New PAC Will Back Every Single Democrat Running for Congress
By Matt Leistra | Mar 22, 2017
For the past two decades, Democratic fundraiser and operative Jonathan Zucker has been fed up with the way his party doles out funds to candidates.
The problem, as Zucker sees it, is that Democrats distribute most of their funds to candidates running in swing districts that the party sees as winnable, instead of divvying the money up evenly between every Democratic general election candidate. By picking winners and losers, Zucker argues, the party ignores large portions of the country and makes it harder for candidates to make incursions into Republican strongholds.
Zucker’s solution is a new PAC dubbed It Starts Today that sets out to solicit donations for every Democrat running in one of the 468 congressional races set for 2018. The former executive director of the digital fundraising platform ActBlue, Zucker has built his new PAC around a high-technology gimmick and simple math, asking donors to give at least one cent per month to each of those 468 candidates—a mere $4.68 a month.
“You never know which district will have a rock-star candidate emerge on the Democratic side, or say, a district where a Republican incumbent gets caught up in a scandal, but you know that without funding you can’t take that advantage,” says Zucker.
Zucker’s aim is to fix what he sees as a party-wide problem that is hurting Democrats at every level. On election night, Republicans not only won the White House, but secured six- and 44-seat majorities in the Senate and House respectively. They also cemented their grip on state governments, where the GOP now controls 32 Legislatures and 33 governorships. To Zucker, this is the price Democrats have paid for ignoring large portions of the country for decades.
Zucker acknowledges that targeting only contested races can efficiently allocate scarce resources in the short term. But the consequences of this targeted spending, he argues, have been ruinous. In 2016, there were 79 congressional districts where the Democratic Party either didn’t field a candidate, or ran a race with less than $10,000 in funding. Altogether, Democrats in those 79 districts raised $88,000 compared to the $111 million raised by Republicans.
The money raised by It Starts Today will not be distributed until the primaries are over. After that the PAC will send out equal payments to every Democratic nominee’s campaign within 10 days. As additional money comes in, further donations will be disbursed in weekly installments to every Democratic campaign in equal measure.
This will make general election money perpetually available to all Democratic office seekers, explains Zucker, something that he says will help level the playing field for progressive candidates who may lack the resources to run effective campaigns. This will free the party up to take a risk on long-shot candidates instead of focusing only on swing states, says Zucker, making it less likely that Democrats will miss low-profile politicians with enormous potential.
Even if Democrats fail to take back Congress, Zucker predicts that It Starts Today will help overall turnout. He says Democrats can make inroads in the kinds of small, rural communities that have been sending Republicans to Washington, and where Democrats have failed to field challengers for years. Zucker even thinks it could make an impact at the top of the ticket.
“What if we had turned out 12,000 voters that weren’t excited about Clinton, but weren’t voting for Trump?” asks Zucker. “That flips Michigan and Pennsylvania. And there were 24 state legislative races in Wisconsin without a Democrat on the ballot, and another 15 with under $10,000—just one thousand [voters] from each of them. That changes the presidency.”