Thursday, January 18, 2007

DPG Responds to "Only Eight": Front Page Promotion

Chris has commented on yesterday's "Eight is Unacceptable" post, and I am moving it to the front page because it contains important information. One of the things that is clear, and that we should all be worried about as we make this transition is that we are likely to loose staff who have significant knowledge of the complex campaign finance laws. How will we fill that void? Talk among yourselves....

Chris said...
The DPG and DNC have a joint fundraising agreement. Dollars for Democrats, which does telephone and mail solicitation for small dollar contributions is part of that. Every voter who voted in the 2004 Democratic Presidential Primary (when the list was initially seeded) should have received a solicitation about that.I can't remember exactly what the letter said but I know I got one (or more) fundraising appeals from Bobby Kahn at one point.Additionally, our Federal Account is called the Georgia Federal Elections Committee. Let me illustrate with an example just how much the DNC/DCCC/DSCC thinks of the Georgia Democratic Party.In federal elections (we had no Senate race so I'll discuss Congressional races) the DCCC is allowed to spend a certain amount of money directly on Democratic nominees for Congress. I believe this is called 441 AD money. However, the DCCC can cede that authority to any other federal party committee. This is rare, as most state parties are not trusted to spend large amounts of coordinated money by their federal counterparts.In Georgia, the DCCC only chose to act on their authority in two heavily targeted races, the 8th and the 12th (technically they could have ceded their authority in all 13 races but 2,4,5 and 13 were considered safe and the DCCC didn't feel like the others were winnable). In both cases, the authority was ceded to the Georgia Federal Elections Committee and we spent funds on behalf of Jim Marshall and John Barrow. In both cases, I can't imagine anyone would argue that a single penny was wasted, so clearly we were instrumental in their re-elections. Most state parties see a coordinated campaign take over their jurisdiction because this authority is not granted, either because the state party (in their determination) can't be trusted or more likely lacks the capability/experience to pull off a successful operation.Now, speaking of the GFEC, many DNC donors probably show up there. Additionally, because of the complexity of campaign finance laws, the GFEC and the DNC/DCCC/DSCC as federal committees are no longer allowed to take corporate "soft money" contributions under federal law.Let me give you an example of this. Say that John Smith is a big Democratic donor and is the owner of Smith Tractor Supply, Inc, a successful Georgia company. If he chooses to make a donation to the DNC, he must do it from his personal funds, and he is limited to $2,100/cycle. However, if he also decides to make a contribution to the Democratic Party of Georgia state elections account, there are no soft money limitations, no corporate limitations and no giving limits. So, instead of John Smith giving the money, Smith Tractory Supply might make a donation of $5,000.It is up to the donor, but since corporations are restricted from giving to federal pacs, many of them choose to make corporate donations in the states where they can, even though their officers may make personal contributions to federal committees. This extends also to some private citizens (who I am not at liberty to reveal) who have made donations in the past through holding companies that they control.Unless someone is privy to these types of considerations they should be careful with their criticisms. How many candidates running for party office have even considered before how you handle a federal/state split and taking that into consideration when you solicit donations?Finally, a word about the 50 state strategy. The DPG employs a full office staff of between 7/8 and 20 people, depending on the part of the year/election cycle. Many states had anemic staffs of 1 or 2 low level employees. Thus, the 50 state strategy was born as a way for Dean to secure the votes of the state chairs. In states that had little party infrastructure, the DNC took the lead in hiring the staff and directing them.However, in Georgia let me tell you what happened. Howard Dean visited our offices after being elected Chair in early 2005. When he visited that day, he found an active staff, including an executive director and deputy directors with years of federal and state campaign experience (and party experience) that raise well in excess of $1 million on an annual basis, he also found a press secretary (most have none) who speaks to the press on a many times a day basis, has a good relationship, puts out multiple press releases per week and actually at the time was putting out mail-merged (for lack of a better word) press releases to each county news source that were customized with budget numbers relevant to that county. He told the Georgia Chair that he was confident with the operation in place and that Georgia could transfer existing staff to the DNC payroll as part of the 50 state strategy. There was no need to hire new staff as there was in a place like Mississippi or Alaska.Finally, when others measure the support of the 50 state strategy in other states, including Howard Dean, they point to electoral victories. Now, we did not win our Governor's race or some other statewide races. But we retained every single incumbent running for statewide office or the legislature. This is the first time that has happened in nearly 20 years or more. (In other words, I've searched my memory for my lifetime and I cannot remember this happening).We also scored very big wins in CD 8 and CD 12. Did we pick up new Congressional seats? No we did not. But I don't believe any Democratic challengers in the country won in districts as Republican as CD 1, 3, 6, 7, 9, 10, or 11. Marshall and Barrow's re-elections were as important as victories in Pennsylvania or New York. May I also remind you that when the current "establishment" was in power in the early part of this decade, Georgia had only 3 Democratic Congressmen. We gained 2 seats in the census (both of them were won by Democrats) and we flipped an existing seat into our column.I think people need to be realistic about what changes can be made, and what to expect. We raise a large amount of money compared to most state parties in a state this size on a year in year out basis. A new regime, which will by definition not be part of the establishment like the current one, will need to make extraordinary connections to supplant the current funding apparatus with a different set of donors. If they are extremely lucky, they will raise the same amount of money over the next two years as over the last.So, electorally, how will things be different? If the money is essentially the same and the playing field is expanded, candidates that were in heavily competitive districts but lost this year (like Lauren Benedict) will have less money and attention devoted to them. How do they expect to do better in these districts. And candidates and districts that weren't targeted previously might get a small amount of extra money, but $100,000 wins races not $2,000 or $10,000.And if less money is raised (which is the most likely scenario) the only responsible thing to do would be to further narrow the playing field to concentrate more resources on better probabilities, but if this doesn't happen money will be spent to make people feel good about a "159 county" strategy or whatever and we'll still have the same number (or fewer) seats in the legislature.Now I may say something that might surprise some people. Can the party do a better job. Always. If we aren't constantly trying to improve things or find new ways to do things more efficiently than we are not doing a good job. But realism is the key to a successful organization, whether it is a McDonalds franchise or Habitat for Humanity or the Democratic Party of Georgia. I think some people need to step back from the soundbytes and ask themselves if they are really serious about the tremendous task of learning the system and being successful or whether they just want to say and do whatever makes *them* feel good, forgetting that the mission of the party is to *elect* as many Democrats as it can -- not do a half ass job showering attention on as many losing candidates as possible.
2:29 AM


