If we want to build state parties, we should bypass DNC/JFCs and give to states directly.

I’ll cut to the recommendation first: If you’re a donor, and wish to support state and local parties, then cut the check to them directly. Don’t send funds to the DNC or to Joint Fundraising Committees. If Democrats want to have a 50 state strategy, we should give directly to state parties.

I’ll go into this in detail below the fold, but here’s the gist. I looked at the flows of contributions during the 2016 campaign between the biggest Joint Fundraising Committee (which raised over $530 million), the DNC and state parties. Donations made to the Joint Fundraising Committee end up primarily with presidential campaigns, back at the DNC, or redirected to states that are a priority for the presidential race.

Only a very small amount will actually make it down to non-battleground states to express a 50 state strategy. Fundraisers working for presidential campaigns feel they’ve brought in the money and should be able to direct it where they believe it will best help them. The DNC assisted in the effort.

If we believe that state parties should be strengthened, if we trust they know best how to organize and run campaigns in their states, if we want a 50 state strategy, then we should give directly to the state parties. Take what presidential campaign fund-raisers tell you about helping state parties with a grain of salt. Their priority is always going to be the top of the ticket, the presidential campaign.

If you’re in a state that you think don’t needs help, adopt a different state and give to them (both time and money). My “adopted state” is Montana.

Why am I bothering with this?

Here’s what got me going on this. Back in May and July of last year, Politico published a couple of articles about how little money state parties were getting from Joint Fundraising Committees they’d signed up for.

I did a diary at the time: Dear state party: We’re wiring $1 million, wire 900k of it to the DNC today (wink wink nudge nudge). The story was about the Hillary Victory Fund, a Joint Fundraising Committee (JFC) set up between the presidential campaign, the DNC and state parties. The joint effort allowed the committee to ask a donor for over $700,000 in total. This was accomplished by pooling together all their contribution limits for state, national parties and the presidential campaign. Several donors did in fact make such large donations, and at least some thought (or said) it would be going to state parties or “down-ticket”:

Then he [George Clooney] told Todd, “The overwhelming amount of money that we’re raising, and it is a lot, but the overwhelming amount of the money that we’re raising is not going to Hillary to run for president, it’s going to the down-ticket. — www.politico.com/…

I decided to take another look at this after questions were raised during the KS-4 special election. James Thompson’s campaign wanted the state party to kick in $20k, but they had a lot of other competing priorities. There was some discussion about DNC/JFC contributions and how small they ended up being. They were also meant for the 2016 campaign, but anyway, this is what prompted me to take another look.

So, what did I find?

I used data from the reports on transfer to/from affiliated committees at the FEC for the following committees/parties:

  • Hillary Victory Fund: C00586537
  • DNC Services Corp./DEM. NAT’L COMMITTEE: C00010603

These reports have information on what state parties received from the DNC and JFC, and what they sent to the DNC. The DNC and state parties can legally transfer unlimited funds amongst themselves. The JFC disbursed funds to the state parties based on a pre-agreed allocation formula. Donors who hit their contribution limits for the presidential campaign or DNC would see surplus funds sent to state parties.

Joint Fundraising Committee disbursements

The Joint Fundraising Committee (JFC) raised $530 million during the cycle. 27.4% of that went to pay for expenses, much of which was advertising that was similar to the presidential campaign and helped drive small contributions (not subject to limits).

$378 million (71.4%) was distributed the committees. Of that, 41% ($158 million) went to the presidential campaign committee which had also raised another $408 million on its own. A further 28% ($107 million) went to the DNC. That left 31% ($122 million) for the state parties.

$122 million sounds pretty good. What’s even better is that $94 million went to the 44 non-battleground states. And then something else happened. The DNC recalled $85 million from the states. That left $37 million with the states. Whoa, doesn’t sound as good.

Six battleground states got most the money from the JFC and DNC.

Then, the DNC distributed funds to state parties again, and they distributed more than the $85 million they’d taken out. They sent $114 million down to the states. That sounds really good!

But here’s the catch. The redistribution favored the 6 presidential battleground states disproportionately (FL, PA, OH, NC, NV and VA). These 6 battleground states net over $96 million from the DNC and JFC combined. That’s over $16 million per state. The remaining 44 state parties (plus territories) received only $55 million. That’s $1.1 million per state. A fifteen to one disparity. If we think about it another way, the six battleground states between them had 80 House seats at stake. That’s $1.2 million per house seat. The remaining 355 voting house seats got $155,000 each.

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN $158,200,000 $158,200,000 $158,200,000
DNC $107,533,318 $192,709,118 $68,460,077
BATTLEGROUND STATE PARTY  $18,580,413  $12,001,913  $95,566,561
STATE PARTY  $93,780,949  $15,183,649  $55,868,042
TOTAL $378,094,680 $378,094,680 $378,094,680

PS. Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin should have been in that mix of battleground, but that’s hindsight. Also, not every state participated in the joint fundraising with JFC, only 38 of them did. The DNC also transferred funds to states that weren’t in the JFC. Bernie’s JFC sent 250k to the DNC, I did not include that in this calculation.

