In today's Fort Worth Star Telegram Anna Tinsley wrote about how small donors are playing a big role in fundraising for the 2008 Presidential race. With campaigns costing gigantic amounts these days, most of us feel helpless. It is difficult to comprehend how what ordinary working folks or retirees or college students can contribute which will make a substantial difference.
However, the reality is that what we have to offer truly can make the difference between a candidate's race getting off the ground and staying alive and it fizzling and dying before anyone notice.
Kerry Bouchard knew it was just a drop in the bucket.
But the Fort Worth man wanted to help Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards, so he sent $50 to the campaign last month.
"I felt I needed to try to do what little I could to influence the presidential race," said Bouchard, 46, a librarian at Texas Christian University. "Sometimes it seems hopeless because there's so much money involved."
But his $50, added to someone else's $25, plus someone else's $35, eventually adds up.
In the 2008 presidential primary campaign, it seems that the smallest donors are gaining a larger voice.
Millionaries and billionaries giving large donations is viewed by many people as one of the problems in American politics. It is difficult for an elected official needing large amounts of money to run media advertising and to pay consultants and other campaign expenses to ignore the agendas of large donors.
Thus far this year it appears that the trend is for smaller donors to carry more of the load toward financing campaigns.
Tinsley wrote of donors giving $50 or less:
Nationwide, those donors have contributed more than 21 percent of money raised by presidential candidates.
In Tarrant County, more than half of donors gave less than $500. Just 22 percent gave $2,000 or more, according to a Star-Telegram analysis of new campaign finance records.
"Two-thirds of the donations", writes Tinsley, "have come from large donors."
Jeff Classen's researched campaign returns of Presidential candidates and analyzed Tarrant County Donors. His research shows:
Rudi Giuilani has receieve more donations over $2,000.00 than any other presidential candidate. He comes in 5th in number of donors under $2000.00. Republican candidates lead in the top 4 spots in the number of donations over $2000.00 from Tarrant County.
Democrats lead in the top number of donations from donors under $2000.00 in Tarrant County.
Number of donors over $2000.00 from Tarrant County:
1. Republic Rudy Giuliani 103
2. Republican Mitt Romney 54
3. Republican Fred Thompson 51
4. Republican John McCain 42
5. Democrat Hilliary Clinton 39
6. Democrat John Edwards 29
7. Republican Huckabee 25
8. Democrat Barack Obama 11
9. Republican Ron Paul 9
10. Democrat Bill Richardson 7
11. Democrat Chris Dodd 2
Democrats lead with the number of donors under $2000.00 from Tarrant County.
1. Democrat Barack Obamba 173
2. Democrat Hilary Clinton 130
3. Democrat John Edwards 128
4. Republican John McCain 125
5. Republican Mitt Romney 101
6. Republican Rudy Giuliani 88
7. Republican Ron Paul 57
8. Republican Fred Thompson 53
9. Republican Tom Tancredo 44
10 Democrat Bill Richardson 36
11. Republican Mike Huckabee 16
12. Republican Duncan Hunter 14
12. Democrat Joe Biden 14
13. Sam Brownback 6
14. Democrat Chris Dodd 3
15. Republican John Cox 2
15. Democrat Dennis Kucinich 2
Source: Federal Elections Commission, Star-Telegram analyzis by Jeff Claussen
During the 2006 Attorney General's race, Democrat David Van Os raised most of his money from donors who gave under $1000.00. On-line donations and people on the grassroots pooled their money and financed outdoor advertising for the Van Os Campaign. All of the down-ticket Democratic challenger were financially challenged. All except Dale Henry and Fred Head (who self-financed their campaigns) relied on small donors to help keep gasoline in their tanks and pay travel expenses as they traveled the state trying to meet as many voters as possible in towns and cities all over Texas. They were unable to compete in the larger markets where Republican incumbents warchests financed media advertising blitz the last few weeks of the campaign.
Candidates found ways to cut corners on campaign headquarters. Most of the down-ticket Democratic challengers last year utilized skilled volunteers working from virtual offices in key slots usually filled by paid campaign staff and consultants. Van Os and Maria Luisa Alvarado shared campaign headquarters in the Van Os Law Firm Building in San Antonio. Sometimes they car-pooled to events and shared on-the road meals of sandwiches and fruit packed at home from coolers in the car while they coordinated their campaigns from cell phones and laptop computers. Hank Gilbert had some hired staffers but ran his campaign from his pick-up by cell phone as he drove from town to town. They connected with the grassroots and their supporters were volunteered as many hours as many paid staffers normally work in better financed campaigns.
They proved that candidates can fight smart campaigns, connecting with the grassroots, in Texas. However, in a state this big, without money to combat end-of- election-cycle television and radio campaigns of their opponents in the major urban markets, they lose too many votes from the fringe or swing voters who are not party activists. It is difficult (probably impossible) to wage as aggressive a people to people style campaign while spending the normal half day on the phone calling potential donors that most consultants demand of candidates.
For Democratic challengers to regain offices in Texas, more donors need to give money without getting a telephone call from the candidate. Underdogs need money but they also need votes. To get votes, they need to connect with people. If the political landscape in Texas is going to change significantly, Texans on the grassroots must continue to take responsiblity for generating resources for charmastic, dedicated, qualified, educated candidates.
For Democrats challengers or populists to regain the Texas Turf, by winning state executive offices and judicial, house and senate and US House and Senate seats, and for Democratic presidential candidates to prevail, volunteers and small donors must unite to fill the gap between donations from millioniare and billionaires which traditionally bankroll Republicans and incumbents. They must also raise enough money to run media in major markets to reach voters who do not go to political events.
For Democrats to regain the Texas Turf, more people have to care enough to give a little and to volunteer a little. More Texans have to care enough to learn where the candidates stand on issues and go vote. This is a year when major changes can be made in the politican landscape in the USA and in Texas. It will happen only if small donors contribute what they can and a few larger donors steps up and helps push the campaigns over the top.