Friday, October 29, 2010

How Will Candidates Spend Last Minute Contributions That Come In Today And Tomorrow?


Chamber of Commerce selling America to China

If you've been pumping iron at a Gold's Gym-- or, for that matter, sleeping at an Omni Hotel-- you've helped pay for thousands and thousands of vicious and distorted attack ads against progressive champion Alan Grayson and for narrow-minded religious fanatic Daniel Webster in Orlando. The owner of both, Texas billionaire and right-wing fanatic Robert Rowling, has been pumping millions of dollars into Karl Rove's shady American Crossroads operation whose sole purpose is to take over Congress on behalf of the richest 2 or 3% of Americans... like Rowling. American Crossroads has raised more than $65 million as of Monday, $30 million of which has already been spent on 14 Senate and 18 House races, according to the Federal Election Commission. Grayson and other vulnerable progressives in tight races are among their key targets. Grayson's Orlando district is awash with shady but legal corporate cash and illicit foreign money targeting his reelection bid. The special interests want him out more than anyone else. He's too effective and too inspiring for the elites who run the country to be able to tolerate him, no matter what it costs.

On Tuesday alone, Rove's two corporate and billionaire-funded money machines, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS spent $6.1 million attacking Democrats in 11 House races and 4 Senate races. The 2 biggest expenditures Tuesday were against Senator Patty Murray in Washington ($1,040,427) and Alexi Giannoulias in Illinois ($1,025,203) but while much of the rest was spent against Blue Dogs like Heath Shuler and Joe Donnelly, Rove also hit progressives Maurice Hinchey ($268,546) and Colleen Hanabusa ($76,195). As OpenSecrets pointed out, "his year’s federal election will obliterate spending records for a midterm contest, surpassing the previous high-water mark set in 2006 by about $1 billion... enough cash to run the city of Pittsburgh for two years. "
Identifiably conservative organizations are spending more than $2 on advertisements and other communications for every $1 liberal organizations do. While corporations are behind much of this money, many of these companies have skirted public scrutiny by laundering their cash through intermediary organizations, which often sport nondescript names and don’t immediately, if ever, reveal who funds them.

...Throughout most of last year, health care-related industries favored Democratic candidates and committees in their political giving. As Democrat Barack Obama entered the White House in January 2009, people and political action committees associated with the health sector that month donated about two-thirds of their federal-level contributions to his partisan brethren. The sector continued to favor Democrats for most of the year.

Suddenly, in January, the trend flipped-- just as Democrat-led health care reform legislation began to near final passage. In each month since, health interests have donated more money to federal-level Republican candidates and committees. And in September, a preliminary analysis of campaign finance filings by the Center indicates that the health sector donated more than 60 percent of its political money to the GOP-- by far, the greatest percentage of the 2010 election cycle.

A similar shift took place among Wall Street-related industries, which also dramatically shifted their donation patterns toward Republicans while Democratic-led financial reform legislation-- unpopular among many banks and financial firms-- coursed through Congress.

As recently as March 2009, Democrats enjoyed 63 percent of these industries’ campaign dollars. By September, the Center’s preliminary analysis finds, that figure had more than reversed itself, with 67 percent of Wall Street-related industries’ cash going to federal-level Republican interests.

...Small donors have the potential to give candidates a booster shoot of cash, as people who donate to a candidate, regardless of the amount donated, become invested in a candidate’s success.  And political candidates on the right and left have attempted to tap the enthusiasm of donors who contribute $200 or less-- political pocket change-- this season.

Some politicians rolling in the dough from small donors are Tea Party favorites, such as Florida Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio, Nevada Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), the chairwoman of the House Tea Party Caucus. Others are liberal firebrands, such as freshman Rep. Alan Grayson known for his YouTube-friendly rhetorical torrents against Republicans.

With nearly $4 billion already spent on the midterms is it still possible to have an impact with late contributions-- like today? I asked some of the candidates and their campaign staffers if there was anything they could do with last minute money that would make it worthwhile. Here are some of the responses:

Wednesday Justin Coussoule was on TV with Ed Schultz again and more donations came flooding in. Alleia Phipps manages Justin's grassroots effort in southwestern Ohio against John Boehner. "Just today," she told us, "I was able to book another 15K in media across the 8th District. While that may not sound like a lot to those in large media markets, we are able to purchase morning radio for as little as 4, 7 and 11 dollars each! A television spot in either market (Dayton or Cincinnati) can be purchased for $50 on cable with nightly news running about $1500.

Every penny we raise goes straight to media and I have our media reps on my blackberry ready to add more!

And I have to say, I do feel better and better about Justin's race knowing as we add media, so is Boehner! His campaign bought more just minutes after we did!"

