Send Money!! But Where??

A reader recently emailed me with a request to address what he called “strategic” giving–advice about where our political donations will have the greatest impact, and will be most likely to help retain Democratic congressional majorities.

He noted that–in the aftermath of yet another extreme gerrymander in Indiana, this state would seem to be a lost cause.  Like most of us who have ever rashly sent a few dollars to a candidate, he receives email requests almost daily for campaign donations from candidates and organizations across the country.

My track record as a political strategist is pathetic (not to mention my track record as a candidate…), so I forwarded his request to friends who are far more politically savvy. The email conversation that ensued left me with responses that were less than helpful, to put it mildly.

Here is the first of those responses. (I am not identifying the authors.)

Well, I would not say it was a waste to give to Dem congressional candidates like Christina Hale.  The next cycle or two in Indiana in the 5th will be a challenge, but we are going to win it before the next decade (provided we have a functioning democracy, which is far from a forgone conclusion.).  As to where to give, it is too early to give any really sound advice until redistricting is completed. But there will be 10-20 swing districts where the majority will hinge and folks who want their money to count should pay attention to that.  And if there is a way to give but avoid the insane email, that would be ideal.

The second response was shorter–and darker.

I would just add that, to the extent there are effective GOTV operations in/around those 10-20 competitive districts, money might be well spent on those efforts as well.

Nobody in IN is going to see a dime of my money, as I think Indiana is lost for my lifetime.

And number three:

I wish I had something of value to add. As I read about reapportionment in many states I find this really disheartening. My question is: how do the Indiana legislative maps look? Will there be enough swing legislative districts that the Republicans can even be denied a supermajority? I simply don’t have any idea about where or whether that is even possible.

My own two cents (see above for an evaluation of my own “savvy”) is that response #2 is too bleak when it comes to Indiana: a colleague who teaches political science offered some analysis a while back that is more in line with opinion #1–the emptying out of Indiana’s rural regions has made it difficult to carve out districts that will continue to be safe for the GOP for more than the next election cycle (and perhaps not even then). Much will depend upon turnout–as I keep reminding folks, gerrymandering is based on turnout data from previous elections, and if Indiana’s Democrats (who are much more numerous than conventional wisdom recognizes) could field a really effective GOTV effort, it would definitely make a difference.

Of course, turning out the vote requires good candidates and good messaging…two elements we don’t yet have the ability to evaluate. (One of the most pernicious effects of gerrymandering is the difficulty in recruiting good candidates–after all, who wants to run on the “sure loser” ticket?)

We also don’t yet know the answer to the question posed in response #3.

Here in Indiana, volunteering for the campaign or for getting out the vote, if that’s possible, would make a big difference in places where the Democrats have a chance.

When the fundraising appeals come from elsewhere, it’s harder to separate out the claims of viability from reality. My own approach is to find a couple of campaigns that seem especially important, research them as best I can–what is the breakdown of Republicans and Democrats in the district? What about the polling? What do the pundits (who are frequently wrong) have to say about the race? Is the candidate’s website well-done? What about the messaging? The fundraising thus far? What about the campaign’s GOTV effort?

My conclusions tell me where to send my $25 or $50 or $100 checks–amounts I understand are unlikely to make much of a difference.

I don’t think my approach is very “strategic,” but it’s the best I can do…


  1. I too was excited by Christina Hale in the last election. I had her sign in my yard. Going forward, I think my money will be best used by professionals in the field. My choices:
    Democratic National Committee (DNC),
    Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC),
    and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC)
    They do this for a living. Lets HOPE they are better at it than I am.

  2. For now, my small monthly donation goes to the Indiana Democrat Party. Someone has to help keep the lights on.

  3. Well, if you genuinely want to make a difference with your money, write a check to a D candidate in your backyard running for a local seat. If there are no local democratic seats, wait until elections kick-off and pick one that piques your interest on a local basis.

    If you have lots of cash to give away, use the professionals Pat mentioned above, but expect to get lots of calls, emails, and letters going forward. You’ll be on their hit list, and they share contributors’ names.

  4. Please don’t limit your contributions and support to just Indiana races. I plan to contribute to Elise Slotkin of Michigan, who flipped her purple district blue a few years ago and barely retained it in 2020. I’ll also send money to whomever runs for the IN-5th but outside of that, I mostly agree with respondent #3. I just don’t see the GQP giving up a 15-25% election advantage for a long long time.

