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October 25th, 2014

Insight

Gloomy, frantic Dems plead for more money

Byron York

By Byron York

Published August 19, 2014

Gloomy, frantic Dems plead for more money
I've been getting a lot of email from Democratic fundraisers lately. They seem very worried about November's elections.

First came the highly publicized "Impeachment Red Alert" campaign, in which the Democratic congressional committee warned that Republicans will impeach President Obama if they win control of the House and Senate. Though much ridiculed, the "Impeachment Red Alert" effort was a big winner, pulling in $2.1 million in small donations in a single weekend.

Despite that success, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's mood seemed to blacken in subsequent days as she asked for more and more money. The subject line of Pelosi's next appeal was "Kiss all hope goodbye." Her message was that all will be lost for the remainder of Obama's term if Republican House Speaker John Boehner remains in power.

Then came a missive with the subject line "Byron, I'm pleading," in which Pelosi pronounced herself "disgusted" by the prospect of Republicans "dragging the president's good name through the mud."

Later came "I'm pleading (again)" and "Bad news to share" and "Please, Byron." More than a little desperation had crept into Pelosi's tone. Each message noted that I hadn't sent any money, and the minority leader's disappointment seemed to deepen by the day.

Vice President Joe Biden got in the game with a few emails, although he didn't grovel like Pelosi. Finally, Obama himself began emailing. With everything the president of the United States has on his plate right now, you'd think he'd have more pressing things to do. Apparently not.

The president's role is to apply a little discipline to uncooperative prospective donors like me. "Nancy Pelosi has emailed you," Obama wrote. "Joe Biden has emailed you. And now I've emailed you. We wouldn't all be asking if it wasn't so important." The message was clear: Get off your butt and give us some money.

Twenty years ago, just before the Republicans' stunning victory in the 1994 Clinton midterms, I also received a string of increasingly desperate-sounding mail -- the paper kind -- from the Democratic Party. Curious to see how the party was treating small donors, I contributed $10. After that, I got a series of progressively worried entreaties; by October 1994, Democratic fundraisers sounded as if they knew disaster was on the way. Turned out it was.

That was my last political contribution until this week, when, hoping to get a better look at Democrats' small-donor technique, I finally clicked the $5 contribution box on President Obama's email.

You'd think that would have made them happy. But no -- they immediately wanted more.

First they tried to get me to increase my contribution. I declined. Then they asked that I make my contribution an automatic monthly donation. I declined. And then, when it looked like $5 was all they would get, they asked for a "tip" for the pro-Democratic fundraising group ActBlue.

"We're building an army of small dollar donors to defeat the Koch brothers and their fat checkbooks," they said. "Your tip of 10 percent or more will help us build the next generation of our tools so the Kochs don't have the final say."

I still said no, but at the end of all the hectoring, I hit "contribute" to send the $5.

One might think, given the begging involved, that just a little expression of thanks would have been in order. Instead, I received a message saying my contribution had been "flagged ... as requiring additional oversight." An ActBlue staffer would review it to "ensure that it is accurate and meets our high safety standards." That seemed odd, given reports of low safety standards and alleged fraud in the Obama campaign's handling of small donors in 2008 and 2012.

A few minutes later, I learned my contribution had been accepted. Then came a "priorities survey," in which Democrats wanted to know whether I thought the most compelling reason to remove Republicans from power was 1) They shut down the government; 2) They gave tax breaks to the Koch brothers; or 3) They voted to defund Planned Parenthood. I didn't answer.

At the very least, I thought my $5 would buy a tiny respite from the crush of email. It did not. About an hour later came a note from Pelosi with the subject line "Must Read (DON'T DELETE)."

"President Obama wouldn't have emailed you earlier if we didn't need your help," Pelosi wrote, apparently trying to suggest that Daddy would be angry with me if I didn't give more.

Can this continue until November? Yes, it can. But if Democrats already sound this frantic in August, it's going to be a very long fall.

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