In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race. Campaign finance is a big part of the story.
With the election over, and the fears of Republicans partly realized, the party’s worry has shifted to the “green wave:” $39.67 here, $39.67 there.
That’s the average donation to ActBlue, the online fund-raising hub used by more than 90 percent of Democrats. Buoyed by ActBlue, more than 100 Democratic candidates outraised their Republican counterparts in hotly contested congressional races.
Overall, Democratic candidates in the general election collected nearly $296 million in small donations, more than three times the $85 million collected by Republicans. As Democrats have increasingly excelled in that area, aided by ActBlue, Republicans have come to realize that those little donations, repeated over and over again, add up to big numbers.
But Republicans cannot simply copy the Democratic model. While ActBlue is a nonprofit, Republican efforts at collecting small-dollar donations are fragmented among for-profit processing vendors. There are more than a half-dozen such vendors servicing Republican candidates and committees. And there is big money to be made from their portion of the processing fees, typically around 4 percent, some of which goes to banks and credit card companies.
In House races, the organization said, more than half the money from individual contributors to Democratic candidates was raised through ActBlue.
The site’s influence and fund-raising have grown exponentially in the past several years, aided by Senator Bernie Sanders’s appeal to small donors in 2016 and his campaign’s decision to use ActBlue. The service also collects a fee that it uses to pay banks and credit-card companies, and rolls the rest back into operations.
In addition to providing Democratic donors with a one-stop site, ActBlue allows them to store their credit card numbers and, with one click, donate to virtually any Democratic candidate or liberal cause through a process called ActBlue Express, which the group says has 5.8 million users.