Technology guides small donations to Democratic candidates
By MORGAN LEE
Oct. 17, 2017
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — An online fundraising platform in the vein of PayPal has helped Democratic congressional candidates in New Mexico round up small contributions ahead of 2018 elections.
Campaign finance disclosures filed with federal regulators this week showed several Democratic congressional candidates using ActBlue to raise large sums of money in small increments, gathering as much as $59,000 for one candidate over a three-month span.
ActBlue is reserved for Democratic candidates. Republicans don't have an equivalent conduit for online contributions, but they can chose from a variety of online fundraising platforms and consultants with proprietary technology.
State Democratic Party Chairman Richard Ellenberg said Tuesday that the fundraising platform makes it easy for people to make political contributions in small amounts at any time with a credit or debit card. That fits into the party's strategy for widening its base of financial support, he said.
"It's taking on more of a presence now," he said. "I think people are focusing increasingly in the party on trying to raise more in small donations so that we expand our financial base and aren't dependent on a few large players."
Democratic candidates in New Mexico appeared to be reporting the sources of small individual donations under $200 collected through ActBlue, even though it is not required by federal campaign rules. ActBlue says it bills campaigns on average about 4 percent of funds raised, for transaction costs and other expenses.
Among candidates for an open Albuquerque-based congressional seat, former state Democratic Party chairwoman Debra Haaland reported contributions of $59,000 that flowed through ActBlue from July through September. She raised $110,000 overall.
Also through ActBlue, former law professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez received $42,000, and former U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez received $50,000.
At the same time, a Republican congressional candidate in New Mexico's southern district raised the most money overall. Former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman reported raising $317,000 in the campaign to succeed Republican Congressman Steve Pearce, who is running for governor.
ActBlue also operates as a political action committee in New Mexico to channel donations to candidates for state office, including gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham of Albuquerque, who won't run for re-election to Congress.