Thursday brought a winnowing of the field, a happy Julian Castro, and a discussion on Super PACs.
For all new readers: Welcome! I am currently on the mailing lists of 18 candidates for the Democratic Presidential Nomination! This blog breaks down recent emails with charts and excerpts. If you already know all of this, feel free to skip to the next chart!
I signed up to all mailing lists either on May 21 or the day the candidate announced, whichever was later. Using a different email address, I have donated at least $1 to all candidates who have been on a debate stage (I have given additional donations to my preferred candidates through my personal email, but the campaigns have linked the two accounts together and may ask for more as a result).
When showing breakdowns by campaigns, there will usually be 2 numbers. Emails to my non-donor account will be indicated by a darker color/top bar in horizontal bar charts. Emails to my donor account will be indicated by a lighter color/bottom bar.
Unless otherwise specified, all other charts combine the donor and non-donor numbers, as they are roughly 1-for-1, so the percentages and relative differences don’t change much. You can divide the numbers in half to get the rough estimate for what someone not signed up twice would be receiving. The rules I try to follow for the various categories are laid out in The Framework.
If you want specific data on any particular day, feel free to drop a comment!
Julian Castro only sent 4 emails on Thursday, while Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren each sent 3.
Three campaigns sent info-only emails on Thursday, which was an unusual high.
Pete Buttigieg started off the day with a plan for his women’s agenda called “Building Power.” This was a very detailed look at the many problems facing women and ways that they could be rectified, tying them in with his other plans.
Amy Klobuchar sent an email simply saying thank you. Thank you to all of us who have supported her and gotten her into the November debates. I’m sure it’s a weight off her shoulders to have that qualification under her belt. (Beto O’Rourke sent an email saying that Klobuchar had gotten in but he still hadn’t qualified yet.)
Tim Ryan sent the email I’ve been waiting for: he officially has dropped out of the race. The field has narrowed to 18 candidates.
That is still way too many candidates, but it’s a little bit better than before.
Julian Castro started off the day in misery, but he got better.
He still needs to raise $800,000 by the end of the month, but money is apparently flooding in. Just look at this useful chart he offered up!
As you can see, the blue block grew bigger!
Presumably this indicates the strength of his support growing, but even putting it in context doesn’t really give that much more information.
And yes, Castro did name-drop Tom Steyer for buying so many ads. Castro has repeatedly been very upset about this.
Tom Steyer, meanwhile, offered up a way for me to volunteer with his campaign. He recently had a live Q&A where he answered a bunch of questions on a live video call and signed up 100 new volunteers.
Bernie Sanders also wanted me to volunteer. Unless I had money. If I had money, I could buy my way out of feeling guilty that I wasn’t going to volunteer.
As a non-donor, I received this email from Bernie
As a donor, my email had a third button
There’s not usually all that much difference between donor and non-donor emails, so I always find it fascinating when someone does give a difference.
In addition to the above fundraisers, Andrew Yang has announced that if his fundraising goal ($1.5 million) is met, his followers could unlock a MYSTERY PRIZE.
Yang is trying to get nearly twice the money as Castro in less time. I wonder if he’ll be successful. He’s not threatening to drop out if he’s unsuccessful–in fact, Yang specifically tweeted that if he doesn’t hit his goal, he’ll stay in the race.
Kamala Harris, meanwhile, should be investigated by Steve Bullock. While Bullock continues to get upset about the sweepstakes other campaigns are running (a NBC article today said that such sweepstakes have gone back at least to Obama’s campaign), Harris sneakily slipped Bullock’s slogan into her email.
I’m running for president to make sure every American gets a fair shot. We’re going to fight for fair wages, affordable housing, and hold big corporations accountable.Kamala Harris
What do I mean, slipped Bullock’s slogan into her email? Well…
Bullock has been campaigning on a fair shot for a while.
Maybe Harris should wait for Bullock to drop out before repeating those words.
Both Beto O’Rourke and Andrew Yang released plans to fight the opioid crisis on Thursday, but it was late at night that the outrage started to bubble up from Elizabeth Warren.
Here comes the big money.
