Day 207: 12/13/19

Let’s talk about fundraising today, and the various tactics different campaigns are using to gobble up the cash.


For all new readers: Welcome! I am currently on the mailing lists of Joe Biden and Donald Trump, though I have previously been on the mailing lists of 28 Democratic candidates! 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!

It took some time for the Trump emails to kick in, so I started officially tracking his list on July 7. I have been tracking Biden’s for longer, but I will start comparing them as of July 7. All of these emails are going to a new email, and I have not donated, filled out surveys, signed petitions, or otherwise interacted with either candidate’s emails.

The rules I try to follow for the various categories are laid out in The Framework.

Someone got tired of always being shown up…

Joe Biden pushed ahead of Pete Buttigieg, sending 5 emails to Buttigieg’s 4. Julian Castro and Elizabeth Warren were lagging behind at sending only 3 emails in a day.

Before you start getting worried about me, no, I do not seriously believe 3 emails a day is lagging behind. I just sit here in stunned silence sometimes, looking at the volume of emails pouring in.

Can you guess what fundraising deadline we’re approaching?

We are halfway through the month of December, roughly, which means it is time for the Mid-Month fundraising goal of the Final Month of the FEC quarter!

Fundraising season basically goes like this every quarter:

Month one, days 12-15: Mid-month goal!

Month one, days 25-end: End of month goal!

Month two, days 12-15: Mid-month AND mid-FEC quarter goal!

Month two, days 25-end: End of month goal!

Month three, days 12-15: Mid-month goal!


Add another 5-day fundraising span around every debate, both before and after.

Add 2 weeks before a debate if someone hasn’t qualified yet for said debate.

Skip holidays (most of the time)

Skip the first of the month (most of the time).

Basically, fundraising almost never ends.

Some candidates, like Michael Bennet and Elizabeth Warren, are very matter-of-fact.

Friend: In a moment, I’m going to ask you to make your first donation to my campaign, but first let me tell you why.

I crunched the numbers with my finance team, and we’ve got some work to do.

We’ve gotten on more than a dozen state ballots, opened new offices, and hired more field staff, but we need to raise another $30,000 by Sunday night if we’re going to keep building at the pace we need to win!

While some top-tier candidates have started to burn out after months or even years in the spotlight, I’m in this for the long haul.

Since I refuse to take contributions from corporate special interests, every step I take in this journey is because grassroots supporters like you are with me, ensuring our campaign has what it takes to win this hard-fought race.

Michael Bennet

Can’t really argue with that. However, when there is almost no variation in the message for multiple emails a day, multiple days in a row, it makes me seriously doubt the imagination of the campaign. Warren is especially bad at this. Big, structural change. Fight for all of us. Behind on her goal. She did have one moment of creativity last night, however.

Your donation of $10 in September was crucial for our growth, Aimin. Thank you. We’re counting on grassroots donors like you to step up and power this movement, just like you have before.

Team Warren

I checked my records. I only donated $1 in September.

(I wanted to get a sticker for my niece.)

Pete Buttigieg at least tries to inject some substance into most of his fundraising emails. On Friday, for example, his campaign manager, Mike Schmuhl, related how he first met Buttigieg.

I’ve known Pete for over twenty years. We met when he was in high school, and I was in the eighth grade. He was assigned to give me, a prospective student, a tour of our high school in South Bend.

Almost 15 years later, I helped Pete pull together his first campaign for Mayor, and when we won, I served as his chief of staff. We broke away from the machine politics of the past and brought new energy and hope to our hometown that had been devastated by the closing of the Studebaker car company in 1963.

We’re still in our hometown, but some things have changed: we’re a top-tier presidential campaign with one of the most advanced and hardworking teams in the country. For me, one of the hardest things to believe is that we’re on the cusp of two million donations.

That means that almost two million times, an individual like you has read a note, clicked a link, and — with hope and urgency in their hearts — donated to help usher in a new era of American politics

Every day, people like you are deciding that it’s time for a new approach to unifying our country. And almost two million times they — you! — have decided you are going to do something to help make it happen.

We can win, but we need your support right now. If you can, please consider making a donation right now as we approach the end of the year.

Mike Schmuhl, Campaign Manager, Pete for America

How many people get to say they were shown around their future high school by a future front runner for President of the United States? Do you think Schmuhl realized when Buttigieg was giving the tour what they would become?

Sentimental moments aside, Bernie Sanders preferred to contrast his need for money over others’ use of money.

I’ll be direct today. I am writing to ask if you would make a $2.70 contribution to our campaign. It’s important.

Here’s why:

FIRST, Joe Biden’s super PAC went on the air in Iowa. A massive ad buy targeting working-class voters who we need to choose Bernie.

THEN, Pete Buttigieg is taking the cash he gobbles up at high-dollar fundraisers and is running the largest ad buy in Iowa of any candidate in the race.

NOW, we have to make some decisions about budget: what to spend where and on what in order to win. And we have to make those decisions SOON. And that is why we’re asking:

Can Bernie count on you to make a $2.70 contribution to our campaign today? Do it before our FEC deadline and as we’re making win-or-lose budgeting decisions about this race.

