“Billions at stake as online fundraising practices turn off voters”


That advice reflects a recognition among digital campaign staffers that text and email programs have gone from innovative to out of hand, to the point that it’s harming the campaign ecosystem. The rate of return on individual appeals is falling compared to a few years ago, as candidates and outside groups find themselves targeting the same pool of donors. And congressional campaigns spent more on fundraising as a share of their total spending in 2022 than in the previous election cycle, according to a POLITICO analysis of FEC records.

Doubling down on mass emails and texts is still a way to raise significant cash, and federal candidates and committees raised a combined $3.3 billion on ActBlue and WinRed, the parties’ primary online fundraising platforms, during the 2022 cycle. But people who work in the field are growing concerned that fundraising appeals are crowding out newsletters, volunteer efforts and other forms of communication amid the insatiable and never-ending hunt for cash.

“The incentives are all messed up,” Cotler said.

Digital fundraising, which began as a forward-thinking tactic in the early 2000s and has become central to campaigning since then, once promised a democratization of political fundraising — lawmakers could raise money online from ideologically aligned supporters with no strings attached rather than relying on access-driven donors at high-dollar fundraisers.

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