Lessons in campaign histrionics

The Thinker by Rodin

I am politically active so I contribute to political campaigns. I don’t contribute a whole lot of money, particularly now that I am retired. During a given election cycle I try to at least throw a few hundred dollars toward worthy candidates. I must say though that I don’t enjoy it very much. This is because once you give you will be petitioned ceaselessly to give more. Worse, once you are on one mailing list your email address will be shamelessly sold or given away to others. The result is a predictable avalanche of emails in my inbox from all sorts of Democratic candidates and progressive causes pleading for money.

Pleading for money is to put it mildly. Pleading implies maybe a little humility and supplication. Not for these campaign managers. I wish I could turn them off but simply cannot. I occasionally go on unsubscribe binges but it never does more than reduce the volume of pleas a bit. My email address simply gets passed around or the candidate will conveniently forget I unsubscribed, particularly as a particular FEC reporting deadline nears.

If I had been more proactive I would have created a junk email account for this sort of mail. I don’t know why, but when I started out giving email to campaigns I sort of assumed that people of a better sort populated them. Apparently they are recruited from hucksters outside carnival sideshows.

Since I don’t have a whole lot of money to give, I have to be very selective about which candidates get my money. Fortunately, I spend a significant part of my day reading about politics, so I feel I am well informed. Most recently I gave these donations:

  • $10 to Jim Mowrer. Jim is running for Iowa’s 4th congressional district. He’s trying to win in bat shit crazy Steve King’s district. How crazy is Steve King? Well, he’s an open racist and xenophobe. He wants an electrified fence on the border with Mexico and he complains that drug smugglers crossing the border on foot have calves the size of cantaloupes from hauling drugs on their backs. Iowans are supposed to be sensible people, but those in this district have yet to prove it because they keep reelecting this clown. I hope my modest donation to Jim might help knock some common sense into these voters. But probably not.
  • $25 to Michele Nunn. She’s the Democrat running for Senate in Georgia. Polling suggests she has a better than even chance to change the seat from red to blue. Her opponent, David Purdue, is the worst sort of Republican, bragging about his ability to outsource jobs. Georgia is slowly swinging blue anyhow, and the Nunn brand carries some traction in the state. Giving to Nunn is an excellent use of my money and recent polls suggest she has a better than even chance of winning.
  • $25 to John Foust. This genuinely open seat is in my district, Virginia’s 10th, which has been filled by Republican Frank Wolf the whole time I’ve been in it. He’s retiring but the Republican candidate Barbara Comstock is trying to convince voters that she’s a moderate while voting for infuriating stuff like transvaginal ultrasounds while in the Virginia legislature. Comstock will probably win this slightly red district, as it stretches all the way to Winchester, but probably only for two years as it keeps getting bluer. Still, it’s worth a donation to see if I can live in a blue district for however short a time before we relocate.
  • $25 to Mark Warner. He is running for reelection against Ed Gillespie and is virtually certain to win. Ordinarily I would not give Mark any money, as he is quite popular and suspiciously moderate. But lately I’ve decided the dynamics in Congress won’t change unless we have more moderates, so I’m giving Warner money. I don’t always agree with him, but he’s a good guy.
  • $25 to Bruce Braley, running to keep retiring Tom Harkin’s Iowa senate seat blue. He’s running against a kind of crazy Tea Party type, Joni Ernst. She’ll probably win despite her crazy views, simply because of Obama fatigue and Republicans are chomping the bit to vote, while Democrats will probably fail to engage during midterms, as usual. But maybe a little nudge from me we can keep the seat blue.
  • $25 to Mary Landrieu. She’s got a tough challenge retaining her seat in the red state of Louisiana, but her opponent Bill Cassidy is as usual pretty extreme, and maybe too extreme for Louisiana, but probably not. I disagree with her on lots of stuff, but I’d rather have her on team blue.

I’m not sure how much more I will give, but one thing’s for sure. Apparently there is no chance of Democrats winning at all unless I give great gobs of money every day to all sorts of candidates. At least that’s pretty much the crux of all the emails coming into my email box: it’s a few seconds before a nuclear winter. Most of these are beyond ludicrous and have recently reached the frighteningly embarrassing stage. Here are some from my recent emails:

