Powered by Google
Editors' Picks
Arts + Books
Rec Room
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Adult Personals
Adult Classifieds
- - - - - - - - - - - -
FNX Radio
Band Guide
MassWeb Printing
- - - - - - - - - - - -
About Us
Contact Us
Advertise With Us
Work For Us
RSS Feeds
- - - - - - - - - - - -

sponsored links
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Sex Toys - Adult  DVDs - Sexy  Lingerie

  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

Two schmoes (continued)

Related stories

The $50 million Dems: The real VIPs in the fight to oust George W. Bush won't be on the FleetCenter stage next week. They're the wealthy funders of progressive '527' groups. By David S. Bernstein.

Those figures on donors and dollars come from the Atrios fundraiser page on ActBlue, where people are directed from Black’s Web site. On the page, potential contributors can read about Keever, see how much money Atrios has raised for her, and add to that total with a few clicks of their own. "People like that, to have their 25 bucks bundled with others," says Black. "People want to feel like they are part of a community."

Black was one of the first to use ActBlue this way, but others have come along in just the last few weeks. Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, of Daily Kos, now links his readers to ActBlue for contributions to his Daily Kos Dozen. The TrueMajority PAC has raised some $80,000 for candidates through ActBlue. Air America’s Majority Report show has a page, as does Jerome Armstrong and Chris Bowers’s MyDD blog.

ActBlue provides these blogs and PACs with a tangible, quantifiable measure of their political power, a benefit Moulitsas readily acknowledges. Prior to ActBlue, Moulitsas tried to track his readers’ contributions through hit-and-miss methods like the penny add-on. (Urging his readers to give, for example, $50.01, making their donations easy to flag in campaign reports.) Now campaigns can’t help but see Kos’s influence. "The Daily Kos [endorsement] is truly when this campaign turned from a throwaway run to a legitimate contender," says Tagaris of Seemann’s candidacy, which has received more than $17,000 from Daily Kos readers.

Such relatively high-profile blogs and PACs are responsible for most of ActBlue’s fundraising. But the site also hosts dozens of pages created by the obscure. "Simon" has created a list of four "noteworthy challengers to enemies of civil liberties," as judged by the ACLU’s political scorecard. The MISERY blog — whatever that is — has a "MISERY Fab Five" slate. Neither of these has yet registered a donation, but some other small entities have had success: one group has raised more than $3000 for eight candidates through its "Turn Virginia Blue" page.

THAT VIRGINIA group comprises former Dean supporters — exactly the kind of young folks Democrats would love to energize. ActBlue is not the only group trying. Among the would-be energizers are 2020 Democrats, New Democratic Network, Revolutionary Women, Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, DL21C, and Campaign for America’s Future. Another group, Democratic GAIN, held campaign-training sessions for young adults during the Democratic National Convention.

None of these groups does the same thing as ActBlue, however. On the other hand, ActBlue can easily be seen as just a fancy credit-card-processing service. "If we were to stop at this point, I think that would be a legitimate point," DeBergalis concedes. Unfortunately, the founders’ desire to create a brand-name go-to site for Democratic activists runs contrary to what their biggest users — the blogs and the PACs — seem to want. They want to be the brand name, not ActBlue. Nevertheless, the start-up very consciously promotes the ActBlue brand, even to users who are just passing through the site to donate to their favorite bloggers’ candidates. They want those enthusiastic young Democrats, and the campaigns receiving the money, to know that ActBlue is connecting them. DeBergalis often mentions EMILY’s List as a model, and sees ActBlue eventually as a sort of Gen-Y version. Becoming the Web-portal site where young Democrats congregate "is absolutely where we are going in the long term," he says.

Unlike EMILY’s List, which sends a very distinctive message to candidates who receive its money, ActBlue stands for little beyond support for the Democratic Party. Professing any beliefs, goals, or tenets would only alienate potential users, DeBergalis and Rahn say. The two of them come across as more partisan than ideological anyway. (DeBergalis’s big issue when campaigning for city council was getting more places to eat in Cambridge after 2 a.m.) And that should sit just fine with the scores of Democrats who are desperate for partisanship over ideology. They just want to win — win the presidency, win the House, win the Senate. "The Democrats have got to get started in a very partisan way, unifying the Democratic Party behind taking back offices," says Burnes. "These two guys are sharp, they’re honest, they’re motivated. There are a whole group of voters out there that these guys can motivate."

ACTBLUE’S BIG chance will come during the next campaign cycle, culminating in November 2006. Obvious areas of opportunity include special elections, early funding for primary candidates, and PAC fundraising, as well as state-legislature campaigns. What DeBergalis and Rahn really want to do, though, is to pursue their original goal of mobilizing volunteers for nascent campaigns — a more challenging project that could well prove infeasible.

Regardless, the two founders are heedlessly confident discussing the future of a venture that could very easily have none. They blithely comment that, even if their earnings end up limited by the nonprofit nature of their PAC, they could develop a side consulting business, teaching others how to copy their success. They also believe that ActBlue can eventually become financially self-sustaining through "tips." These are small donations users can choose to give to ActBlue along with their political contributions — just a tiny click more to ask of people who are already making a credit-card payment. So far, according to Rahn, an astonishing 60 percent of all people who contribute on the site add a tip, working out to four percent of all donated dollars. If they can retain that four percent tip rate, the guys estimate they will be self-sustaining at, oh, around $15 million to $20 million of donation volume in the next election cycle.

That may not be crazy — it’s a few hundred thousand a week, and they’re not far from that now. Who knows? Maybe these two schmoes in Cambridge really do have the answers.

David S. Bernstein can be reached at dbernstein[a]phx.com

page 1  page 2 

Issue Date: September 24 - 30, 2004
Back to the News & Features table of contents
  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

about the phoenix |  advertising info |  Webmaster |  work for us
Copyright © 2005 Phoenix Media/Communications Group