I also spoke with Beth Krom, the savvy and intrepid Democrat taking on radical right Orange County Republican John Campbell.
The money that comes into campaigns between now and election day can allow campaigns to reach voters through a variety of mediums which drive GOTV efforts. Whether those resources underwrite enhanced media buys to get produced ads up on the air, or pays for professional literature drops to supplement volunteer efforts, I can think of no campaign that would not be able to effectively deploy contributions. The truth is that most campaigns commit dollars before they are raised and depend on a steady stream of contributions through election day to get their message out. We are continuing to raise in our race to end on the strongest note possible-- and have already committed to an additional mailing which those dollars will help to underwrite. Like it or not, campaigns must run like a business. That means raising the capital necessarily to effectively market the candidate. It’s not an easy proposition, and nothing is more frustrating than finding yourself with a great candidate and a great message, but lacking the financial resources to fully execute.

Lainey Edmisten is the campaign manager for Billy Kennedy's race against hate merchant Virginia Foxx in northwestern North Carolina. She answered the question very succinctly: "50% of the voters in our race have yet to hear Billy's name. 30% are still undecided. Of the folks who have seen our ads, they break our way. We have yet to go on network." Billy's campaign get's really specific about how supporters in the district can help over the next few days at that link half a sentence back. Blue America is running cable TV spots in this race and every cent that comes in on this page goes right up on the air immediately. Same for Justin Coussoule's race at this page.

Colin, who's managing Ann Kuster's surging campaign in New Hampshire has definite plans for late donations to the campaign. "In a tied race like ours, our campaign is scouring our polling and field data to find small pockets of voters that we can turnout to give our candidate the edge-- a few hundred, or a few thousand people who share particularly demographic or geographic traits that make them likely supporters. Donations by Friday at midnight can get one final piece of mail to them. Donations by Sunday at midnight can fund a ‘tele-town hall’ where we call 10,000 or 20,000 voters and put them on a professionally-managed conference call with the candidate to hear her pitch and ask questions. And donations by midnight Monday can be spent on the kind of last-minute ‘Google Surge’ advertising that helped Scott Brown defeat Martha Coakley in Massachusetts last winter."

The Blue America-backed progressive running against Wall Street shill Leonard Lance in New Jersey's 7th CD, Ed Potosnak, has outlined several plans he has for last minute contributions and he's put together an impressive Google ad initiative. "I am in a statistical dead heat with my opponent and engaged in an aggressive campaign," he reminds us. $10,000 today would allow me to beef up efforts currently underway in online advertising and voter outreach. My message has already been viewed 2,000,000 times and we have a goal to get another 10,000,000 impressions. Your contribution now will allow me to maintain this aggressive push and increase the number of times my ads are viewed by voters. Online advertising is an increasingly effective way to persuade voters and get them to the polls."

Kristopher Daams and Katie Mantz at Bill Hedrick's campaign here in Southern California will also make good use of whatever last minute contributions come in. "Probably the most effective way to use the money for GOTV would be to purchase minutes on a predictive dialer that increases the volume of GOTV phone calls a campaign can make (a predictive dialer is like this computer system that dials the telephone number automatically, increasing volume). Those calls can go out to 'lazy' Democrats who don't normally vote in midterm elections."

Fred Johnson's campaign manager, Lance Penny, tells me "If we got $500 - $1000 we'd like to put up a radio ad in Grand Haven. This is a town on the Lake Michigan shoreline that went blue for the first time in decades in 2008. It is loaded with first time voters from 2008, and will be key to our outcome. We'd love to run a GOTV centered ad on radio, to get these voters out. I can record a spot on a moment's notice, and have it on air later the same day. We could also do this in a number of other similar towns along the lakeshore, for about the same money in each town. It's not too late!"

Joyce Elliott's campaign manager, John Whiteside, also got back to me with a plan-- and a new ad (below). "It is definitely not too late to help our campaign as we enter the home stretch. Money you give today will immediately help us towards our television media buy which will be closing with the new advertisement. In addition, money given today and tomorrow will help us stay up with a strong presence on radio, internet, and our Get out the Vote volunteer and paid phone operations. We know the national folks have overlooked our race and we are grateful that the opposition has underestimated the strength of our candidate and the true progressive nature of our district. I can tell you Joyce Elliott's race is one of the best kept secrets in the country and it's a shame because she is one of the most talented and well qualified candidates in the country. We know we are going to win on Tuesday and we will be forever grateful for your help in these late stages and we will always remember those who stood with us."

You can donate today to the Blue America candidate of your choice on our House page or on our Senate page. The money won't be wasted.

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