Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hicks: Only Eight is Unacceptable

"In 2006, more than 500 Georgia Democrats contributed over $275,000 to the DNC and only 8 of these donors also contributed to the DPG. This is unacceptable." No kidding.

If you are a State Committee member, then you should've gotten this information in an email from Darryl Hicks. Hicks is running for 1st Vice Chair of the DPG. Having run a statewide campaign, he has political experience, plus, as we heard from him-over and over again during the primary-he is a expert in customer service. When the customers are voters, volunteers and donors, those are handy skills. Hicks, who is personable, smart and experienced, can be a valuable part of a leadership team. He has my vote.

Good luck Darryl!

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Roxanne Jekot said...

Not a very hard choice.........

1. Donate to Howard Dean's DNC to support the 50 State Strategy, or

2. Donate to the DPG which refused to implement the 50 State Strategy.....

Amy Morton said...

Yes, and Hicks is saying that we have to make the DPG a viable organization so that those donors will want to contribute. Few argue that it is viable as it stands, and if they do, they need a reality check.

Roxanne Jekot said...

Yeah, I got Hicks' message.......I was just trying to shorten it.

The (Georgia version of) 50 State Strategy, however, is not part of the message we're hearing from these party candidates. That troubles me.

I asked one about it in email.......his answer was "parts of the 50 state strategy should be implemented..."

Tina said...

Most of my donations have gone to candidates that I have met personally. Those of us who have limited funds to contribute are perhaps overly cautious about tossing our mite into the big pot.

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.

Amy Morton said...

Chris: I'm moving your comment to the front page because it contains good information not generally known. About the 159 County Strategy, my intent, when I was running, was to build relationships and infrastructure, not distribute money to every race. I agree, though others do not, that money or in-kind into a race is an investment that should be made wisely, not simply because someone puts their name on the ballot. So, I don't think that we should trickle a couple of grand into twenty races instead of putting forty in a seat that is winnable. I also think that candidates are primarily responsible for raising their own cash, and that resources from the party or other organizations ought to be available only when candidates have demonstrated the willingness to get on the phone and raise money. But, fundraising is a learned skill, and we, as a party, can do a better job of training candidates to make the ask.

I do think that we can facilitate recruitment,provide training, and provide some technical assistance across races. That said, I think that we can do a better job of creating a 'bench', supporting candidates to get political experience in local races and training candidates, staff and volunteers. Also, as we make this transition, I think that one of the things that has not gotten enough consideration is the potential loss of staff, like Jeff, who understand the complex campaign fianace laws. You are right on the money (no pun intended) when you talk about those issues.