $1,099,087
Wisconsin State Senate Democratic Committee Organization 30,726 $768,067
PCCC Recall Committee Organization 25,481 $267,919

 

Here, as everywhere else this quarter, we see organizations dominating the field as political campaigns have yet to ramp up. Those organizations, in turn, are laying the groundwork that will make them valuable allies when the horse race gets underway in earnest.

As I mentioned last month, Wisconsin is the story of 2011 so far. In late February, Republican Gov. Scott Walker attempted to undermine a core Democratic constituency by revoking the right of public workers to bargain collectively, ostensibly for budgetary reasons. When Democratic state senators fled the state to deny him the legislative quorum required to pass a budgetary measure, Wisconsin Republicans declared that it didn’t impact the budget and passed the law without warning in a five minute session. Recently, a Wisconsin judge blocked the law’s implementation. Talking Points Memo has a useful timeline of events.

The immediate result of Gov. Walker’s overreach was a huge surge in Democratic fundraising and the initiation of recall proceedings against vulnerable Wisconsin Republicans. As Greg Sargent noted, the first completed recall petition tied the record for the fastest recall petition in Wisconsin history. The momentum on the ground is more than matched by the fundraising numbers. In March alone, ActBlue processed $3.7 million worth of donations to Wisconsin Democrats and allied groups. Add in the numbers from February and the total climbs north of $4 million. That’s a lot of cheddar, and its impact is reflected in our March fundraising numbers:

Number of contributions 143,034
Total raised 5,854,848.89
Average Contribution size $40.93
Committees receiving money 673
Fundraising pages receiving money 731
Pages created 490

 

As you’ll see below, the donations in Wisconsin were primarily by grassroots donors, who drove huge growth in the number of contributions and lowered our average donation size.

Mar 2007 Mar 2009 Mar 2011 Change
Contributions 21,912 11,438 143,034 1150%
Volume ($) $1,998,288.74 $2,765,316.89 $5,854,848.89 113%
Mean Donation $91.20 $241.77 $40.93 -83%
Committees 189 440 673 53%
Pages Created 158 452 490 8%
Pages w/ Money 164 412 731 77%

 

 
And here are the five top committees, by number of donors, for March 2011.

Name Race Donors Dollars
PCCC Organization 54,371 $576,408
Democratic Party of Wisconsin Organization 43,598 $1,099,121
Democracy for America Organization 41,323 $462,030
PCCC Recall Committee (Wisconsin) Organization 25,483 $267,944
MoveOn.org Political Action Organization 24,191 $364,237

 

The fact that March fundraising was driven primarily by organizations is a reflection of how big the stakes are in Wisconsin. Gov. Walker’s attack on collective bargaining isn’t just about undermining a core Democratic constituency (though it’s about that too); it’s about redistributing wealth (and thus political power) upward, away from workers and public servants and thereby diminishing their voice in the political process. Organizing and funding resistance to that overriding Republican goal is too big a job for any one candidate, so state and national organizations stepped in to help shoulder the load.

At ActBlue, our mission is to give grassroots donors a powerful voice in our democracy, so we were happy to put our tools at their disposal. We’re about democratizing power, and this is how we do it.

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We walk a fine editorial line here on the blog. As a good faith partner to Democrats of various ideological orientations, ActBlue doesn’t endorse candidates or committees. At the same time, we always enjoy it when a group or candidate uses our tools well. In that vein, I want to highlight the tremendous accomplishments of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) over the past two years.

Founded in 2009, the PCCC is a recent entrant to the world of progressive political organizations–MoveOn.org dates back to 1998, while Democracy for America grew out of Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign. Newcomer status aside, the PCCC has accomplished some pretty remarkable feats on ActBlue. Their total of 100,000 supporters easily doubles the mark set by some of our most successful campaigns. Equally impressive is their average donation figure, which comes in just under $20. Those figures came about as part of a broad involvement with progressive issues that encompassed everything from Bill Halter’s primary challenge in Arkansas to activism around the public option in the healthcare bill.

ActBlue’s raison d’etre revolves around the idea of d/Democratizing power. We created these tools to put consequential political action at the fingertips–literally–of anyone with access to the internet. And while we’ve produced $174 million for Democrats in six years, our goals are broader than that. In 2004, our hunch was that increasing access to and participation in the political fundraising process would have a number of salutary effects on our political system. Broader access makes it easier for candidates and organizations to build their own fundraising networks, allowing new voices to emerge. Increased participation means that political giving is seen as a form of democratic participation rather than a corrupting influence. Taken together, those ripple effects restore our faith in the underlying promise of democratic politics: everybody gets a say.

That’s why the PCCC is such a valuable test case for us. Their rapid emergence combines real political results and a dedication to a model of fundraising that both promotes broad engagement with Democratic politics and puts that engagement within reach of almost everyone. Aggregating those totals on ActBlue makes it easy for their donors to see that they’re a part of something much larger and more powerful than their $20 donation.

You don’t have to take my word for it, though. Here’s Adam Green, one of the founders of the PCCC, on the role ActBlue played in getting the PCCC off the ground:

At a time when we had pretty much no resources, ActBlue lowered the barrier for entry for us into the online fundraising marketplace allowing us to … not have to deal with the legal obstacles and technical obstacles and quickly accumulate a grassroots fundraising base … it’s valuable piece of progressive infrastructure. It allows groups like ours to get off the ground. We’re still using it today and I can’t say thanks enough to those who had the vision to come up with this concept.

Number of contributions 27,810
Total raised $1,185,812.85
Average Contribution size $42.64
Committees receiving money 443
Fundraising pages receiving money 281
Pages created 180

 

December 2010 saw a huge upswing in donors over 2008, thanks mostly to the efforts of the PCCC and other continuing committees, and bolstered by Bernie Sanders’ filibuster-that-wasn’t-technically-a-filibuster, otherwise known as #filibernie:

Sept 2008 Sept 2010 Change
Contributions 6,166 27,810 351%
Volume ($) $1,348,627.46 $1,185,812.85 -12%
Mean Donation $218.72 $42.64 -80%
Committees 350 443 26%
Pages Created 180 169 -6%
Pages w/ Money 281 426 51%

 

And here are the top committees, by number of donors, for December 2010. Since December is generally a slow month, we’re going to cut to the top four:

Name Race Donors Dollars
PCCC Organization 17,104 $293,394
Bernie Sanders VT-Sen 4,482 $67,821
Democracy for America Organization 3,009 $27,398
Anthony Weiner NY-09 662 $13,019

 

As the noise from the election dies down, December’s numbers bring the new method of low-dollar fundraising employed by the PCCC into stark relief. Under a distributed fundraising model, the cost to any given donor in terms of money/time per donation is smaller, and the ease of giving leads to enough conversions to make up the difference. The numbers make the case on their own: in December, no other committee came close to the PCCC’s mark in either dollars or donors. While #filibernie chewed up the airwaves/Twitter and overall ActBlue volume held steady, the PCCC drove a huge increase in donors and the attendant drop in average contribution size.

The PCCC’s success has larger implications for our politics: if political giving remains a luxury good–the sole preserve of people who can afford to shift $1M donations through American Crossroads–it can have corrosive effects on our democracy. At $10-$20 a pop, however, political contributions renew the underlying premise of American politics: everybody gets to play.

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.

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