What does this tell us? Basically, that the DNC and the Joint Fundraising Committee were focused on the presidential campaign. Heck, that is actually the DNC’s job and the Joint Fund-raising committee was called “Hillary Victory Fund”. It wasn’t called “50 state strategy, down-ballot candidates Victory Fund”. So it should be obvious what the intention is.

However, claims were made that donations would help build state parties and down-ballot candidates. At least when we follow the money, that doesn’t seem to be true.

As an aside, the same thing was happening on the Republican end as well. Kansas Republicans got $1.35 million from their JFC (Trump Victory), and they sent $1.37 million back up to the RNC.

Which states got the least?

I’ll share the complete data set I was working with in a comment after a couple of days. But here are a bunch of states that were part of the Joint Fundraising Committee and received money from the Joint Fundraising Committee, only to send it up to the DNC almost immediately.  They were essentially used as a pass through account.

MISSOURI  $3,043,700  $3,033,700  $10,000  $693,142  $703,142 23%
INDIANA  $3,015,400  $2,947,000  $68,400  $634,688  $703,088 23%
NEW MEXICO  $2,494,300  $2,494,300  $-  $649,690  $649,690 26%
TEXAS  $2,993,000  $2,978,000  $15,000  $523,625  $538,625 18%
LOUISIANA  $3,018,100  $3,008,100  $10,000  $424,981  $434,981 14%
OREGON  $3,024,500  $3,014,500  $10,000  $339,004  $349,004 12%
UTAH  $3,011,700  $3,001,700  $10,000  $328,576  $338,576 11%
MISSISSIPPI  $3,025,700  $3,015,700  $10,000  $313,120  $323,120 11%
KANSAS  $2,496,300  $2,496,300  $-  $317,766  $317,766 13%
ALASKA  $3,005,700  $2,995,700  $10,000  $298,125  $308,125 10%
OKLAHOMA  $3,013,100  $3,003,100  $10,000  $296,830  $306,830 10%
NEW JERSEY  $2,509,800  $2,509,800  $-  $300,009  $300,009 12%
MONTANA  $2,996,900  $2,986,900  $10,000  $289,273  $299,273 10%
WYOMING  $3,023,500  $2,970,000  $53,500  $225,933  $279,433 9%
MASSACHUSETTS  $3,017,800  $3,005,800  $12,000  $260,809  $272,809 9%
WEST VIRGINIA  $3,015,400  $3,005,400  $10,000  $262,012  $272,012 9%

Many of them have small populations, are deep red/blue and didn’t have a senate race. But they did participated in the JFC and their contribution limits helped raise high-dollar amounts from donors. And these state parties need the money. Let’s take Kansas for example, they raised about $800k from other sources for this cycle. Their total operating budget was $1.2 million, which was better than Kansas Republicans at $423k, but if they’d been able to keep a larger portion of the $3 million they initially received, the party would be transformed.

Mississippi, is an even more extreme example. Mississippi Democrats raised $140k total, their total operating expenses were $454k. That’s for the entire 2016 cycle, start to finish. If Mississippi had been able to keep the $3 million initially sent to them by the JFC, the state party would have had ten times the money they did. They might have been able to run more voter registration drives, help with local campaigns, groom future candidates, support volunteers on the ground. Instead, they sent it back to the DNC, who in turn sent it to Ohio because it was a priority for the presidential campaign.

Yes, this ignores many things. The presidential campaign and DNC spent on technology that arguably helped all. The DNC funded the convention, education and training for state parties. A presidential campaign has coat-tails and presidential campaigns help turn out the vote for down-ballot candidates. But did that really happen in Mississippi?

PS. Let’s avoid the pie fight in this diary, that was not the intent here. When I write a pie-fight diary you’ll know it.

— Cross-posted at DailyKos | @subirgrewal

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda. Did national Democrats do enough to support Thompson’s run?

James Thompson lost last night. I want to discuss why national Democrats (DCCC, DNC, Senators, etc) were conspicuously absent from the KS-4 race. I think these are worth discussing, since the same questions will come up in the other races. Particularly MT-AL, where Rob Quist is running.

No Democratic celebrity donors were asked to pump cash into the Kansas race for TV ads or other campaigning. The campaign decided not to fund a poll because they were prioritizing other spending. This is a sharp contrast to GA-6, where major donors have pumped in over $8 million in cash. High profile politicians have been talking that race up for weeks.

More below the break.

Was KS-4 too red? Would it have been a waste of resources?

This is the most popular explanation for why the campaign received no help from the national party.

Here’s a look at the five special elections we have coming up. CA-34 isn’t that relevant since two Democrats made it into the run-off, pretty much what has happened in the last two cycles there.

Here’s a table with the Democrat’s margin in house races going back 12 years. -20% means the Democrat lost by 20 points. Positive values mean the Democrat won. We’ve lost both KS-4 and GA-6 for a dozen years. Keep in mind districts were redrawn for 2012 after the 2010 census.