  5. Like Theresa; my money goes to INDems, also to the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and, when we finally know who possible candidates are, to a select few at local, state and national levels.

    “My conclusions tell me where to send my $25 or $50 or $100 checks–amounts I understand are unlikely to make much of a difference.”

    Bernie Sanders’ first presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton racked up 46% of the Democratic votes on grassroots donations of $25 or $50 or $100 checks which would have made a major difference had Debbie Wasserman-Schultz not refused to provide Bernie with the lists of registered voters he was entitled to and openly supported Hillary. Those small amounts added up to many millions of dollars.

    In case some of you somehow missed Trump’s latest leadership advice to Republicans is NOT to vote in 2022 or 2024; I found his actions to parrot Randall P. McMurphy who was the “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”. If only there was a Nurse Rached to schedule a lobotomy!

  6. I give to candidates whose positions I like. This year I have given to Katie Porter and Rafael Warnock. I will be supporting Val Demings and I might even send money to Charlie Crist, if it looks like he has a chance to beat Ron and his statements aren’t so bland that they put me to sleep.

  7. I plan to give to JD Ford who is running again for state senator since he represents my district. Cherrish Pryor has never asked me for money. I am always reluctant to give to national campaigns due to all the dark money in politics.

    What I’d like to learn about is what is the best way to influence our state government on certain bills?

    I’m really sad, Shiela, that the bipartisan bill for an independent commission that would stop this corrupt gerrymandering did not pass. I know you spent a lot of time helping to write that bill.

    Because of the GOP in Indiana, this state seems to consistently stand on the wrong side of history and resists letting the moral arc of the universe move forward.

  8. Right now I am reflecting on who and how many others I have influenced to become active citizens over the past 30 years. If I am sure I have replaced myself several times over and I have .. I will stomp the pavement for select local Indiana and Cincinnati candidates and challenge the candidate’s staff to aggressive GOTV efforts. My limited cash will go to GOTV efforts in purple districts in OH and Rep Lauren Underwood RN in suburban Chicago

  9. AD – Permission from Sheila (hat tip)

    CommonGoodGoverning (my national “community” group) has had a laser focus on the US House since 2017. We work to replace highly partisan/ideological folks with candidates who will put “country over Party/ideology/power”. In 2018, we helped elect four of them: Conor Lamb (PA), Elissa Slotkin (MI), Dean Phillips (MN), Elaine Luria (VA). In 2020, we added Kathy Manning (NC) and Carolyn Bourdeaux (GA). Each of them won in districts won by The Former…
    ’22 is a complex challenge. Prior to gerrymandering, we identified about 40 districts that might be winnable for our kind of candidate. We expect that number to decline, given that most are in red states.

    Part of the problem is the DEM party. They tend either tightly control the primary to ensure that a known career politician wins or they stay “hands off” and let the most energized drive things. Of course, these are the more ideological DEMs. In 2020, they GOTV in the primaries in 20 potentially competitive districts and elected their fav. The result was disastrous: all lost, all by a greater margin than the less ideological DEM candidate in the same district in 2018. Given the noise/energy by this part of the party now…it is very likely to be deja…

    Thirdly, this election season is highly truncated. There are states where candidates have until May or June to declare with the primaries about 90 days later. For a “fresh face’…little time to get name recognition and funding.

    Long story short – we are and will be sorting every day. We hope to be working with 20 or so candidates in the primaries, working/praying that we can get another 2-4 elected.

    Our group does NOT donate to candidates – we work to connect them with “reluctant” and non-voters: minorities and young people . However, community members often pick one or more candidates across the country to give money to – easily done online via the candidates website.

    Glad to tell anyone more about u and our work:

  10. I am on the hit list; I get multiple requests for money every day. I give money to my local Democratic Club in Naples, Florida, local Democratic candidates in Indiana and Florida for state and federal legislative seats, presidential candidates and others, others such as the current senators from Georgia, whose campaigns my daughter and I generously contributed to last year, and with a great result – money well spent.

    Though a Florida voter, I have resided in Monroe County (Indiana) for well over a year since the current governor of Florida seems intent on killing those he supposedly represents, and this county is a blue dot in a sea of red and the home of IU, which I attended long ago.

    There was a time when I was on Birch Bayh’s initial campaign committee, knocked on doors and was active in Marion County’s Democratic Party, but that was then and this is now, when I am serving on the hit list – and I’m all right with that.

