Nuts & Bolts—Inside a Democratic campaign: Caucus fundraising

Caucuses can fund support for all candidates and provide benefits for all members

It is not uncommon for a state to have districts that will certainly be contested, others that are solidly Democratic, and some that are very difficult for a Democratic candidate to even compete in. The impact this makes on fundraising is also significant. Donors tend to give to candidates they think will win first, and seldom give to candidates they don’t think will have a shot. That said, campaigns that don’t have a lot of ability to win are also fertile grounds for training staff for better campaigns, and they can help support the entire ticket up and down.

I have said repeatedly in this series that if you have a choice between a district going 80/20 to a Republican and 60/40, you’d take the 60/40 loss every time, because if you close the gap significantly, even though it remains a blowout, you contribute to helping the up-ticket candidate win. 

How does a caucus make this possible? Again, since donations are harder with campaigns that are less likely to prevail, you need support that shows these candidates that they will not be so easily abandoned. Providing caucus support gives them access to tools they might need, research and information, as well as the fact that those funds can be spent on the caucus behalf to support them through digital, print, or any other means. 

This allows dollars sent into a caucus to be stretched out further, in many cases, then candidates who have piles of funds in their account for state house races and they will face no opponents, a frequent happening in many states.

Does caucus funding take away from candidates?

I’ve heard from campaigns, candidates, and even elected officials that at times they feel as though they are competing against their own caucus to raise money. The truth is, when looking at the finance reports as issued in several states most of the people who donate to an elected caucus are already making donations to other organizations and candidates. They have chosen to donate to a caucus because candidates who might need their support are outside of their geographical realm of knowledge.

By giving funding to the elected body that knows where support is needed most, they hope that their funds can be deployed efficiently, and effectively, and help Democratic candidates win or tighten the margin where doing so would have a significant impact on a larger race, rewarding candidates who work hard.

When we think of it in this manner, it is easy to see that fundraising is not to the detriment of the elected officials, it is simply a fundraising vehicle that offers potential donors another way of showing support, and there is never anything wrong with options. We are, after all, the party that supports choice.

Out-of-state donors can see a caucus as a means to make a dent

Finding out all of the information on candidates running for office for state house in any state can be difficult. You know that you want to make a dent in Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, or any other state legislature, but you don’t know the candidates well enough, and you don’t know which races will most benefit. You don’t have a lot of money to pitch in, but you have a few dollars, and you want it to make an impact. Rather than do all the research on all the candidates, you can find a single page and start donating to a caucus instead.

After each election, how a caucus spends the resources available to it will be available through state election offices. Look it up and see how well your caucus did, and where resources were assigned. Did they effectively manage resources? Don’t lay blame for resources going into a close loss or small resources going into a 60/40 if it kept Republicans busy. If you see a large amount of the funds spent to support a wide number of candidates, you instantly understand how a well-run caucus can support many candidates.

Questions? As always, questions get as many answers as I can within the comments!

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