Shut Up and Take My Money!


Friction within the Democratic Party over how its members should raise money is nothing new. But in the early stages of the 2020 election, it’s become a thornier topic than in campaigns past. Top donors have grown increasingly convinced that campaigns are foolish in their belief that online fundraising will be a panacea. A new class of younger campaign operatives, meanwhile, see the traditional big-moneyed donor as a relic of the past, desperately clinging to an outdated model that amplified their influence.

So far, the latter side is winning the argument. To date, almost all of the candidates running for president have said that they will not raise money from political action committees. Others, like Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have pledged not to host high-profile fundraisers or even place phone calls with wealthy donors. And others, like Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), have said they will forgo contributions from executives in specific industries.


Several major party fundraiser told The Daily Beast that donors have signalled to the campaigns that they want the field to narrow before deciding who to back. “Most high level donors are staying on the sidelines anyway,” said Tim Lim, a Democratic strategist and fundraiser. “They won’t want to pick sides right now in this insane primary.” But in private conversations, a more damning assessment is offered: The campaigns themselves just aren’t that good at cultivating donor networks beyond their home turfs.

Translation: The big donors are upset that they aren’t being schmoozed.


For all those complaints, few were willing to draw direct lines between the lack of engagement with big-dollar donors and the fundraising totals that the four top Democrats reported. But several among more than a dozen donors, operatives, and campaign veterans interviewed argued that it was a contributing factor and all described the totals as a variation of “underwhelming.”

Translation: Where are our consulting fees for schmoozing said big donors?


“What Obama did is he decided he would run in three primaries. And in order to do that David Plouffe [his campaign manager] ran a Republican campaign. It was businesslike. They decided what they needed financially for those three primaries and they raised what they needed to. That was really smart. And when Iowa occurred things just exploded,” said another major Democratic donor. “Now you have the reverse where Bernie and certainly Beto are betting on the internet. And that’s fine. But are you going to be able to raise $125 million in a year online? More importantly, if these campaigns aren’t run like a business, you are screwed.”

Yeah, and that worked out so well: Half-assed policies led to historically disastrous Democratic Party routs, no prosecution of corrupt bankers, a health plan that was a big wet kiss to the insurance companies, etc.


“A good fundraising program is like a good retirement portfolio,” said Robby Mook, who managed Hillary Clinton’s 2016 run. “You’re not depending on any one thing. Low-dollar donors are like equity or stocks. It is very volatile. Everybody thinks about windalls but no one thinks about deserts. But both happen.”

Operatives on some of the current Democratic campaigns argue that a mixed-bag approach along the lines of what Mook outlined comes with some downsides. A candidate who is willing to embrace big-dollar fundraisers and bundled money (numerous maxed-out contributions raised by a network of donors) will become inherently less attractive to small-dollar givers. And as that happens, the candidate will become ever more reliant on the former than the latter.

But not everyone buys this logic. There is a brewing fear among some operatives that the party has overestimated voter aversion to big donor culture and are foregoing financial support for no reason other than they think it will sell with the public.

Ummm ……… Robby Mook set over a billion dollars on fire, and still lost to an inverted traffic cone.

Sorry, but the fact the usual suspects are whining is a plus, not a minus.

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