June 13th, 2009

State Senate Campaign, And The Coming of Act Blue: In Which The Traditional Focus of Political Fundraising Shifts Dramatically (WITH HAMBURG SUMMIT INFO BELOW)

by Philip Baruth

Let me say first that if you didn’t click in today looking for a campaign update, and don’t want one now that you’ve found one, there’s a fresh post beneath this one for your VDB reading pleasure. It involves the Fourth Annual Hamburger Summit, and all of the ethical, legal and moral reasons why you Must Attend. We continue to aim to please here.

But if you’re interested in the ongoing campaign for the State Senate, we wanted to update you promptly. The idea behind this site has always been a simple one: that political blogs can help provide transparency and candor in a world often shockingly lacking in both.

That was my argument when I ran for an Obama delegate slot last summer, and it seemed to strike a chord. If you’ll remember, there was a lot of chatter in the press about backroom deals and the secret flipping of delegates.

I offered to transmit details from the convention floor directly to you, you accepted, and I like to think I held up my end of the bargain: I arranged to blog for the Free Press, as well as VDB, and essentially wrote posts every minute of every day. And several while asleep.

This State Senate campaign will be run much the same way. You will have the power to move issues directly to the campaign through this site, and eventually the campaign’s own site; you will always have a current, clear sense of the campaign’s progress. I consider you stake-holders.

And if I make it to Montpelier, you’ll have eyes and ears there in an entirely unprecedented way.

But for now, a few words about the campaign itself.

A few weeks back, I asked those of you who know and like this site to contribute financially, maybe partially because you’ve enjoyed the writing and analysis here for some years, and want to give something back; maybe partially because you like my particular politics; maybe, finally, because political campaigns are boring, predictable affairs, and you have the sense that whatever else happens, this particular campaign will not make that mistake.

These donations have been both large and small, but they are equally welcome and equally necessary. And processing them has made me look at traditional fundraising with an entirely new eye.

When you look at the categories most fundraisers use, be they political or non-profit, they tend to create a tiered system, with the largest donors thanked most prominently, and set off with a value-laden designation. Take a look the next time you enter a really swanky new hospital wing or stadium: you’ll see a plaque, headed by the names of “Platinum Donors” or “Diamond Members” or “Alpha Friends” or something similar.

And then, down near the bottom, you’ll find a whole bunch of people labeled simply “Friends.” Chances are good the group at the bottom sacrificed as much as the group at the top, in proportion to their resources.

That mode of recognition seems inherently wrong to me.

Yet, you still want to give credit where credit is due, and in the case of a political campaign, most credit is due to those who jump on board earliest, when it’s not entirely certain that the train will actually reach the station.

Those who have faith.

So I’ve decided to call the first 100 donors to this campaign “Barnraisers,” the people who come out earliest, regardless of the size of the contribution at stake. Early is what matters. Early is what allows you to make it all the way to Late. Early is what you want to celebrate.

We have about a third of that target number already received. Will being part of this group help you get into graduate school? No. Buff out your resume? No. Impress anyone anywhere who isn’t already inclined to support the campaign themselves? Not likely.

But it’s a designation that will always mean something to me, and to those already lending a hand in the effort. And to make it unbelievably easy, we now have an Act Blue page up and running, allowing you to use your credit or debit card to donate online.

Just click here, and Act Blue does the rest.

If you want to get extremely fancy, Act Blue also allows you to set up your own fundraising page for the campaign, so that your friends’ donations come grouped together, under your banner. Which is nice, in its own way.

Thanks for considering all of this. And one general date to keep in mind: somewhere around the first week of September, we’ll be having a big, formal kick-off rally in Burlington. Date and place to be fine-tuned between now and then. The only thing absolutely certain at this point is that it will not be boring. Repeat: not boring.

You have my word on that.

Late Update, Tuesday, 3:47 pm:

A very heartening response to Monday’s post so far, and thank you if you stepped up already. Forgot to add the link to the campaign’s shiny to which you are invited and to which you can bring your friends to crash without calling ahead first. Yes, even that friend.

Later Update, Friday, 4:24 pm:

At this point we’re closing in on half the Barnraisers necessary, half the crucial first 100 donors to the campaign. Which is brilliant, considering the page has been live for a week’s time. It also means, of course, that if you want to be known forever after as a pioneering member of this 2010 campaign, immortality is slowly slipping away.

The Act Blue link is here. You click it, and within an average of two minutes, you’re on board.

And we’re profoundly grateful.