BD Smith said...

Let me the first to call "BULLSHIT" on this: Every voter who voted in the 2004 Democratic Presidential Primary (when the list was initially seeded) should have received a solicitation. I didn't receive a letter neither did any of my friends or family members. As a State Committee member, I have never even received 1 form of communication from Bobby Kahn soliciting money.

Jen said...

I never got one either, but maybe that's because I voted for Dean in the primary. Heh.

North Georgia Democrats said...


I just hate it when someone makes sense.

I did get access to a "mailing list" of sorts.

Many of the addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses were wrong.

Including my own.

I can't speak to bd smith's allegations. But, I can say I've never gotten a solicitation SIGNED by Bobby Kahn.

I don't think the Bobby Kahn brand name has to be used on every Democratic Document in Georgia.

The State Chair is not a forum for building a national name brand or a future political career.

It's about helping OTHER Democrats raise money, increase name brand recognition, and ... taking ALL THE CRITICISM from everyone.

I've taken my shots at Bobby Kahn. Taking shots is lots of fun.

But even I'm not crazy enough to take his job.

Bobby said...

Guess I'll weigh in. For everyone who voted in the 2004 Presidential Primary and has a phone number on the voter file, a call was attempted. We completed well over 100,000 phone calls. It was very expensive, but it is starting to pay off. The small donor program will make a decent amount of money in 2007, and even more in 2008 as excitement over the Presidential election grows. As expensive as calling is, mailing is alot more expensive. We did a test mail off of the 2004 Pres Prim file. The returns were much better on the phone, and cost less. Granted, we missed people without phone numbers (40% of the file), but the effort was significant, resulting in a much larger small donor base.

The important information in Chris's post is that there is a great deal of overlap between the DNC and DPG lists -- you just have to look at federal and state reports. Also, State Committee members routinely get invited to the JJ and GADCC dinners, and are solicited by the various joint fundraising programs. If you still feel left out, send me an email at, and I will make sure I ask you for money in the days remaining in my term. Bobby Kahn

Chris said...

Bd, I'm not sure the exact process, the DNC's Dollars for Democrats program coordinates the effort as part of a joint agreement.

The initial list may have used a telephone solicitation initially followed up by a mail reminder to get the donation. If you move or or registered in a different location or only have a cell phone (or whatever) it may have missed you.

However, I do know people that have gotten these types of solicitations.

The ultimate point is that the party raises a lot of money right now from the connections of the current people involved. I think people make a mistake if they think the party isn't currently trying to raise as much money as possible, or that some new regime that takes over starts with the existing customer base (the donors) intact and can merely build from there.

That's a fantasy world. Ask Beth Perera if she was able to raise the same money from the same donors that were on Robert Ray's disclosure reports. Beth is an awesome candidate. Just about everyone I can think of would rather go to her fundraiser and chat with her than Robert Ray. But this just isn't how it works. Realism '08.

Amy Morton said...

Oh, that's funny. You get a promotion, as well. I appreciate you guys chiming in.

BD Smith said...

I haven't moved since purchasing my home in 1996. That's all I'm saying...

Roxanne Jekot said...

I'm with BD.

This whole little rant on their part is sad, because they honestly believe it.

There's a reason DC strategists want to write off the south and it comes from our own local party. They tell them to sit down and shut up because only "they" know southern politics.

Well, here's hoping our newly elected officials take a better stance.

Chris said...

Roxanne, no disrespect but that is moronic. Percentage wise, Georgia has more Democrats in Congress than Michigan or Ohio. The DPG and DNC worked hand in hand to elect and re-elect Marshall and Barrow in 2002, 2004 and 2006.

In 2004, DPG officers put their political capital on the line to get what little scraps Majette's campaign could get. Why would we want to write off the South? That makes absolutely no sense.

Roxanne Jekot said...

Hey, Chris.........

I didn't say we should write off the south - try re-reading it.