How to maximize the effectiveness of political contributions?
January 24, 2017 10:26 AM   Subscribe

I want to start giving political contributions to progressive candidates, either locally or nation-wide, focusing on those in winnable swing states (House and Senate) and tipping-point races for state legislatures or governorships to try to run the same playbook that the Tea Party did in 2009-2010 and regain Democratic control some state legislatures. What is the best way to maximize the strategic impact of maybe $5,000 in annual political contributions - huge for me, but small in the age of megadonors and super PACs?

Some salient points:
- I am already signed up for a number of weekly call-to-action mailing lists, but those tend to focus on giving money to good causes or calling your federal representatives.
- I live in DC, so I don't have any real representation in the House or Senate. I am getting more involved in DC politics, but it is already a very, very blue city ($15/hr minimum wage! paid sick and family leave for workers!)
- I am also planning on giving money to e.g. the ACLU and the NAACP, environmental orgs, etc, but want to keep answers focused on political contributions and how to win elections.

Can anyone who has worked in campaigns chime in? Is it better to pick 2-3 candidates and give near the $2,700 per election max, or spread it out more? Are annual contributions or monthly contributions better? What are the relative merits of the DNC vs the DCCC vs individual candidates vs. state-level parties? How does bundling work, actually? What about PACs or super PACs?

Basically, how can medium-small progressive donors have as much impact and wins as the Tea Party has had from the right? Thanks!
posted by foodmapper to Law & Government (6 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
One way you can make a real impact is to contribute to smaller-scale hyper local elections. I see that you live in DC which already leans heavily Democratic. The tea party became so influential by winning seats such as small town councils, mayors, and school boards. In these elections, many candidates do not have access funds to buy basics such as signs and advertisements. A small donation can go a long way in these situations.

I'm not that involved in politics, but have witnessed election cycles in small conservative towns as well as the liberal DC suburbs. Hopefully other posters can chime in about ways to become involved and educated about local elections outside of your district where your donation can make the most impact.
posted by seesom at 10:56 AM on January 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


This PAC is intended to fund all Democratic candidates in the 2018 Congressional races by pooling and then distributing small donor money, set up by ACTBlue's Zucker. (Wired's take on it)

Politico's analysis in 2012 suggested that donating to PACs was the most effective use of money for small donors (typically considered under $200) because at the small donor level, you really need the enthusiasm and turn-out more than the cash (because the cash is just used to create enthusiasm and turnout). Having worked closely with people who have done real substantive work in successful campaigns, I would agree that GOTV efforts for the people you want elected are the most useful thing you can do, which runs from registering, to reminding, to physically driving people to the polls.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:57 AM on January 24, 2017 [3 favorites]


One option is to pick someone who represents your style of progressive and get on their fundraising email list. I'm on Barbara Lee's email list, for example, and she sends out fundraising appeals for her PAC, which in turn supports other candidates, or for the candidates directly. I'm sure Sanders has something similar. I don't know that campaign vs PAC makes a huge difference. I give primarily to candidate campaigns directly, but I also mostly give locally, and usually know the candidates. I also give to groups that do local political organizing. National ones would include places like Wellstone.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:35 PM on January 24, 2017


SwingLeft.org
"Control of the House in 2018 will be decided by a handful of Swing Districts, places where the last election as decided by a thin margin. Find your closest Swing District and join its team to learn about actionable opportunities to support progressives—and defeat Republicans—in that district, no matter where you live."
posted by ottereroticist at 4:27 PM on January 24, 2017


There's some question as to whether or not Swing Left is legit. I am not saying it isn't, just that it's brand-new and not verified.

Anyway, as a former political staffer, I would suggest doing one of two things: 1. find a PAC that you really like, either because of the issues it supports or the approach it takes, and donate all of the money to it. They have people whose whole job it is to make these kinds of decisions, so that is an efficient way of donating. 2. Find one or two candidates you really like, and who are in swing districts and donate all of the money to them, early on (like next spring/summer). Early money is best (you may or may not know that the organization EMILY's List stands for Early Money Is Like Yeast - because having money helps raise/rise more money) - like this spring/summer.
posted by lunasol at 6:24 PM on January 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


I don't know the group intimately, but I've heard that Code Blue is an organization intended to do exactly what you describe. I personally set up a monthly contribution to Emily's List and have volunteered for Our Revolution (which is affiliated with Bernie Sanders).
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:39 PM on January 24, 2017


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