08/15/19

Small-Dollar Donors Make a Big Difference for Democrats

You might be surprised to find that the Political Action Committee (PAC) with the most small-dollar donors in Republican-controlled Texas — both in the last election cycle and so far for 2020 — is ActBlue Texas, a Democrat PAC. Texas has been long-considered a “given” for Republicans, but Democrats have high hopes that they can finally gain political control and have declared Texas “ground zero” for 2020

ActBlue is a conduit PAC and fund-raising platform designed to help elect Democrat and progressive candidates and thereby turn Texas “blue.” According to ActBlue’s website, their mission is “to democratize power and help small-dollar donors make their voices heard in a real way.” So far, in Texas, it’s working. 

For the 2020 election cycle, ActBlue Texas has already collected a jaw-dropping 16,122 separate contributions from 8,019 donors with an average donation amount of $85.22.  

What do all these numbers mean? 

To put ActBlue’s numbers in context, compare them to donations taken in by Associated Republicans of Texas (ART), its closest Republican corollary on the list of Top Ten PACs so far this election cycle. ART has collected 306 individual donations from 280 donors with an average donation amount of $3,521.87.

2020 Election Cycle to Date:
ActBlue TexasAssociated Republicans of Texas
Number of Donors:8,019280
Number of Donations:16,122306
Average Donation:$85$3,522
Total Raised:$1,373,929$1,077,693

Doesn’t the higher average donation make up for having fewer donors? 

Yes and No. Campaigns are expensive, of course. Every candidate wants to bag the fat-cat mega-donor, and every campaign loves big checks. But there is no better harbinger of success on election day than a large number of individual donations, no matter the dollar amount. If someone is willing to open their wallet, they are highly likely to show up and vote. And just as important are the friends they are likely to tell — in person and on social media — about this campaign where they just chipped in a few bucks. 

Where are the Republicans?

Donald Trump made headlines recently with the impressive number of small-dollar donors in his latest campaign finance report, proving that Democrats have not cornered the market on this donor strategy. But in Texas, Republicans continue to lag far behind. In late June, Republicans launched WinRed, a conduit PAC and donation platform designed to counter ActBlue, but Democrats definitely have the running advantage. 

Of course, a sluggish change in strategy to capture small-dollar donations may be a rather optimistic spin on what’s happening with the Republicans. Another possible explanation may be that conservative grassroots activists and PACs are disappointed with the results of the legislative session and are declaring that dissatisfaction by putting away their checkbooks

Join us next week as we examine conservative giving (and lack of it) in the most recent campaign finance reports. At Transparency Texas, we provide the answers you need about the money in Texas politics.

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