The List: Dems Who’ve Scored Big Using Website for Small Donations

ActBlue’s digital fundraising tools let voters make mostly small donations to the candidates and causes they support — and has pulled in $3.6 million to date

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Democratic candidates for New Jersey’s House seats have raised far more money than Republicans through the first quarter of this year, with help from a fundraising platform that works for left-leaning candidates and causes.

Fifteen of the 27 Democrats on the June 5 primary ballot for the state’s dozen House seats received more than $3.6 million in campaign contributions through ActBlue, a nonprofit organization that has created digital fundraising tools that make it easy to collect money from contributors, according to an NJ Spotlight analysis of Federal Election Commission data. Many of those who contribute through ActBlue are making small donations of less than $200.

On its website, the group touts its ability to bring in small donations, writing, “Our mission is to democratize power and help small-dollar donors make their voices heard in a real way.”

The 14-year old organization boasts of having raised more than $2.2 billion for Democrats and progressive causes since its inception. Based in Massachusetts, ActBlue is open to all Democrats, and candidates competing for the party’s nomination in several districts have gotten contributions through it. Benjamin Rahn, a co-founder of the group, wrote in a blog post to explain that ActBlue’s goal was to put Democrats in power, and that’s why the group helps multiple candidates, rather than endorsing and backing only one per race

“With different issue priorities, different strategies, and different opinions about which campaigns were most likely to put Democrats over the top, the best way to help them all was to build a platform that could support all of the candidates for whom they wanted to fundraise,” Rahn wrote in 2007.

A candidate or organization that wants to use ActBlue signs up with the platform and then uses its software on its website or through an email link that people can use to make a contribution. ActBlue, which is registered as a political action committee, then acts as a conduit, bundling all the contributions earmarked for each candidate and transmitting the money to them.

That $3.6 million raised through ActBlue so far in the 2018 election cycle represents almost a quarter of the total amount raised by New Jersey Democrats. For those candidates on the ballot, Democrats have outraised Republicans by a more than two-to-one margin. The Democrats have raised $15.2 million, or about $566,000 per candidate, while the Republicans have taken in $5.4 million, or $246,000 apiece.

ActBlue has helped newcomers and challengers stay close in fundraising to incumbents, who typically have an edge in getting donations, particularly from businesses, special-interest groups, and political committees. The 10 incumbents, both Democrats and Republicans, had raised $11.8 million through March 31, FEC data shows, while challengers took in $8.8 million. More than $8 of every $10 raised through ActBlue went to nonincumbents.

These are the candidates who have raised the most money through ActBlue:

1. Mikie Sherrill

One of five Democrats running in the 11th District in north Jersey, got $882,433 through ActBlue. That represents about 38 percent of the more than $2.3 million she raised.

2. Tom Malinowski

One of three candidates in the Democratic primary in the 7th District in central Jersey, received $639,465 through ActBlue. That’s close to two-thirds of his contributions.

3. Andy Kim

Running unopposed in the 3rd District primary, Kim took in $528,726 via ActBlue, or about 47 percent of his total war chest. The South Jersey district is represented by Republican Tom MacArthur.

4. Rep. Josh Gottheimer

Unopposed in northwest Jersey’s 5th District, Gottheimer got $394,275 through ActBlue, or about 11 percent of all his contributions. The $3.7 million Gottheimer has raised is the most of any New Jersey House candidate in the 2018 election cycle.

5. Rep. Donald Norcross

With two opponents in his effort to keep his seat in the 1st District, which includes Camden, Norcross received $262,152 from ActBlue, or about 20 percent of all his contributions.

6. Rep. Frank Pallone

Facing one opponent in the Democratic primary in the 6th Distric, which includes northern Shore communities, Pallone took in $262,152 via ActBlue, or about 16 percent of the nearly $1.4 million he has gotten.

7. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman

Unopposed in her primary in the 12th District, which includes Trenton, Watson Coleman got $201,056 through ActBlue. That represents about 39 percent of the $509,000 she has raised.

8. Tamara Harris

Harris, another 11th District Democratic primary contender, received $185,790 from ActBlue, or almost a third of her total war chest.

9. Josh Welle

One of two Democrats vying for the right to take on incumbent Rep. Chris Smith in the Shore’s 4th District, Welle took in $135,679 through ActBlue, or about 47 percent of his $288,000 raised.

10. Jim Keady

Welle’s opponent in the 4th District primary, Keady got $77,971 via ActBlue. That’s more than a third of his warchest.