If the Democrats take the Senate this year, it will be due in no small part to the fundraising legerdemain of the left-wing money group ActBlue.
ActBlue raised an astonishing $1.5 billion for Democratic candidates and causes in the third quarter. In the two weeks following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, they raised $500 million.
Where is the cash coming from? ActBlue says it accounts for every dollar with the FEC, but all that means is that they report the donations. Ostensibly, the addresses of all contributors are in the U.S. but how easy would it be to funnel millions of overseas dollars through domestic banks?
That’s what Senator Lindsey Graham wants to know. He and other GOP incumbents are being buried by small-dollar donations, most of them from ActBlue.
“Some of these shadowy figures out there running ads, is there any foreign influence afoot?” Graham asked
“Where is all this money coming from? You don’t have to report it if it’s below $200,” he added, referring to campaign finance rules that don’t require public reporting of individuals who give less than $200. “When this election is over with, I hope there will be a sitting down and finding out, ‘OK, how do we control this?’ It just seems to be an endless spiral.”
Is this sour grapes from a Republican getting badly outspent by a Democratic challenger? Or is it really a problem?
In 2008, Barack Obama pioneered the practice of raising money from micro-donations. He used those thousands of small donations to vanquish Hillary Clinton and then bury John McCain in the general election.
It was even more prevalent in the 2012 campaign. But the FEC finally took a close look at where some of those donations were coming from and determined that a significant amount of cash came from foreign sources. Obama returned the cash but it was never determined whether his fundraising apparatus encouraged foreign donations or not.
ActBlue is a private entity, not affiliated with any specific campaign. But they are governed by the same laws that campaigns must follow. As the cash continues to pour in, some Republicans claim that the left has tapped into sources of money that might not be legal.
An ActBlue spokesperson said the group reports even its smallest donations to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which oversees fundraising for federal campaigns.
An ActBlue spokesperson said the claim that ActBlue does not report contributions under $200 is false.
The spokesperson said ActBlue reports every contribution, including those under $200, and that every federal donation made on ActBlue, including donations of only $1, can be verified on the FEC’s website.
Again, just because it’s reported doesn’t make it legal. ActBlue knows that no one — certainly not the FEC — is going to pore over tens of thousands of donations to make sure they’re all legal.
Many conservatives believe that there should be no limits on individual donations to campaigns. As long as they’re reported, the voter can make their own determination on whether a candidate is beholden to certain interests.
That’s not going to happen. And neither is verifying the source of most of ActBlue’s donations.