Next cycle, donate strategically--not emotionally

Last October, Representative Michele "Crazy as Steve King" Bachmann (MN-06) disgraced herself on "Hardball" and sparked a ridiculously successful fundraising drive for her Democratic opponent, El Tinklenberg. I was impressed by the enthusiasm and kicked in a few bucks for Tinklenberg myself, but I was dismayed to see bloggers continue to help him raise money even after he'd raised more than $750,000 and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had promised to spend an additional $1 million in his district. Within a few days of Bachmann's notorious comments, Tinklenberg had more money than he needed to run a solid media and GOTV campaign during the final two weeks before the election.

Since most Congressional races against incumbents are longshots, I wanted to see the netroots expand the field by raising $50,000 or more for a large number of unheralded challengers.

A fellow Iowa blogger sent me this piece from CQ Politics about how Tinklenberg's campaign committee was the largest donor to the DCCC in March, giving a total of $250,000:

You may recall that his Republican opponent was Rep. Michele Bachmann, whose mid-October comment that Obama "may have anti-American views" angered Democrats nationwide and spawned an avalanche of contributions to Tinklenberg in the waning days of a campaign that Bachmann won by 46 percent to 43 percent, with a third-party candidate taking 10 percent.

Apparently the money was coming in too fast for Tinklenberg to spend completely: he raised $3 million for his campaign, of which $1.9 million came in after October 15, and had $453,000 in leftover campaign funds at the end of 2008 and $184,000 at the end of March.

I'm not saying it wasn't worth getting behind Tinklenberg. Bachmann is among the worst Republicans in Congress, and this district rightly seemed winnable. However, the netroots clearly funneled way more money to Tinklenberg than he could spend effectively.

What if a million of the dollars we sent to the MN-06 race had been spread around 15 or 20 other districts? A bunch of the candidates I wanted to support as part of an expanded field got blown out by large margins, but an extra $50,000 could have made the difference for Josh Segall in AL-03, or for several candidates who weren't on my radar, such as Bill Hedrick in CA-44.

The netroots rally for Tinklenberg started out as a good cause but took on a momentum of its own. It didn't help that Tinklenberg sent out fundraising e-mails to his new donors every day or two during the home stretch, even after he had more than enough money to close out the campaign.

Maybe the majority of blog readers who gave $10 or $20 or $50 to Tinklenberg wouldn't have given to some other longshot Congressional challenger. Maybe people need an emotional trigger before they are willing to open their wallets. But in future election cycles, we need to be smarter about how we focus our energy and our fundraising efforts during the final weeks of a campaign. There's no shortage of wingnuts worth targeting. Also, a fair number of good incumbent Democrats will probably need our help in 2010, depending on how the economy looks 18 months from now.

Any ideas or suggestions on how to raise money effectively during the next cycle would be welcome in this thread.

Tags: 2008 elections, Congress, El Tinklenberg, House, Michele Bachmann, MN-06 (all tags)

Comments

13 Comments

Re: Steve King

Funny I was just thinking of you as I watched Rep. King on C-SPAN compared Obama to Chavez.

by Charles Lemos 2009-04-21 08:54PM | 0 recs
honestly, I try not to follow his ramblings

too closely. It is so embarrassing.

Another Iowa Democratic blogger had an out-of-the-box idea this week: Iowa native Ashton Kutcher should move to IA-05 and run against King in 2010.

by desmoinesdem 2009-04-21 09:05PM | 0 recs
yeah i recall

reminds me of when, in the primaries for the presidency if obama said something, people would be all like "oh, just donated another 20 dollars to hillary."

it was fucking stupid

by theninjagoddess 2009-04-21 09:49PM | 0 recs
Here's how I saw it.

Politics runs on money.  During campaign season, we let the politicians know how we feel about their behavior by sending money either to them or their opponents.  Michelle Bachmann (and by extension the Republican Party) needed to get a very loud, very clear message that the American people won't support people who spout the kind of stuff she did(does).

What better way to show that than for a huge number of people all over the country to donate money to her opponent, someone completely unknown to most of us and attached to the unlikely name of El Tinklenberg?  I'm pleased that the DNC jumped in and added their opinion (money).

