Funding the IDP — Unpacking the Idea

Here’s what I wrote in my last post:

“Iowa Democrats have a paucity of large donors. There just aren’t that many in the state. The chair plays a role in party fundraising, but the effort would be better served by delegating it to prominent Democrats on a volunteer basis. The idea some have proposed of requiring the chair to spend a percent of time fund raising belies the chair’s more important role in party building.”

The response was quick

The editor of Bleeding Heartland weighed in:

Here’s what’s inside this paragraph:

What the heck is he talking about? The state party chair is traditionally responsible for fundraising.

It is time to break with tradition. The chair will always be responsible for the major activities of the state party headquarters, including fundraising. The question is how should his or her responsibilities be prioritized? In my view the chair will continue to have a daily call list for those donors where the chair’s involvement makes a difference. Most of the fundraising work would and should be done by others.

The main purpose is not to create a fundraising shortfall, but to get firm commitments from prominent Democrats who are also experienced fundraisers to help manage the financial need for income. That should enable the chair to work more on party building.

Who the heck is Paul Deaton and what does he know about fundraising?

My main experience in political fundraising was working with Dick Schwab in his campaign for state representative. Schwab had raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for numerous enterprises including non-profits and businesses. When it came to raising over $100,000 for his political campaign he already had the network in place to tap people for donations. He lost the election but it wasn’t for lack of money.

In the years after the election I was approached three times about raising money for other candidates in the district based on my experience with Schwab. What I told them is relevant to this post. “The donor list is a matter of public record, but Schwab had a relationship with most of the people who contributed to his campaign. Neither I nor likely you can replicate that.”

Would Schwab be one of those “prominent Democratic volunteers” I mentioned? I don’t know but he serves as an example.

The Iowa Democratic Party needs dozens of this kind of volunteer — that have a Rolodex and relationships — who are willing to commit to fundraising. Maybe they do one event per cycle. Maybe they work longer to hunt the elephant that will feed the whole village. Maybe they work in a decentralized group. Based on my experience, it is unreasonable to rely on the single Rolodex and relationships of a party chair for fundraising. Cold calling lists provided by others is no substitute for existing relationships. There is a need to broaden the fundraising base by recruiting the prominent Democrats who are willing to play.

What the heck is all this money for?

The main point of my original post was “our quadrennial coalition building relies less on political parties and more on the places we go every day: church, schools, work, daycare, the grocery store and in our neighboring yards, gardens and apartments.” The commitment needed to run this kind of campaign is much broader into the electorate and boils down to what kind of people will we be as Democrats and can we get to know and recruit people in our circle of influence to join us? How much money is needed for that? Not much.

An eye opener for me came during the 2008 general election. One of my neighbors had a list of everyone in the neighborhood. It was her job to canvass them all, along with others persuade those she could, and get all of the Democratic supporters to vote early or on election day. Toward election day, we discussed every name on the list and made sure they either had voted or were still with us. It is election work as it should be, as I am proposing be supported by the Iowa Democratic Party.

The main needs from the party headquarters to support such an operation are a strong communications team and a stronger information technologies team. If done right, this decentralized approach can come at a very reasonable price.

Hillary Clinton outspent Donald Trump in campaign expenditures $450 million to $239 million. This broke the unwritten rule that the campaign with the most money wins the election — the origin of which is often attributed to Bill Clinton. Clinton was outspending Trump on TV ads 7-1 and 5-1 some weeks. After 2016 one should question the efficacy of political TV advertising, and every expense incurred during the course of the campaign. That is, if we want to elect Democrats to public office.

I hope this explains the idea.

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