“Small-dollar donors are an important measure of how much grass-roots enthusiasm a campaign or organization has.”
According to Politico, the GOP finally has an answer to the Democrat Party’s ActBlue, which brought in over $700 million small-dollar donations in 2018:
Following weeks of closed-door discussions, Republicans have agreed to create a new platform dubbed Patriot Pass, which will be used to cultivate and process online donations. The GOP — whose jungle-like ecosystem of vendors has long fought bitterly over contracts and dollars — has struggled in the past to create such a unified system.
The accord, revealed for the first time to POLITICO by officials at the center of the effort, has received the explicit blessing of party leaders. Under the arrangement, Data Trust, the RNC’s designated clearinghouse of voter information, will form a joint venture with Revv, a donation processor used by the Trump campaign. The two entities will form the nucleus of Patriot Pass.
As part of the agreement, Victory Passport, a small-dollar platform used widely by Republican congressional candidates, is expected to eventually shutter and encourage its clients to use the new platform.
ActBlue has existed for 14 years so Patriot Pass has a long way to go if they’re going to catch up. The GOP said that candidates don’t have to use Patriot Pass and can choose to use other payment processors.
After watching dozens of their candidates get massively out-raised, Republicans are looking to Patriot Pass to close the gap. The new tool is expected to launch next month. While party officials concede that catching up to or surpassing the 14-year-old ActBlue won’t happen immediately, they contend they can level the playing field through a platform that can mimic ActBlue’s technology.
“The Democrats clearly in congressional races — not at the presidential level but in congressional races in 2018 — had an advantage in small-dollar donors. And so you say, ‘Why is that? There was enthusiasm in both parties.’ And it’s because they had the mechanism to harness and add rocket fuel to that energy,” said Mike Shields, a Data Trust senior adviser.
“And so, this is a system that will take what has been disparate — campaigns and super PACs and different people that raise small-dollar donations — and put them together so that they aggregate on top of each other and add that same rocket fuel,” Shields added.
The idea for an ActBlue for Republicans came to the forefront because of how much money ousted Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) raised through ActBlue even though the polls always had her losing.
That’s when McConnell knew the GOP needed one small-dollar outlet instead of the many it used. Revv’s co-founder Gerrit Lansing knew this had to happen six years ago:
“I said, ‘We need to have one thing that does one thing only with the best technology that’s out there and that allows an adoption level that leads to great network effects and everyone understanding that they can benefit by getting on one platform,”’ he said. “And that thesis has proven true.”
What made that particularly challenging at the time, though, was the lack of a Republican president. The absence of a singular party leader exacerbated the decentralized, free-for-all nature of the GOP’s digital infrastructure.
When Trump won the presidency, party officials saw an opportunity. After the 2018 midterms, they began reaching out to the administration for assistance in mediating a deal.
Kushner, who took an interest in the project, deputized Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale to help oversee the discussions.
Exactly. InAugust of 2017, I blogged about another Politico article in which Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) fundraiser leader Michael Whitney was interviewed. He explained how small-dollar donations are key:
This isn’t just about money. Small-dollar donors are an important measure of how much grass-roots enthusiasm a campaign or organization has. They are the supporters who will show up to knock on doors, make phone calls and get out the vote. And since they don’t donate enough to reach campaigns’ individual contribution limits, you can return to ask them for money time and again—which frees campaigns from continually being on the hunt for new, deep-pocketed donors who can max out. The lack of their support threatens to prevent major gains by the party in 2018 and beyond.
It helps that Trump is in the White House because Whitney mentioned his success with the small-dollar donations during the 2016 campaign and even now during his presidency:
In his own way, Trump has consistently embraced this same sentiment in messages to supporters. He’s become a more prolific small-dollar fundraiser than any Democrat precisely because he’s using empowering, movement-based language that specifically prioritizes small donations and treats online communications as relationships, not transactions. His campaign’s emails specifically speak about the idea that Trump can’t be successful on his own—that success is only possible if his supporters are with him.
Take his campaign’s February 2017 email with the subject line, “I can’t do it alone.” “We need to stay focused on getting the job done and accomplishing our shared goal to Make America Great Again!” read the message from Trump. “But I can’t do it alone. I need you by my side, supporting our message and doing your part to get the truth to the American voter.”
So it’s good that the GOP has Patriot Pass now, but they have to perfect the art of messaging.
After the 2018 success, I have no doubt that the Democrats will realize that for the presidential election in 2020 they need to push for more small-dollar donations.DONATE
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