Small Donations Power Democrats to a Smashing Fundraising Victory Over Republicans

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Nancy Pelosi

House Democrats continue to outraise Republicans, even though they’re the majority. Politico reported that Democrats beat Republicans by more than $15 million in 2013. That is a record-breaking $75.8 million year, while the NRCC raised $60.6 million.

Scott Bland noted in the National Journal that Democrats were smashing their online haul records even though they were in the minority, a surprising trend that he attributed in part to Democrats’ huge digital advantage over Republicans:

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $19.4 million online in 2013, twice what the committee raised through the Internet in 2011. That puts the DCCC in position this year to smash the record $49.3 million it raised online for the 2012 elections and continue a rare trend: Despite being in the minority, House Democrats have outraised Republicans since 2011.

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It’s true, Democrats have led the way digitally. Bland observed that the donations went up when Republicans were behaving badly. Moments like the Republicans shutting down government and House Republicans passing Paul Ryan’s budget were big for Democratic fundraising.

But what is really interesting is where the money is coming from. Bland writes that it’s the small donations that are fueling this fundraising advantage, “On donations of less than $200, the Democratic committee raised $30 million to the NRCC’s $11.6 million.” He continued, “Not only did the DCCC bring in far more small donations than the National Republican Congressional Committee each month in 2013, the Democrats’ massive email list allowed them to take advantage of key political moments and turbocharge their fundraising.”

Open Secrets reported in January of 2012 that one of the biggest untold stories was the success Democrats were having with small donors, noting that the DCCC had a gain of 62% in small donors while the NRCC had a gain of just 18% in small donors. This wasn’t just about their online money, either.

Furthermore, they reported that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee also saw “a big jump in small gifts since the last election cycle, from $9.1 million to $13.4 million — a gain of 46 percent. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, however, saw its donations of that size drop 31 percent.”

When you see small donors flocking to one party like this, it tells a story about how Democrats are speaking for the average person, while the Republican Party speaks for big business (corporations, the top 2%). Yes, Democrats have a digital advantage. And yes, Republicans have been behaving really badly. These two things gave Democrats an opportunity and the means to seize the moment in order to fundraise for their agenda. You can have the best digital operation in the world but you still have to motivate people to give.

Josh Schwerin, the National Press Secretary at Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, explained to me in an email what those small donations represent, “House Republicans have dedicated themselves to protecting their special interest backers and restricting women’s rights while hurting millions of middle class Americans. Seeing those kind of flawed priorities has grassroots supporters across the country fired up and ready to help hold Republicans accountable.”

It’s called the people speaking with their wallets. Small donors are about more than a digital advantage. Small donors are the voice of the people.

Republicans may not have their digital act together and that is surely hurting them in fundraising, but they have Democrats beat in a lot of the older ways of raising money and infiltration (direct mail, talk radio, etc). Their base is older, as well, so these methods should still play a prominent role in their fundraising. Perhaps alarming for Republicans, who count on older voters especially in mid term elections, the AARP observed, “Older voters are shifting back to the center, with a mere 1-point advantage separating Republicans from Democrats, according to an Economist/YouGov poll.”

If elections, especially House elections, reflected the will of the people, Republicans would be in trouble this year. As it is, I suspect they are wrong to swagger about talking foolishly about holding the country hostage over the debt ceiling again, as this is not helping their Senate candidates one bit. As the House GOP are protected to a large degree by their gerrymandered districts, they can subvert the will of the people with no personal repercussions.

But the numbers don’t lie. Small donors reflect the will of the people. If House Republicans want to keep denying this fact as they play puppet to the Koch Brothers, they are not only hurting the American people but also their own party’s national brand. They are becoming branded as the party against the people, and sooner or later, even a gerrymandered district won’t be able to save them.

These numbers also explain why Republicans will do anything to protect their dark money sources, including rigging up a fake IRS scandal so they can cry “Political revenge!” as cover for their abuse of the previously unclear IRS rules regarding “social welfare” groups. The Koch Brothers and Karl Rove will not ever be confused with social welfare, except when funneling money to Republicans willing to do their bidding under the pretense of working for the People.

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