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 10 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 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.

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  • the netroots were like heedless lemmings

    in their frenzy to contribute to Tinklenberg, egging each other on at sites like Daily Kos.  And you’re right about El T. himself.  I sent him $10 on the day that evil twit said what she did, but then received an email every day after that from him asking for more.  I even wrote his campaign and asked them to stop so that other candidates could get help too and they never responded.  It was just plain stupid.  It was obvious he couldn’t spend that money.

  • We need to begin earlier...

    I, too, saw the Bachmann rant on Hardball.  Next day on Daily Kos there was a frenzy.  I sent Tink some $$ too. But it was too late.  Tink could have won if we began earlier.

    In large part I was ignorant, perhaps like most everyone else, of what a twit Bachmann is until she opened her mouth.

    Iowans know about Steve King and Tom Latham.  Hopefully we’ll attract good Dem. candidates.  We should begin the fundraising early by advertising right away & getting all the Iowa blogs on board.

    My point is, in districts around the country where there are similar King and Bachmann wingnuts, it would help if we knew about them early on, not when they appear on cable news and make fools of themselves.

    Do we have any scouts in the audience who can keep track of the sleepers, i.e. Bill Hedrick CA-44, as you suggested?  Then perhaps posting on national blogs.  It might not hurt to contact Markos, MyDD, etc. directly to see if they would be willing to elevate the post to the front page with a reminder about Tinklenberg v. Bachmann…don’t let it happen again.  

    DFA does a good job helping to raise funds for challengers or good incumbents but they can’t do all the work and it’s not enough $$ despite their good intentions.

    My 2 cents.

    • of course, early money is much more valuable

      If Tink had raised $2 million in July, he could have done something more substantial with the money.

      I agree with you on the need to have an early strategy next cycle.

      Markos linked to this article yesterday, but he interpreted it as a sign that Bachman is the gift that keeps on giving to the DCCC, instead of a sign that we allocated money very ineffectively.

      The problem is that it’s hard to identify the sleeper races. Swing State Project, which is a great blog, has an open thread every Friday called “What races are you watching?” People talk about the up and coming races all over the country. But even there, I don’t think CA-44 was on the radar.

      I put together a case for IA-04 and IA-05 being sleepers, but we lost them both by 20+ points. Other bloggers were talking about NJ-05 or AL-03, but we couldn’t get the DCCC to jump in there either. A lot of people were looking at other Congressional districts in CA, which we ended up losing by much more than CA-44.

      Figuring out which races are winnable is so hard even for people who do this all the time. I don’t think anyone would have anticipated that Republican Jim Gerlach would have survived in PA-06 in both 2006 and 2008. Linda Stender almost won in NJ-07 in 2006, and then the incumbent retired, so lots of people thought that was a very strong pickup opportunity for us. But she lost by 7 or 8 points in 2008.

      Same goes for Iowa statehouse races. We knew some districts would be close, but other districts that seemed uncompetitive changed hands.

  • Here's a thought!

    How about working to elect your OWN representatives rather than meddling in other districts?  You open-minded, tolerant liberals are fixated on shutting up people who don’t think like you.  Where I come from, that’s called censorship.

    • working to defeat a politician

      from another party is now censorship?

      Bachmann, King and their fellow travelers can mouth off on tv whenever they want to. I’m interested in electing more and better Democrats to Congress.

  • Did you ever apologize....

    for calling Steve King a tax cheat?

    • I revised that post

      even though I didn’t find his “I had no idea” explanation particularly credible:


      • Is that a no?

        So, you call a guy a tax cheat, he’s cleared of any wrongdoing and you’re still suspicious.

        Do you use that same approach when dealing with liberal Democrats, too?  Would you be equally as harsh?

        • he claimed he had no idea

          he was getting a tax break that was clearly noted on on his property tax materials for several years.

          I changed the headline and the text of the post to make clear that King has promised to pay the back taxes he owed for the years he was getting the property tax break he should never have gotten.

          When Steve King apologizes for any of the 1,001 offensive things he has said and done, like calling people traitors and terrorist sympathizers, you’ll have some firm ground to stand on while asking me to apologize.

          Meanwhile, you should think about apologizing for the offensive way you talk about gays and lesbians on conservative blog comment threads.  

          • Whatever!

            Would you call openly-gay Senator Matt McCoy a liar on your blog if I provided you with proof that he didn’t actually receive a “death threat” last week?

            I think it’s the militant homosexuals who are offending the State of Iowa, not the other way around.

            Your reporting of the Steve King homestead tax debacle was unconscionable.  Once you’ve proven yourself a deceitful person, you’ve lost all credibility

            Sorry to offend you with facts but the truth hurts.

  • "The problem is that it's hard to identify the sleeper races." ...

    I see your point.

    My experience from Loebsack v. Leach in ’06 is that letters work.  Keep in mind IA-02 is heavily Democratic but the challenge was peeling away the Dem. voters who consistently voted for Leach that kept him office too long.

    I was a volunteer as many of us were. I ran his letters-to-the-editor campaign. Many of us knew Dave personally. We were all Deaniacs.  We got together and wrote lots of letters exposing Leach’s insidious voting pattern, some 200 got published in 10 months time…we kept up a steady drumbeat. A few of us are black listed by the CR Gazette to this day.  They’re prob. still mad we used their right-wing paper to beat Leach.  

    Dave ran a great ground campaign, bike tour in the southern part of the district, senators campaigning with him. But he could never get a dime from the DCCC.  Dave’s campaign was constantly under funded.  My conclusion was: forget about the DCCC. They don’t get it.  We raised $$ online for his campaign TV ads that they wrote themselves, couldn’t afford a media consultant.

    I keep encouraging people to read and write letters. I’ve encouraged folks from IA-04 to write about Latham. If voters don’t know how the incumbent is hurting them, they’ll keep voting for the incumbent.

    It’s early, but a few of us in eastern Iowa are beginning to hit Grassley with letters. He’s bought and sold by big pharma, he and his family take thousands in the king of corporate welfare programs, farm subsidies, all the while he calls Obama a socialist.