2017 -6.8% Apr 18, Jun 20 TBD Jun 20 May 25
2016 -31% -23% -40% -21% -16%
2014 -33% -22% -38% -31% -15%
2012 -33% -29% -31% -11% -11%
2010 -22% -99% -10% -10% -27%
2008 -31% -37% 7% 25% -32%
2006 -30% -45% 6% 14% -20%
2004 -35% -100% -86% 26% -32%

Cells in bold are elections where the incumbent lost, or where no incumbent was running.

KS-4 is a red district, reddest of the bunch. But it’s not that much redder than GA-6.

And there was reason to hope, Estes was in Sam Brownback’s cabinet, and governor Brownback’s approval ratings were at 23%. Estes also ran a lackluster campaign. Thompson is a veteran and ran a campaign that fit his district (yes, he did have a campaign ad with him shooting a rifle at an outdoor target range).

Is a seat in the US House of Representatives worth enough that we’ll spend to turn out another 6,000 voters? We know the voters are there. 81,495 people voted for the Democratic candidate in the November election for the House seat. 55,310 turned up to vote in yesterday. If the DCCC had funded a poll, or helped with some outreach earlier (they eventually made 25,000 live calls a day before the election), could we have turned out 6,000 more voters?  We’ll never really know.

Was it best to be in “stealth mode” in KS-4?

A lot of people said it didn’t make sense to “ nationalize” the election. The funny thing is, the Republicans weren’t scared to “nationalize” it. They sent in Ted Cruz, they made ad buys, they had Pence and Trump record robocalls. Volunteers (including me) doing GotV days prior to the election, would still run across Democrats who didn’t know there was an election on April 11. Would Democrats “nationalizing” the race have brought out a few more of them?

Anybody looking at this race should have known abortion related ads would be run against James Thompson (who is pro-choice). The NRCC ran ads claiming Thompson supported late-term abortions and abortions for gender selection. This is the district where George Tiller was assassinated. A new local blog actually wrote a piece about Thompson with this note:

Then too, for all those years that George Tiller was running the most prolific late term abortion mill in the western world right in Thompson’s backyard, one is hard pressed to recall a single Democrat anywhere registering an objection, let alone Paul [sic] Thompson.

Let’s just say a pro-choice stance is courageous.

Did the DCCC ignore Thompson because he’s a Bernie-crat?

Thompson, a civil rights attorney, said he was inspired by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign last year and decided to run for Congress. A group that formed following Sanders candidacy, Our Revolution, supported Thompson during the campaign through social media and recruited volunteers to make phone calls on his behalf.  — NPR

For the record, I was one of those volunteers. I usually text, and I had over a thousand contacts for Thompson.

Thompson had beaten Dennis McKinney, who was the former minority leader in the Kansas House of Representatives. McKinney is anti-abortion, voted yes on the Kansas measure to define a fetus as a person, and was previously endorsed by Kansans for Life.

Many volunteers are left wondering whether the DCCC and national Democrats would have been in “stealth mode” if McKinney had won the primary. Check out the responses to this Chuck Schumer tweet.

I feel sorry for Chuck’s social media person.

Did independent progressive groups provide enough support?

There’s a messy argument on Twitter right now:

To which Our Revolution responded:

The fact is that DKos came very late to the Thompson party, about a week before the election. Why wasn’t the candidate “endorsed” well before-hand? The endorsement came only after news that national Republicans would be advertising for Estes while the Kansas Democratic party didn’t have $20k to spare for the candidate. There are a variety of reasons that is a variety of reasons. The fundraising campaign DKos ran split the donation between Thompson’s campaign and Daily Kos. There was a technical glitch with this that prevented some people from donating for hours.

What can we learn?

This entire saga raises a couple of questions.

  1. Does winning an open Democratic primary mean something?
  2. If it does, shouldn’t they commit a certain level of support for any candidate running on the party’s House/Senate ticket?
  3. If the impression among grassroots volunteers is that the party establishment picks favorites among Democratic candidates, what do we think the end result is going to be? Disillusionment or further engagement?

Dave Weigel has a piece up at WaPo:  Four big lessons from Kansas’s special election

  1. The GOP machine is battered but efficient
  2. Democrats can’t get cute about campaign spending. People notice.
  3. In rural America, Democrats still have a brand problem
  4. Social issues still matter

It’s worth a read.

What do we do now?

This is all very interesting, but for me, there’s really only one question. What are we going to do for Rob Quist in Montana? He’s pro-choice, supports public schools, renewable energy and Native American rights (Montana has a large population). He’s a progressive Democrat endorsed by Our Revolution. How can we help him?

I know I’ll be volunteering for his campaign. I “adopted” Montana several cycles ago and have contributed to and volunteered for campaigns there since 2004. It’s more interesting than the sometimes somnolent NY politics. Those of you who live in “safe” districts/states may want to consider doing the same. I’ve been talking to voters in Montana for a dozen years. It is a great experience.

I would encourage to give time and if possible, donate to Rob Quist’s campaign.

— Cross-posted to DailyKos | @subirgrewal