As some of the other Democratic campaigns have begun to stall, handfuls of wealthy supporters are gearing up to start Super PACs for candidates who can’t mobilize enough grassroots support.
That means Wall Street, billionaires, and giant corporations can dump unlimited sums of money into the Democratic primary to back whatever candidate they think will help them most.
For months now, wealthy bankers and CEOs have been whispering in back rooms, whining on CNBC, and strategizing over expensive dinners about how to get a Democratic nominee who won’t change anything for them.
They’ve seen the strength of our grassroots movement, and they know that if we win, we’ll take political and economic power out of their hands and put it where it belongs — in the hands of the people.
Those powerful special interests are ready to jump at the chance to spend ridiculous amounts of money in the primary — and against everything we’re fighting for.
The Democratic primary should be decided by grassroots volunteers and grassroots donors, not the rich and powerful.
Who is starting a Super PAC? Well, Andrew Yang, for one. The Math PAC has formed to support Yang’s presidential run, and while Yang says he doesn’t know much about it, he doesn’t mind their help. Joe Biden is also no longer disavowing Super PAC assistance. ” Those who are dedicated to defeating Donald Trump are organizing in every way permitted by current law,” said his deputy campaign manager.
So… Super PACs. They’re the bogeyman of campaign finance, right? What makes them so bad?
Let’s start with what a PAC is, or a Political Action Committee. A PAC is a tax-exempt organization that pools contributions from its members and donates the money to political campaigns. On a federal level, an organization becomes a PAC when they have raised/spent $1,000 to influence an election. A PAC may contribute up to $5,000 to a candidate or candidate committee per election (primary and general counts as separate elections) and up to $15,000 to a political party per year. Corporations and unions are not allowed to donate to PACs.
A PAC is one way that people can get around the individual donation limit of $2,800 per election. Say a group of 10 millionaires really love Wayne Messam and want to help him out. They can each give him $5,600 ($2,800 for the primary and $2,800 for the general), but that’s not nearly enough to compete with the rest of the field: it’s only $28,000 for the primary, after all. If they form a PAC, then they can give an additional $10,000 ($5,000 for the primary and $5,000) for the general.
This is also true of a group of college students holding a raffle for their favorite candidate. They sell tickets at $25 a pop, and the winner gets a fancy cheese basket. All profits go to the candidate. They sell 100 tickets and pull in $2,500. The cheese basket cost $75. So now they can form a PAC and donate the $2,425 remaining to their candidate.
PACs are not bad in general. They just are. Many online groups may be forming PACs to donate profits from their merchandise to their chosen candidate, or to hold donation rallies of their own.
However, a Super PAC takes things a step further. To begin with, Super PACs can take in and spend unlimited money. They also can take donations directly from corporations and unions in addition to individuals (and it’s much easier for foreign money to get into a Super PAC this way). To even the playing field, SuperPACs are not allowed to give this money directly to a campaign, nor are they allowed to coordinate directly with a campaign. This was the big decision made in the infamous Citizens United decision: not allowing corporations and unions to donate and influence elections was a violation of their First Amendment
There is absolutely nothing saying a Super PAC cannot coordinate with a campaign and discuss strategy and tactics through the media.
So now with a Super PAC, Marlboro can donate $50,000,000 to run ads saying that all the candidates except Wayne Messam love big pharma and are going to raise prescription drug prices. As long as they don’t coordinate this directly with Messam, it’s perfectly legal (and some advertising platforms, such as Facebook, don’t care if ads are true or not). A candidate cannot stop a Super PAC from doing its own thing, but most Democratic candidates have made it very clear that they disavow any action from any SuperPAC attempting to support them. Biden and Yang have now both said that they’re okay with the Super PACs forming to support them.
Super PACs are required to report their large donors (over $200) monthly with the FEC during election years. For some, this level of transparency is enough to make them feel comfortable with having huge amounts of money thrown around. For others, they feel this sort of big money will unduly influence a candidate and is a form of buying an election.
Regardless of how you feel about Super PACs, they are legal. By allowing their aid, Biden and Yang might not be acting in the best taste of the majority of the Democratic party, but they aren’t breaking any laws.