Over a period of time I have found my way on to the email lists of a variety of national political candidates and their committees. Being a Democrat, emails from that side of the aisle come naturally. On the Republican side I trace the contacts to my travels around South Carolina during the Republican presidential primary in 2016. At that time the process was to request tickets for an event, so I got on the email lists of the Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Bush and Kasich campaigns. Many campaigns have a habit of loaning or selling their lists, so over time the contacts spread far and wide.
Needless to say, 2020 has been an unprecedented election year, starting with the crowded Democratic presidential primary and going through the conventions, the debates and other events. Lately the emails and texts have been coming in like water from a fire hose. In previous weeks I was seeing more Republicans emails from the likes of Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich and a variety of House candidates, but those have mostly disappeared. I wonder why.
I thought my readers might be interested in how these activities are being carried out by the campaigns. This is money raising on a small ball basis. Nearly all the communications request a donation, often starting at $2.70 (a Sanders’ favorite) or $5 or $10 and on up. The trick, of course, is for a campaign to get a donor hooked on repeated small dollar donations.
In some cases the campaigns are selling their merchandise, which comes in a variety of stuff such as bumper stickers; signs; a personalized door mat; glasses (shot and pint size); hats; shirts; pins; autographed books; and on and on and on. The Trump committee has done a lot more in the merchandise area than Biden or any other candidate that I’ve heard from.
Trump lately seems to be trying to run down an overloaded inventory by offering a variety of things that are FREE, FREE, FREE if only you will send them $45, which has become the new magic dollar amount for the campaign.
Some of the committees (again Trump leading the way) like to tell you that your contribution will be matched. Early on in the campaign the matches were 200 percent, but they have creeped up to 900 percent. They never do tell you who is providing the matching funds, if in fact, there really are matching funds.
To give you a flavor of the emails and texts, here is the results from one typical day (from 12:00 am to 11:59 pm) during the last two weeks of the campaign, when I received 99 solicitations:
- Trump, including the candidate himself, Donald Jr., Pence – 22 emails and texts. ‘Exclusive,” “CLASSIFIED,” “crucial,” “this is the TRUTH,” etc. The number of contacts speaks volumes about their money needs. My favorite, a text: “THEY’RE ASKING ABOUT YOU! Eric: ‘We need Ken!’ Don Jr.: ‘Have we heard from Ken?’”
- Biden – including the candidate himself; actress Scarlett Johannsson; Harris; Harris spouse Doug Emhoff – 10 emails and texts.
- The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, on behalf of various candidates – 13 emails.
- South Carolina Democratic senatorial candidate Jamie Harrison – 7 emails.
- Amy McGraff, Democratic senatorial candidate in Kentucky – 4 emails.
- John Hickenlooper, Democratic senatorial candidate in Colorado – 5 emails.
- The South Carolina Republican Party, twice asking people to volunteer for Lindsay Graham and offering a Trump sign.
- Another 36 emails from the Voter Protection Project, a Democratic advocacy group; Senator Kristin Gillibrand on behalf of the Democratic candidates for Senate in Georgia; Tom Steyer; Nancy Pelosi; James Carville; the National Redistricting Action Committee; Chuck Schumer; Arizona Democratic senatorial candidate Mark Kelly; The Democratic National Committee; Team AOC; Beto O’Rourke; Amy Klobuchar.
Among the 99 emails and texts there were only two originating in New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s political organization promoted a virtual fundraiser for Senate candidate Jacqui Berger and the New York State Democratic Committee sent out one promoting voting.
The volume of communications from Democrats promoting Senate candidates helps explain the extraordinary amounts of cash collected by the party’s candidates. Money alone certainly does not win elections, but it can sure help.
Speaking of money
I have been working with Jim Heaney and Geoff Kelly of Investigative Post on a new feature on the Post’s website, “Money in Politics.” The premier issue posted this week and it discusses State Senate candidate Sean Ryan’s fundraising activities. The post is accompanied by a podcast where Geoff and I discuss the subject. Check it out here.
And then there are the rallies
I attended two Trump rallies in 2016. You needed a ticket to get in. Things seem to be structured a little differently in October 2020.
Here are the rules of attendance to the recent Trump rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, with some of my editorial comments in bold type:
The suggested attire is casual. Official Trump Campaign merchandise is permitted. Please do not wear ANY OTHER campaign merchandise (i.e. local, state, or federal campaigns). We are not interested in promoting other Republican candidates.
All attendees will be temperature checked and security screened. We’ll decide what that means.
Masks and hand sanitizer will be available. Please wear your mask for the duration of the event. Until given permission by fearless leader to ignore this rule which only caters to scientists like Fauci…
And here from the Trump email are the things you cannot bring into the rally, with a few of my editorial comments:
Prohibited Items List
• Alcoholic beverages
• Backpacks, bags, roller bags, suitcases bags exceeding size restrictions (12”x14”x5”)
• Balls—fearless leader will supply them.
• Banners, signs, placards
• Drones and other unmanned aircraft systems—Damn, I can’t bring my helicopter.
• Explosives of any kind (including fireworks)
• Glass, thermal and metal containers
• Laser lights and laser pointers
• E-Cigarrettes (sic) and Vaping Devices—this must mean that cigarettes are okay because we might be waiting a long time for the event to begin.
• Mace and/or pepper spray
• Noisemakers, such as air horns, whistles, drums, bullhorns, etc. Fearless leader prefers that you just scream at the person next to you as loud as you can without wearing a mask.
• Poles, sticks and selfie sticks. Germans, Irish,okay, but no Poles.
• Spray containers
• Structures – like a small shed for camping out.
• Supports for signs/placards
• Appliances (i.e. Toasters)—How am I going to make lunch? What about my George Forman Grill?
• And any other items that may pose a threat to the security of the event as determined by and at the discretion of the security screeners.—Notice that guns are not specified on the prohibited list. Maybe the security screeners will handle that.
EARLY VOTING IN NEW YORK STATE STARTS ON OCTOBER 24!