Seasonal Revenue for Webloggers? Or, Digital Democratic Fundraising

by John Adams

Related link:

Josh Marshall, of Talking Points Memo, notes

As you'll notice there on the left, the Chandler campaign has been advertising for about the last two weeks on this and a number of other blogs. The campaign budgeted about two grand for blog advertising. And my understanding is that by today they had raised close to $100,000 from contributors who linked through from those blogs on which the campaign was advertising.

In other words, they got roughly a 50-fold turnaround on their investment in the final two weeks of the campaign. And in case you're wondering one hundred grand is a lot of money in a House race.

Big news, eh? I'd noticed these ads popping up on CalPundit, whose proprietor Kevin Drum noted on Monday

Boy, there sure a lot of congressional candidates advertising here all of a sudden, aren't there?

I didn't think to count at the time, but sure enough, today there are ads on his site for two candidates for the House and two candidates for the Senate.

Of course, Kevin Drum is one of the archtypically effective political webloggers (who lives in southern California, works in IT, and would have been a valuable and convenient addition to the Digital Democracy Teach-In), so it's not surprising his weblog is getting these ads.

It's also notable that, although the blog is called CalPundit, the ads come from Kentucky, Georgia, Alaska, and Oklahoma--four Democratic challengers (one now successful) in four Republican states.

Josh Marshall think this is a big-D Democratic fundraising method:

Democrats have always lamented how Republicans just have far better direct-mail lists than they do, and how the Republicans are just plain better at it. And they do have better lists and they are better at it. But I've always thought that it wouldn't really matter all that much if the Democrats had high quality lists too. The truth is that direct-mail, for whatever reason, just works with folks who are apt to give money to Republican campaigns. And it just doesn't with Dems, or at least not nearly as well. It's a different demographic. For whatever social or cultural reasons, the technology or mechanism -- in this case fundraising by mail -- is just particularly well suited to one demographic and not to the other.

But the Internet does seem to work for Democrats. That was clear in the spectacular early success of the Dean campaign and now you're seeing it in smaller ways in individual House races. That doesn't mean that it won't work equally well for Republicans; we just don't know yet. But for the first time in a long time Democrats have a technology, a mechanism that is allowing them to raise large sums of money, not from a few well-heeled givers but from large numbers of energized Democrats giving $10, $50 or $100 a shot. It's already starting to make a difference.

(Emphasis added.)

That would make it a small-d democratic (or egalitarian, if you prefer) fundraising method as well.

What to take away from this?

  1. The Dean campaign was prescient in its internet fundraising for congressional candidates. That was a brilliant stroke for the Democratic Party, even if it turns out not to have been one for Dean. Whoever in the Dean campaign came up with this idea (I wish I'd asked this question of Joe Trippi last week) hit a home run.

  2. The internet can empower people disenfranchised by gerrymandering and accidents of geography. There are congressional districts--heck, there are states--where members of one party might as well not bother showing up at the polls, so little do their votes matter. When your vote doesn't matter, political disengagment follows. Now people in (for example) my home congressional district, Arkansas 3, who would like to replace the incumbent but who don't have much chance of doing so, have a way of getting back into the game, nationally if not locally. Further, perhaps they now have a national lever with which they can get back in to the local game.

  3. Maybe people from the right didn't show up for the Digital Democracy Teach-In because they recognized the technologies and methods being discussed weren't winners for them My first thought on this was an unworthy one--that people on the right just don't care much about democracy, digital or otherwise. (Tell that to Phil Windley, whose panel on e-voting was one of the high points of the day.) Such partisan nonsense aside, though, maybe Republicans generally don't find the internet to be the uniquely valuable tool for themselves that Josh Marshall suggests it is for Democrats.

Bonus question: Which one of the ads on CalPundit leads to a page with "Dear Fellow Bloggers" in the title?

Have I just given a new meaning to the phrase "partisan hack"?