Friday, August 03, 2007

Early Liberal Seed Money

Earlier this year, I circulated a document on the nature of past netroots successes, failures and relationship to other power wielding groups within the progressive and liberal activist communities. One of the weaknesses of the blogging component of the netroots has been the tendency of late intervention into races, most notably the first Ciro Rodriguez effort and Paul Hackett in OH-02 special election. Another weakness of the distributed blogospheric efforts is related to this late entry problem and that is most electoral actions have occurred after the issue, candidate and political space has already been constrained by the candidates who have either stepped forward or been recruited and their biases.

I noted that EMILY'S LIST is explict in its mission statement to have an outsized impact and return on their political investment by being effectively an angel investor in campaigns by donating money, connecting activist support and skilled staff in relatively small amounts but far off from the election season. These early building blocks of support allow candidates to build their operation and become perceived as 'viable' to other potential members of their electoral coalition who also operate under resource constraints. The past two election cycles have seen minimal left blogosphere seed funding for candidates and that has impacted the political pay-off of the signficant marginal and flexible funding streams that we have contributed.

I noted this problem set and argued that netroot bloggers who are interested in both electoral victory and changes in the political issue space to favor progressive issues and arguments needed to do something different. My proposal was for a concentrated effort to fund via 'seed drives' second tier Democratic challengers who will not receive DCCC, big labor, EMILY'S LIST, or other early donor attention due to the 'difficulty' of their districts. The drives would seek to raise a minimal amount of money that is sufficient for the early hire of a campaign manager or a field organizer or a communications person or a fundraiser or whatever is needed to start the snowball effect of success towards mounting a credible challenge.

This document generated a couple of good e-mail discussions but nothing really happened with it as my work and time availability for project management decreased dramatically just after I circulated the ideas However the distributed nature of the blogosphere is coming to the rescue and solving this identified problem.

The Swing State Project is tracking the top 20 Act-Blue receiving Democratic House campaigns through August 1, 2007. Two of the top campaigns are for the special election in MA-5 (my parent's district) and that is being held soon. A couple more are for significant strategic primary challenges, but the rest are aggressive second tier races. The 20th ranked campaign has received slightly less than $18,000 just from ActBlue for the cycle, while the median campaign has received $54,117 from ActBlue donors.

I am assuming that ActBlue donors demographically and politically mirror other netroots activists and thus are a different creature than other liberal and Democratic leaning early funding groups and streams. $18,000 in early money from a distinct and identifiable source will give that campaign a better than random shot at becoming a highly competitive campaign. $55,000 in early funding is a significant infusion of start-up capital.

I do not know if these candidates can win at better than random rates, but the structural incentives of the American political issue space is changing as new early funding streams are available for brashly proud and partisan grassroots based Democrats. That basic fact changes political calculations and realities both within the Democratic Party and also against the Republican Party.

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