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A Fund-Raising Rainmaker Arises Online
By Leslie Wayne
November 29, 2007

 


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14 Arrow Street - Suite 11
Cambridge, MA
02138
Phone :(617) 517-7600
Email :
info@actblue.com
URL: Website
ActBlue (AB)'s Visual Map


  • Fundraiser for Democratic Party political candidates



Inspired by the grassroots fundraising network that Howard Dean assembled during his 2004 presidential bid, ActBlue (AB) is an Internet-based political action committee (PAC) that bundles and transmits contributions which individual donors earmark for various progressive candidates, political parties, PACs, and outside spending groups. Operating out of an office just off of Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, MIT computer-science graduate Matt DeBergalis and Harvard graduate Benjamin Rahn created AB expressly to enable small donors nationwide to contribute funds to their recipients of choice. “We want to make campaign fundraising really easy, as easy as ordering a book online,” DeBergalis stated in 2007. True to its mission, the ActBlue website enables visitors to easily and quickly contribute any sum of money, with the mere click of a computer mouse, to any Democratic candidate for federal office—as well as for many state offices. Partnering in this endeavor with Salsa Labs, AB has grown into the largest fundraising platform for Democratic Party candidates in America.

From its earliest days ActBlue was utilized extensively by the progressive blogging community, known colloquially as the “Netroots nation.” In 2006 the Daily Kos (founded by Markos Moulitsas Zuniga) and MyDD.com together raised $1.5 million for their preferred candidates through AB.[1]

Low-profile candidates with shoestring budgets quickly found that they could raise large sums of money through ActBlue, as did such luminaries as Senator Barbara Boxer (who in 2006 alone used AB to raise more than $900,000 for her leadership PAC) and Senator John Edwards (who during the lead-up to the 2007 Democratic presidential primaries raised $4.3 million of his $30 million total receipts though ActBlue). Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton likewise raised a great deal of cash by way of AB.

In 2007 as well, Daily Kos, OpenLeft, and the Swing State Project collaborated to create “Blue Majority” on the ActBlue website—specifically to endorse and fundraise for committed progressive candidates. AB also attempted to target particular progressive causes via its sister site, Blue America—endorsing candidates who, for example, supported a single-payer healthcare system.

During the 2009-10 political season, ActBlue's top beneficiary was Pennsylvania Democrat Joe Sestak, who collected more than $4.3 million from AB donors—a sum representing 42% of all the money he raised for his U.S. Senate bid. In that same election cycle, ActBlue donors contributed more than $1 million to each of the following Democrats: Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California), Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida), U.S. Senate candidate Martha Coakley of Massachusetts, U.S. Senate candidate Chris Coons of Delaware, U.S. Senate candidate Jack Conway of Kentucky, and U.S. House candidate Rob Miller of South Carolina. In nearly every one of these cases, the money raised via ActBlue represented at least 10 percent—and sometimes as much as 25 or 30 percent—of all money the candidates collected.[2]

In the 2012 election cycle, AB raised $148,845,935 for Democratic recipients. From 2004 through 2012, the cumulative figure was approximately $280 million.

One of ActBlue's chief objectives for the years ahead is to “groom the farm team” of capable Democratic candidates who can “compete everywhere, especially in places that institutional supporters have written off.”


NOTES:
[1] “The blogosphere was our earliest adopter, co-founder Rahn recounts. “They helped push $250,000 into federal campaigns [in the summer of 2004], and by the end of [the year] we were printing $1 million in checks out of Matt’s [DeBergalis'] living room.”

[2] According to Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Maryland), who formerly served as executive director of the Arca Foundation and a director of the Proteus Fund, “ActBlue completely transformed the way that we raise money for this campaign. It took what we were doing on the grassroots level […] and spread the message around the country. We didn’t just have Maryland grassroots; we had national grassroots.”

(Information on grantees and monetary amounts courtesy of The Foundation Center, GuideStar, ActivistCash, the Capital Research Center and Undue Influence)

 

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