  11. Not sure I agree that the 2020 Indiana redistricting is an “extreme gerrymander.” As I’ve written on my blog, there are actually several states which have more gerrymandered districts than Indiana. The 2021 version produced by Republicans seems more about incumbency protection than adding more seats. Of course, the GOP has sizable majorities with the old maps. Biggest shock was that they didn’t turn CD 1 into an R district.

    Democrats are going to have a shot at the IN Governor’s office in 2024, especially if the GOP nomination process gets Trumpified. The D numbers in Indiana have improved during the Trump era.

    You know where the money could have the most impact for Democrats? Hamilton County. In 2019, the Democrats picked up council seats in Carmel and Fishers, indeed probably would have picked up a majority in Fishers if they would have just field more candidates. Carmel, Fishers and Westfield are only about 55% Republican. Turns out they had a shot at all 3 mayors offices, in those cities but they had no candidate. If Ds put up moderate, fiscally responsible mayoral candidates they could take one or more of those offices in 2023. And they could win yet more seats on those city councils. Money in those Hamilton County mayors and council races would have a big impact.

    In the year after redistricting, there are far fewer competitive state legislative seats so I’d hold off giving money in those races for a few election cycles.

    The Democrats have an ace in the hole though: Donald Trump. Yesterday Trump issued a statement encouraging Republicans NOT to vote in 2022 and 2024 unless the “Presidential Election Fraud of 2020” is solved first. If I were the Democrats, I might be demanding he be reinstated by Twitter so his message gets more coverage.

  12. My suggestion regarding Hamilton County is tempered somewhat by the Hamilton County GOP leadership which really dropped the ball in 2019 when it came to candidate recruitment. They are in desperate of good candidates up there and the money to fund them.

  13. The biggest ACE in the hole for Republicans is JOE BIDEN! Who’s running the show ???? No one knows and it’s a complete disaster – I surmise lots of chiefs with big egos. Afghanistan desertion with Americans and military supplies left behind, Inflation: higher food prices, higher gas prices ( when we were energy independent when T left office – but now they begging opec to help), border security with millions flooding in without any “covid” credentials while mandating for Americans. 700,000 covid death since ole Joe said he was going to “fix” things. Don’t blame the unvaccinated, new reports today show some of the highest vaccinated states with the highest covid infections where Florida just fell to the 3rd LOWEST! The WSJ just reporting that tax revenue data from the CBO just hit an all time high – so who needs tax increases????? Ole Joe had nothing to do with increasing tax revenues.
    You think Trump voters aren’t going to vote on 2022- you’re crazy – T’s message is for Congress!
    Joe’s polls numbers sink lower every day- Kamala is missing in action, unlikable and clueless, and ole Pete B didn’t realize he’d actually have to work – hence a major catastrophe at the ports with supply chain issues which hurts EVERYONE- but especially small business and the average consumer.
    Trump is getting his messsge out- Iowa rally – and keeps reminding us of the policies in place hurting Americans.. meanwhile the Hunter Biden story keeps resurfacing and even China Joe might be under investigation- imagine that’s- a corrupt democrat- and every stock trade Nancy and her husband make is perfectly timed. So keep beating on the trump voter – making everything their fault – you know those “rural” people that GROW your food !
    2022 will be a bloodbath for Dems – better save your money for a strong bottle of alcohol.

  14. Frankly, I only send money now to organizations that will be fighting the good fight no matter who wins the elections. ACLU, SPLC, Planned Parenthood, International Rescue Committee, and journalism of integrity. These types of organizations are our “fail safe.”

  15. Becky, while Biden’s current unpopularity is weighing down the Democrats, at least he isn’t telling Democrats not to vote. Never seen a Republican, especially a former President, encourage Republicans not to vote.

  16. Paul, like I said, it’s a message to GOP in Congress – they better stand firm or they are going to get voted out/replaced by the voters. The 78 million plus people who voted for him get what he’s saying. The Left is so obsessed with DJT – but they don’t understand anything about him because they hate him and his supporters so much. He’s a threat to their socialist future.
    Now we’ve got college football stadiums and even countries around the world chanting
    F J B – or a nicer way to say it: Let’s go Brandon.
    Biden doesn’t NEED to tell them not to vote – he’s accomplished that without words….. except many may vote, just not the big “D”

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