Monday, August 25, 2008

Nonprofit Campaign Fundraising 101

Its a good thing the totally nonprofit college football season begins this week, otherwise we would stuck with the political conventions (aaack! gag me with a spoon, why don'cha!).  But those who are interested in the fascinating and intriguing world of campaign fundraising, should check out The Campaign Finance Institute's incredibly informative website.  The site includes this particular report regarding 527 and 501(c)(4) organizations, this report on the financing behind the Democratic and Republican Conventions, and this report on how much donors have otherwise spent on lobbying activities.  All the reports are chock full of statiscal data that should be useful to anybody studying this stuff.  But I must warn you, if the political season makes you wanna gag, make sure you read these reports on an empty stomach. Here is a small sample from the report on the financing behind the two conventions:

The Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service have permitted a vast expansion of host committee fundraising on the grounds that since these organizations are nonpartisan “charities” or “business leagues,” contributing to them does not present an issue of potential political corruption or appearance of corruption. But CFI’s investigation has established that basically Republican federal and other elected officials, their financiers and party operatives, are asking for largely corporate money to fund the Republican convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul. And their Democratic equivalents are doing the same for their Denver conclave.

In addition, the CFI Report documents that when Minnesota Republicans and Democrats “make the ask”, their undeniable civic boosterism is often accompanied by written and oral offers of special access for donors to federal elected and other officials, national party leaders and other party influentials. (And half of the private money for both conventions is slated to come from out-of-state companies who are presumably less susceptible to boosterism)

The new CFI report details: who has been doing the fundraising for the host committees, how and where they have been teaming up to look for money, and what they have been promising prospective donors. In addition to official documents it draws from host committee “sponsor benefits packages,” local press accounts, and interviews with participants in host committee activities.

Here are just a few of the many interesting findings that appear and are fully detailed in the Report:

  • Six Democrats on the Denver host committee’s Executive Committee -- Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, Senator Ken Salazar, lawyer Steve Farber (a major state and national Democratic donor and fundraiser) and Rep. Diana DeGette -- have done virtually all of the fundraising.
  • Ritter, Farber and Hickenlooper traveled to Las Vegas as a team to meet with approximately 50 potential donors, individually and in groups.
  • Ritter successfully appealed to a top official of the Service Employees International Union to send a quarter of a million dollars to enable the host committee to meet its December 2007 fundraising target.
  • Two Republicans, Senator Norm Coleman and Governor Tim Pawlenty (who also co-chairs Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign), have set the fundraising strategy of the Minneapolis-St. Paul host committee, including recruiting key leadership. The Democratic Mayors of St. Paul and Minneapolis have had little role in the fundraising.
  • At a fundraising breakfast for Minnesota CEOs, Pawlenty’s “talking points” said donors would have the opportunity to “connect with influential government officials (Cabinet, President, next President).”
  • During his national search for money, Pawlenty’s staff asked him to have New York Republican Governor Pataki contact Koch Industries' CEO on his behalf. (Four Koch-controlled firms are sponsoring the convention)
  • The Chairman of the Minneapolis-St. Paul host committee has a longstanding, well-known political relationship with Senator Coleman and has been a major contributor to his campaigns.
  • The Denver host committee’s “corporate sponsorship packet” offers $250,000+ donors invitations to “private events” with Gov. Ritter, Sen. Salazar, Rep. DeGette, Mayor Hickenlooper, and Farber.
  • During most of 2007, the Minneapolis-St. Paul host committee offered $5 million+ donors “private dinner with Republican leadership and elected officials,” “golfing with Republican leadership,” and a “private reception” with Sen. Coleman, Gov. Pawlenty and the Mayors of Minneapolis, St. Paul and Bloomington.
  • After negative publicity during the summer of 2007, the host committee deleted the above three events while maintaining other “sponsor” political access opportunities such as sponsoring state delegation parties and obtaining premier venues for corporate hospitality. Furthermore, Gov. Pawlenty’s talking points for Minnesota CEOs included this promise: “We plan to have various events with Cabinet/VP and other elected officials to thank donors…”

Excuse me.  I need to go spit.


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