I usually have a rule of thumb about political fundraising: if someone who isn't a candidate is collecting money they claim they will give to a candidate or, worse yet, a prospective candidate, some of that money is being skimmed. And "some" could mean 80-90% of it. There is no rule that is 100% accurate and no doubt there is a 1% or even 2% chance that the group you want to pour your money into is completely legit. But-- a word to the wise-- give your money directly to the candidate. It's easy and it's the most effective way to help. Giving it to a third party almost inevitably means the candidate you're trying to help, will be less helped-- if at all. History shows us that political operatives-- even if they have been associated with politicians and with movements whose agendas we love-- tend to have bad reputations for a reason.
At dawn this morning, The Hill published a piece by Max Greenwood and Hanna Trudo, Democrats fret as longshot candidates pull money, attention. All that fretting reminded me of a stern warning Steny Hoyer sent out to Democratic donors, denouncing me by name once time. It was way back in 2012 and Hoyer was wigging out because Blue America was helping raise money for Matt Cartwright, a local attorney in a Pennsylvania district in the Poconos where I had lived part time. Cartwright, Hoyer whispered, was 'too liberal" for the recently gerrymandered D+4 district. What Hoyer didn't whisper is that it was a waste of money because his pal, reactionary, pro-fracking Blue Dog, Tim Holden, was a fine incumbent and that I was a trouble-maker. Cartwright openly ran as the candidate from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, sending Holden and Hoyer into orbit.
Hoyer even showed up in the district with a trainload of lobbyists-- I shit you not-- to campaign for Holden. Anyway, Holden spent over $10.5 million in the primary... 10 times what Cartwright spent. On primary day, Cartwright pulverized the long-time Hoyer-backed Blue Dog incumbent, 57-43% So Hoyer and his cronies were wrong... it was not a waste of money. Today Cartwright's district has shifted towards Trump, who beat Hillary by 10 points. The PVI has gone from D+4 to R+5. Last year, while Trump beat Biden, Cartwright won again.
In-the-know Beltway types were even more certain that by asking Blue America members to contribute to the campaign of a Bronx bartender/waitress against the "next Speaker," (what was his name again?), we were on a fool's errand. But guess what-- what's his names out of politics and AOC is one of the most consequential members of Congress. You know who else had "no chance" when Blue America backed them? Donna Edwards, Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, Katie Porter, Marie Newman... Sure, plenty of candidates we back lose. No doubt... but they clear the way for future candidates. When John Laesch announced his campaign against then-Speaker Denny Hastert and Blue America stood with him, people laughed, until the issues Laesch raised led first to Hastert retiring and then to a prison sentence. Alan Grayson, Donna Edwards, Marie Newman, Ro Khanna... all lost the first time they ran-- and then won. Not only did they win, more importantly, each went on to be an exceptional member of the House.
And, sure, the Steny Hoyer's and other guardians of the status quo, hate it and become furious about it... and plant stories in the Beltway trade press, especially The Hill. "Longshot challengers to Democrats’ most reviled Republican foes," wrote Greenwood and Trudo, "and are starting to be seen as threats by some in their own party who fear they are distracting from midterm efforts to protect the majority." Yes, there's always an excuse to let people like Chuck "I picked Sinema" Schumer decide which races are "important" and should be taken seriously and when are merely distraction. "Just over a year out from what will be a referendum on President Biden’s first two years in office," continued the two Hill writers, "Democratic strategists are expressing frustration that a handful of candidates looking to oust some of the GOP’s most high-profile incumbents-- Rep. Marjorie Traitor Greene (R-GA) and Rand Paul (R-KY) among them-- in deep red areas are using valuable resources that could otherwise be used to strengthen the party’s hand in more competitive races. 'Are they running for self-serving purposes because they have nothing to lose?' said Michael Ceraso, a progressive consultant who works with grassroots organizations. 'Or are they running because they really have something at stake in their community and they want to change that?' Up and down the ballot, Democrats have long grumbled about candidates they deem to be inconsequential attention suckers. They argue there’s limited value to contenders who launch far-reaching bids that take away time, media focus and money from other choices."
Oh? "Democrats have long grumbled?" Who? Schumer? Hoyer? profit-driven consultants? I don't know Ceraso, for example. He might be a fine fellow but after reading the description in The Hill, I asked some other people active in progressive electoral politics. I asked someone who's been around working progressive politics for a lot longer than Ceraso. Here's a verbatim conversation with one. It doesn't mean that Greenwood and Trudo are wrong and my source is correct, but it's worth considering-- and my source has always been correct in the past:
Me: Do you know anything about Michael Ceraso?
Source: Oh yes! Why?
Me: Tell me about him. The Hill described him as 'a progressive consultant who works with grassroots organizations.' Is that accurate?
Source: Scumbag to the infinity degree. It's not accurate. He's an absolute retard. Just ask [and he names several of Ceraso's past clients]. He's been fired from every single race he's ever been on including... [names more past clients]... I can't emphasize how big of a douchebag he is.
Me: OK, so you don't like him, but is he a progressive grassroots guy?
Source: He's a nothing; he was Pete Buttigieg's New Hampshire state director for a couple of weeks until he was fired... He's a sociopath who could easily charm fools like any pair of Hill writers.
Like I said, I don't know Ceraso (and he may be a great guy). Nor do I know Greenwood and Trudo. Just be on your guard when wannabe "journalists" at trade publications like The Hill cite sources to prove their spurious points. They went on that "the complaint is becoming more normalized within a Democratic Party experiencing a new strain of frustration during the Biden era and facing down its narrowest House and Senate majorities in decades. And it’s become particularly noticeable as candidates with little chance of winning try to take on boogeyman incumbents who have inspired mass outrage on the left."