I want to add that I donated no more to Tinklenberg than I did to a dozen or more other candidates who seemed to need some help.

by GFORD 2009-04-21 10:02PM | 0 recs
that message was received

after the first $500K or so (which came in during a 24-hour period, if memory serves).

He ended up raising $1.9 million after October 15. That was overkill.

by desmoinesdem 2009-04-21 10:06PM | 0 recs
I didn't agree with the DCCC

Putting in some token amount would have been one thing, but $1 million in that district when he already was raising enough for a strong media buy? Not necessary. They could have spent $100K each in ten other districts and maybe picked off a seat.

Spending an additional $1 million on Tinklenberg when he already had plenty of cash did not increase our chances of winning MN-06 and had too high an opportunity cost.

by desmoinesdem 2009-04-21 10:08PM | 0 recs
I have a bigger beef with the netroots funding....

This is probably going to make me unpopular, but I think a more deliterious effect of netroots funding is, certain candidates can become darlings of the netroots when more of a survival of the fittest strategem may weed them out.

My example that burns me is Darcy Burner, whom, though beloved of the netroots, is simply the wrong candidate for Wash -08, and (agian, going against the general concensus of the NetRoots) IMO blew our best chance to take out Sherrif Dave Reichert, in a year where Obama rolled in a slightly red/Purple district. Obama won, Darcy lost.

My friends in the district thought Rodney Tom had a much better chance to get elected, and Darcy was actually raising very little from INSIDE the district...a clear sign that actual voters had little confidence in her ability to beat Sherrif Dave...

Though EMILY's List endorsed Burner's campaign in November, 2007, she was briefly challenged in the 2008 Democratic primary by State Senator Rodney Tom.[19] On the morning of September 5, 2007, Tom stepped out of the race, citing Burner's effective mobilization of the 'netroots' to raise money.[20] Tom immediately endorsed Burner, and encouraged his donors to do the same.[20]

It's all grist for the mill, but I think you take away Darcy's ability to raise money from people that had NO CLUE if she could actually win in her district, and maybe Tom stays in, wins the primary and takes out sherrif dave?

At any rate, clearly a case where the Netroots CAN have an overwhelming impact on a local PRIMARY but maybe not so much in the general

Darcy outspent Sherrif Dave by almost a million dollars in her loss.

by WashStateBlue 2009-04-21 10:47PM | 0 recs
that's very reasonable

I heard other people complaining last year that Darcy Burner wasn't a great fit for the district, and there certainly is a problem with some candidates becoming "netroots darlings" and raising more than their fair share.

by desmoinesdem 2009-04-22 05:28AM | 0 recs
Ground game

What a lot of candidates need more than money is a more effect ground game.

by bakho 2009-04-22 04:49AM | 0 recs
but that costs money too

especially if the presidential campaign is going to run its own GOTV instead of paying into the state parties' coordinated campaigns, which help candidates all the way down the ticket.

by desmoinesdem 2009-04-22 05:29AM | 0 recs
Re: Ground game

That costs money...earlier in the cycle.

A dollar 12 months out from election is worth more than 10 times a dollar in October.  Give early, give often.

by mp 2009-04-22 08:17AM | 0 recs
Sell products, donate profits

This Profit-Donation Capitalism idea, www.profitdonationcapitalism.org, describing a socio-capitalist economic model wherein businesses sell products and donate all profits to social causes, could be tooled to raise money for Democratic candidates.

by Georgeo57 2009-04-22 07:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Next cycle, donate strategically

Maybe piggybacking?  Do a fundraiser that will allocate a certain percentage of monies raised to the Tinklenberg netroots darling candidate, but then spread the rest of the money out to other lesser-known but still competitive candidates in more winnable districts.

So if I give $100 to the "Tinklenberg & Friends" effort, I can feel that I'm a part of the effort to defeat Bachmann, but that my money is going to more than just one worthy candidate.  Tinklenberg gets $25 of the money I've contributed, but the other $75 gets split between three other worthy candidates whom I may be personally less familiar with but still need the help.

by Obamaphile 2009-04-22 09:51AM | 0 recs

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