How Online Fundraising Has Affected Politics
Are you wondering how online fundraising has affected politics? When the dust had settled on the 2008 presidential campaign, winner Barack Obama's campaign issued a starting online fundraising result: half a billion dollars. The underdog in the Democratic primaries faced off against presumed winner Hilary Clinton and state by state, primary by primary, slowly out-volunteered, out-fundraised, and outrageously broke every barrier (except gender) in the race to the White House. His success left political analysts and campaign veterans wondering how online fundraising has affected politics and what the future might have in store for the electoral system.
Obama's campaign certainly was not the first to use online fundraising in politics. That honor goes to ... John McCain, ironically, who raised more than $2.2 million in the week before the New Hampshire primary in the 2000 presidential campaign. Howard Dean capitalized on Internet activity in 2004 and later parlayed this success into a being placed at the helm of the Democratic National Committee, using online fundraising and community building to create the successful 50-state strategy that helped the Democrats capture the Senate in 2006.
So far the 2008 Obama campaign team best demonstrates how online fundraising has affected politics, using web tools not just for money but also for outreach, volunteer recruitment and coordination, community building and so much more. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so when Republican senate candidate Scott Brown used many of Obama's techniques to generate a surprise win in Massachusetts against Democrat Martha Coakley in the race for former Senator Ted Kennedy's seat, using Twitter, Facebook, and various online tools that helped him to raise more than $12 million in the final two weeks of the special election.
From Act Blue to Right Roots, political groups that identify with parties but not specific candidates are jumping in as well, sending targeted streams of donations for thinly-sliced niches. Want a pro-choice, pro-gun, pro-environment candidate and have some money to send? You can find that and donate via Visa. Looking for a pro-life, pro-environment, anti-voting machine Secretary of State in a "blue" state? You can find that as well, and donate to further the candidate's campaign.
A single Tweet can raise five figures for smaller races. A Facebook viral campaign makes an obscure state senator a national contender. It's no longer about how online fundraising is affecting politics. Now it's about how to best use ubiquitous tools to gain an advantage. Voters now vote with their credit card (or even PayPal).