Democrats — beginning with unsuccessful 2004 candidate Howard Dean — have seized a huge lead over Republicans in online fundraising. Since 2004 ActBlue.com, an online PAC, has raised over $30 million for Democratic candidates and committees.
The Washington Post reported Oct. 5 that for the 2008 presidential election Republicans trail Democrats in fundraising by nearly $100 million “a gap that is unprecedented in 30 years.”
A new initiative — Slatecard — is trying to close that gap.
Liberal websites such as “DailyKos” have created a “netroots” (internet-grassroots or, in the case of some such as MoveOn.org, “nutroots”) network that has become a highly-effective base-reaching funding source. This weeks launch of Slatecard.com could dramatically reduce shortcomings in both Republican netroots activism and fundraising.
Slatecard aims to raise money for Republican candidates in the same way that ActBlue has for Democrats. Slatecard lets users create profiles (“slatecards”) for candidates they support and then raise money by donating to that candidate and passing it on to friends, family members, co workers — anyone — through blogs, emails, and social networking groups.
"We aren’t exactly a counter of ActBlue in the fact that they would never get one of our customers, and we would never get one of their costumers, but we are similarly giving our base finally a chance to come to our page, create a slatecard and then promote those candidates through their networks” said David All, 28, who founded the online political-action committee with Sendhil Panchadsaram, 23, a freelance programmer based in San Diego.
Here’s how it works.
Slatecard.com attempts to use the same technique that has helped to advance campaign fundraising in record amounts for Barack Obama called “baby-bundling.”
Baby-bundling, All explained, is what happens when people support candidates in smaller donations, but by encouraging others in their network (by way of internet) to support their chosen candidates as well, accumulate larger amounts through these smaller donations.
“People are able to use our site to help bundle contributions,” said All “not everyone can contribute $2,300, or smile with the candidate at the picture in the photo line at the VIP reception, but there is a lower barrier of entry that Slatecard can help people get into and that’s to contribute 5-10 dollars.”
“Every month, or just once, whatever you can give — every single dollar counts these days in politics — and the fact that we are losing elections by less than 2% in many instances, it just goes to show that resources count,” said All.
Bundling isn’t the only way that Slatecard is stepping up Republican netroot activism. All and Panchadsaram have created what they are calling “issue badges” (see image below). Users can choose from 26 issue badges after they make their contribution, allowing them to share with other users and people in their network why they support this candidate.
“If your big issue is securing the borders, are you going to believe the candidate that tells you that’s their issue or the candidate that has received 150 issue badges from supporters to back that up.”
“The ‘Stop Hillary’ badge is pretty interesting…Rudy seems to be getting that one the most,” said All.
All and Panchadsaram anticipate Slatecard to enhance Republican activism through more than just fundraising and become an online utility that can be used year round. Each candidates profile also lists their social networks that are available (Facebook, Myspace, Flickr etc.), a small bio, and their website.
“Candidates will tell you whatever you want to hear, we have seen that already in the presidential primary, but what we are trying to do is create a qualified “wiki” (internet encyclopedia) of candidates based on issues,” said All “so that we will actually be able to enhance Republican activism because users — much like on Amazon.com — will be able to find those candidates that they support simply based on issues instead of things like geography.”
Could Slatecard.com be what Republicans need to fill the gap in netroots fundraising? Maybe. It’s the kind of imaginative tool the GOP needs to take advantage of immediately, and adapt as the campaign goes on.