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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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