Is there a legal reason why the DNC doesn't push local Dem campaigns?
April 13, 2017 9:36 AM   Subscribe

Question is basically in the title. I know that Democrats around the country, especially in solid blue states, would love to make calls and donations for local candidates. I feel like with proper planning, that approach could have pushed the recent Kansas special election over the line for Jim Thompson. I'm on the DNC's mailing list and did not hear a peep about KS-04. Is the party just being stupid and obstinate in not promoting state-level elections or is there a legitimate, tax-based, legal reason they don't and can't do this?

I'm wondering if it's based on the tax status of the Democratic Party or the legality of cross-state campaign donations. As background, I used to work for the national office of a nonprofit with member branches in 50 states, and while I wasn't involved directly with budgets and finance, I remember that there were very onerous tax reporting processes involved in giving grants or awards to our branches. I was told that without following extremely strict guidelines, it would be considered something like an illegal donation from a 501c3 to one of its subsidiaries. The org I worked for also had a separate 501c4 entity for political lobbying, which had its own whole set of very onerous IRS rules governing how funds were spent. Is there something like that kind of tax law covering political parties, and is that why the Democrats aren't leveraging their enormous voter base to flip seats in red and swing states?
posted by capricorn to Law & Government (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (One quick note. I'm looking for a legal or tax policy reason only. I understand that the philosophical objections to doing this perfectly well; I also disagree with them, and would rather not use this thread to hash it out.)
posted by capricorn at 9:47 AM on April 13, 2017

The DNC is an amalgamation of the various state parties. It's the state party chairs and state party committee people who vote on who gets to be DNC chair. That said most of the contributions the DNC makes (outside of presidential campaigns) are contributions to the individual state parties who then go on to spend that money on the races and organizing efforts as they see fit.

In previous years the DNC has specifically invested in organizing. Howard Dean's 50 State Strategy provided state parties with funds to hire organizers who could do party building and campaign work.

When it comes to investing in and supporting congressional races that falls to the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee). So complaints you may have about a lack of investment in the KS race are more properly directed there.

That said if you are interested in doing some campaigning for the GA Congressional race, you can memail me. I have more information on how to help that race.
posted by brookeb at 9:56 AM on April 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

You can always check to see where political money is going. They don't yet have information up for the 2017 election cycle, so you can't look up who gave money to the KS race yet.
posted by brookeb at 9:57 AM on April 13, 2017

The latest episode of District Sentinel has an interview at the end with Ben Poteete, a state party committee member and Thompson aide, about the committee vote on funding.
posted by carbide at 11:06 AM on April 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Short answer: no.

Long answer: there are no tax or legal constraints upon national fundraising by federal candidates or committees established to support federal candidates. High-profile Congressional elections will have lots of out-of-state contributions, and all of the software and forms used for reporting are national. The campaign committees of holders of safe seats will often have a HUGE out of state contribution rate -- locals don't feel the need to contribute to someone who is re-elected with 75% of the vote, but special interest lobbyists wanting their calls returned and and Hamptons socialites looking to fill their backyards of a summer afternoon do.

If you are wondering why you weren't solicited to contribute to KS-04, it's because the fundraising entities that have your email address and phone number CHOSE not to give them to the candidate. You need to ask them. Some are mercenary (the campaign didn't pay); but most simply didn't rate the election important enough to sacrifice "their" stake in your contributions for a race that was (a) hard to win and (b) wouldn't make much of difference to important policy priorities.

If you were wondering why you weren't solicited to phone bank, in large part see the prior paragraph -- the people who had your email and phone number didn't hand you over on a volunteer list, and funding may not have been available to coordinate. In some part, see your own point about philosophy: few if any candidates care where their money comes from geographically, but A LOT care about not giving the impression that they are some Yankee / California interloper which is an easy impression to give if you have a bunch of people from out of state phone banking.
posted by MattD at 1:21 PM on April 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

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