This thing is going to be CLOSE. And it’s what we’re able to do right now in terms of ads, in terms of staff, and in terms of building out our organizing capability that will be the difference.

So thank you in advance for chipping in today. It’s important.

Faiz Shakir, Campaign Manager, Bernie 2020

First, Sanders has been preparing me all week for Joe Biden’s super PAC to go full-on attack mode on him. He needed money to defend himself. Now that the ads have launched, they are… targeting working-class voters? That seems to imply that the ads are actually pro-Biden and not anti-Sanders.

Then, Pete Buttigieg is not running the largest ad buy in Iowa of any candidate in the race, at least not according to FiveThirtyEight’s Tracking Every Presidential Candidate’s TV Ad Buys project, which was updated 9 hours prior to the writing of this post. According to that project, Tom Steyer has spent the most on ads in Iowa, with $7.9 million in ads. Buttigieg is in second place, at $3 million. Third place in Iowa goes to none other than Sanders himself, at $2.7 million.

Now, I suggest that if Sanders is so intimidated by Buttigieg running a conventional campaign–fundraising for money and then using that money to promote himself–maybe Sanders should spend some of his own money (remember, Sanders tops every other candidate (except the billionaires) for fundraising) to promote himself. He’d only have to set aside an extra $400,000 to top Buttigieg in Iowa, and then he can feel better about himself.

Andrew Yang, meanwhile, has pointed out that he’s now one of the top candidates (and as one of the 7 on the debate stage next week, yes he is) and needs to be fundraising accordingly. Everyone’s going to be watching to see if he hits his $2 million goal, so Yang Gang, we need to step up so he’s not let down!

Cory Booker, on the other hand, is lifting an idea from Yang and offering to write our names on his bus as a mobile donor wall in exchange for donations. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles all the names. Yang got a little criticism for highlighting mostly male names in his bus’ Y.

The one Info sender might not be a huge surprise.

Mike Bloomberg actually sent me an email, and true to form, he didn’t ask me to donate any money. He just wanted to tell me how he was going to move us forward regarding climate change and tell me some of his policies.

Slightly off-topic, I was Googling “Republican Presidential Candidates 2020” today and got an ad for Bloomberg as my top result. Hmm…

Marianne Williamson had a petition for me to sign to say no to H.R. 2500, which is the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020. She’s seriously concerned with the weaponization of space, but she isn’t happy with any military spending.

I did a quick search for that bill and tried to understand what it’s doing from the summary. It says that it is authorizing appropriations but is not providing budget authority. I think it’s just laying out the policies of how money can be used by the various aspects of the Department of Defense, including healthcare, compensation, and benefits for our active duty and reserve forces.

I’m no expert, but it sounds like saying no to this means the Department of Defense isn’t authorized to pay our troops? That… doesn’t sound like something we want to encourage.

At least she stopped talking about her livestream with Deepak Chopra…

…spoke too soon.

I’m going to end with Julian Castro, who began by offering a FREE sticker… if you were willing to give him at least a $10 donation.

Would you pay $10 for one of these stickers?

However, he finished the day with something a bit more interesting to think about.

It’s been said that there are two types of candidates: ones who want to get elected to be something, and the ones who want to get elected to do something. 

The first is easier and too common. These are the candidates who strictly follow polls and listen to consultants to do what’s most popular.

Then there are campaigns like this one that stick to their morals, stand up for the most vulnerable, speak out on tough issues, and put forward plans that would fundamentally overhaul our health care, immigration, education, and housing systems.

Donate Today

We’ve chosen to do what’s hard. We’re going to work day in and day out to make sure we leave no one behind, and build toward a future where everyone counts. 

Let’s be bold. Let’s be loud. Let’s live our values. We can be the smartest, healthiest, fairest, and most prosperous nation on earth — but we can only do it with your help.

Be bold,

Julian Castro

Every time Castro says “Be bold,” I just think of Melania’s “Be best” initiative.

Anyway, that aside, I think he has a point. There are the candidates doing this because they want to Be The President. And there are candidates doing this because they feel called to Make A Difference. And I do believe you can tell them apart most of the time.

However… I have to disagree with Castro’s classification of himself. A man who has to constantly remind me how humble he is sure as heck isn’t putting himself second.

I suspect we’ll clear 11,000 emails this year.

2 thoughts on “Day 207: 12/13/19

  1. This week, I received an email from the Buttigieg campaign asking me to go ahead and top off my donations to the maximum $2800. They gave me an exact value, down to the half dollar. I’ve never gotten such an email. Think this is normal? Think it is a bit early?


    1. Hmm, interesting. I haven’t seen such an email myself, but I’m nowhere near being maxed out for anyone.

      Timing-wise, there are a few reasons it could make sense: big numbers for pre-debate, for post-debate push, for end of quarter, for end of YEAR… but if I had to guess, I’d say they’re trying to stockpile as much as they can for the final push through Iowa. Pulling in as much money as fast as they can will give them the best knowledge for how to budget, and if you’re close enough that they can ask you to top off, they probably are betting you’re financially able to finish off the donations.

      (if you DO top off, I’d be interested to know if your emails dry up!)


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