Big Donors Push Conservative Groups Into Field Organizing & Political Data


Interesting development on the Right: big donors seem to be encouraging Republican Independent Expenditure groups to move out of a TV-only organizing model. Shades of a grassroots superPAC, a la Ready for Hillary?

Part of their motivation is frustration with the groups’ poor performance in 2012, since American Crossroads and other big I.E. organizations poured a lot of money into a deep, dark broadcast hole in 2012 without digging up much in the way of results:

Stung by the losses that conservative candidates suffered in the 2012 elections, donors on the right were reluctant to invest early, demanding detailed business plans from groups seeking their funds. They weighed in on the political tactics organizations should employ and viewed lavish ad campaigns with skepticism after such efforts failed to prevent President Obama’s reelection.

One emphasis? Data, which makes sense considering the business background of most big-money Republican donors. Also, and this is a change both organizational and cultural for Republican-oriented superPACs, grassroots organizing:

Field organizing has been a top priority this year of Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group backed by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch and other wealthy donors. After pumping $50 million into TV ads early in the cycle, the organization is devoting resources to building a permanent ground force. The group — which says it has more than 500 paid staffers deployed in key races — is on track to spend more than $60 million on the effort.

A potentially powerful development! Of course, 500 paid staffers is about 12.5% of size of the team that the DSCC alone plans to deploy this year, but any kind of grassroots work is a big change for most I.E. groups on the Right. It’ll be interesting to see how this trend develops, how many other groups play along and if it feeds back more broadly into Republican campaign strategy.

Also note: because of the Republican donors’ delay in getting into the action this year, their advertising money won’t go as far, since I.E. groups buying ads late in the cycle are paying premium prices. What do local TV stations say to that? Cha-ching!


Written by
Colin Delany
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