Yes, "candidates with little chance of winning." In Beltwayese that often means, a candidate someone doesn't deem worthy. And who they don't think deserve to be in their private (taxpayer funded) club.
Do you find this outrageous? "Among the pool of steep climb candidates angling to unseat GOP rivals is former Kentucky state Rep. Charles Booker, who said last week that he had raised nearly $2 million since July in his bid to oust Paul, a sign that he’s raking in donations at a faster pace than Democratic Senate candidates in far more competitive states like North Carolina." Schumer's candidate in North Carolina is an uninspiring stiff whose ONLY chance to win-- if she gets into the general-- would be a Democratic tidal wave, of which there are currently no signs at all. Booker, on the other hand, is very inspiring and generates the kind of money Schumer wishes he could generate for Beasley, who can't even keep any of her paid staffers on her team.
On Tuesday, when Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) said that he was retiring from Congress, speculation mounted ["mounted?" Really? Booker shot it down in minutes of Yarmuth's announcement] about whether Booker would possibly compete for Yarmuth’s old House seat instead of the Senate.
Booker, for his part, said his race was worth fighting.
“No Democrats with a mind about fighting for our democracy are seriously questioning whether insurrectionist-enablers like Rand Paul should be challenged," Booker told The Hill on Wednesday.
“Collectively, we haven’t done the deep organizing it takes to build coalitions. We have conceded the narrative, and run campaigns that are destined to lose. That is what we should call a waste of money,” he added. “Opting out of running sophisticated, inspiring, and deeply embedded campaigns in 'safe' Republican seats is not only wrongheaded, but is destructive to our aims of democracy.”
And the losers at the DCCC are understandably frustrated that long-shot-- or even beyond long-shot-- candidates running against villains like Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Traitor Greene and Matt Gaetz in "safe" red seats, are raking in cash while conservative DCCC candidates when one likes-- like whiny Blue Dog Abigail Spanberger (VA) and Michigan New Dem Elissa Slotkin don't inspire grassroots contributions. Neither supports the issues grassroots donors care about, so why would anyone expect them to get any contributions? Because the DCCC says to give to them? That might have worked 20 years ago... but no more.
The first people who realized the danger of ActBlue to the status quo were two legendary committee heads-- Schumer,then head of the DSCC and Rahm Emanuel, then head of the DCCC. Not dummies, they understood how empowering ActBlue and small donors could be and how much their own power could be jeopardized.
The hyperpolarized climate and anticipation of 2022, combined with the ease of online fundraising and the potential for campaign ads to go viral, has created an environment in which even the least competitive races can draw outsized attention – and funding.
One example of that traction is ActBlue, Democrats’ online fundraising clearinghouse.
While many in the party believe the platform has been a net good, it has also made it easy for far-flung candidates to raise outsize sums of money nationwide.
“It’s kind of the blessing and the curse with ActBlue,” the Democratic strategist said. “The donor pool is so massive. But everything is just so hyper-online and a lot of people get siloed off from the reality of what’s competitive, what’s winnable and what’s not.”
Other Democrats believe the focus should be on encouraging “strategic giving” to deliver a positive outcome in November for Biden, who is loath to repeat the mistakes of former President Obama's first midterm elections, where the party lost control of the lower chamber.
And who decides the strategy? Schumer and a doofus like Sean Patrick Maloney at the DCCC, who has all of Emanuel's bad characteristics and none of the "good" ones? 'While I understand that it might feel good to give money to these long shot candidates who are running against these characters, that’s not going to help hold the House. It’s not going to help hold the Senate,' said Jon Reinish, a Democratic operative based in New York. 'I would be giving to our frontline members... I would also be giving it to folks running to recapture some of the seats that we lost in 2020,' Reinish said. 'What I don’t want to see the day after Election Day is that Marcus Flowers raised $5 million and lost by 20 points and Abigail Spanberger and Elissa Slotkin raised less than that, and lost by 3 points.'
Some Democrats argue that donating to a less viable candidate isn’t necessarily a drain on other contenders’ fundraising prospects. And even if a candidate loses their race, their campaign can still have a positive effect on turnout that could help swing other races on the ballot.
They also point out that House Democrats are still amassing money at a breakneck pace. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) announced last month that it had raised $10 million in August, giving it its best ever fundraising total for an August in a year without regularly scheduled federal elections.
But others point to cautionary tales from past elections. One mentioned by several Democrats is Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot who raised more than $94 million last year for her ill-fated challenge to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). And when current Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison ran against Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in 2020 he became the first U.S. Senate candidate to ever cross the $100 million fundraising threshold.
It might be worth pointing out that the Scumer's Senate Majority PAC and DSCC and their allies put $17 million into Harrison's vanity campaign. Schumer not only helped McGrath raise that 94 million, head his allies spent $16 million on her campaign.
And who did the Democratic establishment direct donors to last cycle-- besides Harrison and McGrath? Losers like Schumer-recruited Cal Cunningham in North Carolina; Sara Gideon in Maine; Theresa Greenfield in Iowa; MJ Hegar in Texas; Al Gross in Alaska; Barbara Bollier (an actual anti-Trump Republican) in Kansas. Two years earlier Schumer was strutting around the Senate like a damn banty rooster, having engineered a huge victory in Arizona for... yes, Kyrsten Sinema. Congratulations, Little Chucky Schmucky! See that thermometer just above? That will give you the opportunity to contribute to vetted progressives running for the Senate, none of whom have been embraced by the man who recruited Kyrsten Sinema. And all of whom would make extraordinary members of the U.S. Senate who would help neuter the influence policy of Schumerites like Sinema and Manchin.