“DNC donor requirement may have been added with the right intentions, but there’s no doubt it’s created a situation where billionaires can buy their way onto the debate stage”
Tom Steyer, the west coast billionaire obsessed with impeaching President Donald Trump, recently announced his 2020 bid for president. To the shock of many, he has met the fundraising goal to appear in the next Democratic primary debate.
Although he still has to meet the polling requirement, some people on the left believe he used his wealth to satisfy the donor threshold.
Montana Governor Steve Bullock has been one of the louder critics.
Todd Shepherd writes at the Washington Free Beacon:
Steyer Meets Debate’s Donor Requirement, Draws Complaints From Left
Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer and his team announced Tuesday his campaign reached 130,000 individual donors, one of the critical benchmarks that candidates must reach to make the next debate one month from now.
If Steyer can reach the other requirement — to poll at 2 percent in four qualifying polls — which seems likely given his recent rise in a number of nationwide surveys, he will become the tenth candidate to qualify for the September debates.
The announcement drew swift criticism from fellow Democrats, many of whom accused the California billionaire of buying his way into qualifying.
“The DNC donor requirement may have been added with the right intentions, but there’s no doubt it’s created a situation where billionaires can buy their way onto the debate stage, and campaigns are forced to spend millions on digital ads chasing one dollar donors – not talking directly to donors,” Montana governor Steve Bullock said in a prepared statement.
Steve Bullock responds to Tom Steyer making the debate stage pic.twitter.com/1CWpiz4Pw8
— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) August 13, 2019
Paul Steinhauser of FOX News has a response from Steyer:
Steyer campaign manager Heather Hargreaves highlighted that “fewer than half of Tom’s donations came from advertising. Writing off the support of thousands of Democratic voters who are responding to Tom’s message isn’t the way to beat Trump in 2020, no matter what you think about the DNC’s criteria.”
Since launching his presidential campaign, Steyer’s spent millions of his own money to win a spot on the stage. He’s done that through television commercials on national cable networks such as CNN and MSNBC and flooding the local airwaves in Iowa and New Hampshire – the first two states to vote in the nominating calendar – with ads. He’s also spent heavily on direct mail, filling up the mailboxes of Democratic and independent voters.
That isn’t sitting well with everyone:
Tom Steyer spent $2.9 million in 30 days on Facebook ads begging for $1 donations. As of Aug. 11, he is spending $140K per day. Remember when Dems blamed Facebook for subverting democracy? They turned around and devised a system that is enriching Facebook at preposterous levels
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) August 13, 2019
Tom Steyer successfully bought himself 130,000 unique donors and may now qualify for the debates, which would make a mockery of the DNC’s entire system
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) August 13, 2019
California TV is bombarded with relentless Tom Steyer ads.
He has the gall to start most of them with “I started a tiny investment business…”
The guy worked at Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, then got lucky selling risky hedge funds and got rich off fossil fuels.
— Pat the Berner? (@PatTheBerner) August 13, 2019
Tom Steyer running for president & not using that $100 million dollars to fund a massive voter registration campaign makes absolutely no sense. https://t.co/1sNJZx5D1Y
— Clint Smith (@ClintSmithIII) August 13, 2019
Edward-Isaac Dovere of the liberal journal The Atlantic suggests Steyer is gaming the DNC’s system:
The DNC Debate Rules Are a Game
Qualifying for the Democratic debates has become a game, and Tom Steyer has more than enough money to play it. In the span of five weeks, the San Francisco–based billionaire activist has channeled millions of dollars of his own money into trying to win a spot on the stage in September. If the effort works—and he’s getting close—Steyer could beat out many major candidates who have been running for president for months.
One major investment: His campaign bought 8 million voter files compiled by the group Need to Impeach and is renting data from NexGen America, two advocacy organizations that Steyer himself founded and still funds. The move gives his team access to information on scores of people. But his ability to get this close to qualifying so quickly is also a reflection of the system set up this cycle by the Democratic National Committee.
By telling candidates they need a minimum of 130,000 donors to compete at the next debates, the party has compelled campaigns to devote significant energy to persuading voters to donate minuscule amounts of money so the candidates can make the stage—money that’s not necessarily representative of voters’ genuine support. With just two weeks to go before the August 28 cutoff date for qualifying, well-established senators and governors are on the verge of being locked out even as unconventional candidates are allowed in.
Democrats got into trouble with their own base for appearing to rig the primary in 2016. If Steyer makes it into the next debate, they run the risk of appearing to allow others to do the same.
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