  • John Foust, or at least his campaign manager says, “we’re going home” because they can’t compete against a $1M ad buy from one of John Boehner’s PACs. But there are links to instantly give them anywhere from $5 to $250 immediately in the email anyhow.
  • Mark Warner, or rather his campaign manager, says this multimillionaire needs more money in spite of being more than ten points ahead of Ed Gillespie in lots of polls. He says Ed Gillespie just bought $400,000 in TV ads, but that’s not true. Gillespie just canceled his advertising, basically understanding he doesn’t have a chance.
  • Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader of course, says disaster is imminent for Democrats, but maybe not if I cough up some money. Democrats are going to lose house seats this cycle but there was no chance they would regain the majority anyhow. Losses though should be minimal. That’s the upside of all these highly gerrymandered districts. Nancy could work on recruiting better candidates for those few districts that are open. In any event, to really change the dynamics in the House we have to work at getting a majority of Democratic governors and legislatures in place for 2020, when the legislative districts will be drawn. That’s a better use of my money.
  • There were no less than four emails from Brad Schneider’s campaign in the last twenty-four hours, which is surprising because I have no idea who he is. For some reason he thinks were BFFs.

Negative ads seem to be effective in persuading voters. Apparently campaign managers believe that histrionic emails are the only way to effectively shake the donation tree these days. Issue them frequently and the scarier they sound the more effective they believe they will be.

Whereas the truth is all of us donors are suffering from extreme campaign fundraising email fatigue. A recent shrill email from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, where I actually worked in the 1980s had me composing a reply:

“You know, I get conservatively 25 pitches like this a day. If I gave $25 to each plea, I would be donating $625 a day or over $225,000 a year. That’s more than double what I earn every year! Stop it! Just stop it! I’ll contribute when I can afford it to the candidates I feel deserve my hard earned money.”

Of course I followed the unsubscribe link. Unsurprisingly, the DCCC never replied back. And within days, new solicitations from the DCCC were filling up my inbox.

Perhaps a good use of my time in retirement would be to set up a donation site where donations are given anonymously, or at least not shared with candidate organizations. Donors deserve some respect, not this relentless email harassment. In any other context, it would be illegal. Yet there is no equivalent to mass opt out list like there is for telephone solicitations. In fact, everyone in Congress would be hostile to the very idea. They depend on the money tree.

I wish they would give me some peace. For a few days after the election, I may get some. But I am sure it will quickly restart.

Please don’t call or write

The Thinker by Rodin

Not you personally, dearest blog reader. You are always welcome to leave a thoughtful or respectful comment on this post or any other.

I am talking about all these businesses, organizations, random people on the Internet and web sites that want me to invest my precious time and/or money in them. You know who you are. You should be ashamed.

Here is a recent example, but it is one of many. Back in January, I had tarsal tunnel surgery at Georgetown University Hospital. The surgery was preceded by a few visits to doctors down there. Three weeks after the surgery I was back at the hospital for a post-surgical evaluation. Overall, the experience at Georgetown Hospital was good, as I documented. Over the next couple of months, my relationship continued. The hospital and various physicians services associated with the hospital sent me confusing and belated bills for their professional services. Grudgingly, I sent them checks for the inflated costs of their services. At that point, I assumed our relationship was over until the next time, if ever, I needed Georgetown Hospital. Since the hospital is more than twenty miles away and a huge hassle to get to, I will obviously prefer physicians and facilities much closer to home.

But no. Based on one outpatient surgical operation, a few consultations, and a follow up visit, Georgetown Hospital has decided I must be very interested in supporting the mission of the hospital. I figured I was already supporting them by giving them my business, which between my co-pays and payments by my insurance company probably came to more than $10,000. Ah, but Georgetown Hospital is a non-profit hospital. So surely, I would like to be called on the phone and encouraged to contribute to their fund so they can improve Georgetown Hospital, provide fancier doctors and even more innovative services?

Surely not. Why would they even think this? Yet, there they were using my phone number that I gave them so they could contact me on purely medical matters to hustle me for donations.

Georgetown Hospital is not unique. The same week I also got a phone call from the George Mason University Alumni Association, asking me for a contribution to their Alumni fund. As with Georgetown Hospital, I confess I had a good experienced with GMU. In fact, GMU is an excellent school. I spent three intense years there getting my graduate degree. I got my degree in 1999.

I am sure some students have plenty of time to enjoy university life there. Not me. Between my full time job and two classes a semester, I was hustling and exhausted most of those years. I had no time to use my student rates to take in a basketball game at the Patriot Center or attend a performance at their then new Center for the Performing Arts. Call me old fashioned, but somehow I think between my tuition and state subsidies they should be able to balance their books. They shouldn’t have to hustle alumni like me for donations. Believe me, I gave in blood, sweat and tears as well as tuition for three years. By the time I got my degree, I felt like I had been repeatedly run through a wringer. It took a few weeks for the fog to lift from my brain and discover there was more to life than rushing to and from class, burning the midnight oil, working on group projects as well as being a dutiful employee, father, husband, lawn mower and chief bill payer. Apparently, if I join their Alumni fund I can go to homecoming and mingle with strangers over dinner and cocktails at their alumni events. No thanks. However, they keep calling me every year like clockwork.

Maybe I was just being dreadfully naïve, but no one told me that when I signed a petition on a web site I was also going to be endlessly marketed to, mostly by left leaning political organizations since I tend to lean left. Many of these sites send me more than one copy of the same email, perhaps because they have different email addresses for me. Here is a sample of some of the emails I received in the last twenty-four hours:

  • Erin Hill of ActBlue sent me two copies of the same email. She wants me to download their mobile app so I can give them money more conveniently and thoughtlessly.
  • Stephanie Schriock of Emily’s List wants me to know crazy congresswoman Michele Bachmann said President Obama is a felon for convincing BP to set up a $20B fund for those impacted by the Deep-Horizon Oil Spill and thus (not sure how she made this connection) I should contribute right away to Emily’s List. If I had to donate $20 every time Bachmann said something outrageous, I would be bankrupt!
  • Change.org says over 4,000 people today will die of preventable pneumonia so I must sign their petition right away. I guess yesterday it didn’t matter as much.
  • Common Cause wants me to know that they are struggling to prevent a takeover of the government by corporations but it won’t happen unless I send them money pronto because, I guess, they are the only organization working on this issue. I thought they were smart enough to know that corporations already own the government.
  • Democracy for America wants me to sign a petition to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell right now. Do not pass Go and do not collect $200, but by all means give them $200, or more if possible.
  • The Democratic Governors Association needs $150,000 right now but not necessarily all of it from me personally. I am not sure how I got on their list as I never gave them a donation before but they sure are persistently clogging up my email box. Hate to tell you this, DGA, but I am not really concerned about the political affiliation of any governor except here in Virginia because I don’t live there.
  • MoveOn.org who I stopped giving money to six years ago because of their vendetta against Fox News wants me to rate ideas for reducing corporate influence in government and, of course, give them money.
  • Amnesty International needs me to expose “the darkest hell hole in Burma” and send them money otherwise, I guess, they can only expose the hole in their underwear.

The other day I got a call from some campaign volunteer from some candidate I had never heard of asking me to volunteer and/or cough up some bucks for his campaign. WTF???

Here’s what I have to say to all these folks: don’t call me, I’ll call you. Furthermore, just stop marketing to me. Stop selling my email address to any tangentially related cause. Most of these causes are certainly worthy. Who cannot agree that we need better government, need to deal with global warming, empower women as politicians and reach zero population growth? Who could be in favor of torturing political prisoners except, apparently, George W. Bush and those who ran his administration? I agree with all these things, and more. Just reading, responding and debating these daily emails would leave no time for eating, working, sleeping or going to the bathroom. I feel like a heel sometimes, but the vast majority of these emails go directly into my digital trashcan unread.

Sometimes I also get actual snail mail letters. The Virginia Democratic Party wants me to volunteer and of course send them money. The same is true with the Fairfax County Democrats. While I prefer Democrats over Republicans, some Virginia Democratic candidates are substandard. I doubt I want to help these substandard candidates be elected. I am much more inclined to give directly to a candidate that I think shows real potential. Perhaps in retirement I will have the leisure to add a couple of these causes to my life. I’m not there yet. While it’s true I don’t have small children to deal with anymore, I do have a demanding job, a house that needs constant maintenance and obligations that often take me out of state for a week or more at a time. Like most Americans, I am busy. My major leisure activity is this blog. I can’t be a slave whose life is devoted to trying to address every pressing issue of the day. You think I’m going to spend my weekend attending a rally you put together? You think I am suddenly available to drop into D.C. to knock on some congressman’s door or shout something on the steps of the Capitol? Are you nuts? Who has that kind of time and leisure except the out of work bums of D.C. and the homeless? I guess I should include the probably pampered children coming from six figure families who get subsidies from their moneyed Moms and Dads to live full time in D.C. pouring out their passions on these causes.

So sorry. I wish I could care about stuff as much as you want me too, but I can fit only 1% of the solicitations I get into my schedule and pocketbook. Don’t take it personally. Meanwhile, would you at least extend me the courtesy of not selling my email address, stop calling and writing me relentlessly for money? Would you just leave me alone please? I’ll be in touch when I feel strongly enough about your issue to find both the time and money to give. Moreover, if you suspect that my association with you has been only tangential, then assume I don’t want a phone call as well.

Thank you very much.

(P.S. Yes, I have and do continually click on those unsubscribe links, but it doesn’t seem to matter. I usually become mysteriously resubscribed some time later, or end up on someone else’s list. It’s a never ending battle.)