How Bernie Sanders used the ‘Netflix’ model of political donations to raise millions


Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders raised $6 million in the first 24 hours of his presidential campaign, far exceeding the totals announced by his rivals for the Democratic nomination.

But another figure he revealed on Wednesday could prove crucial to his candidacy and a model for others: the $600,000 he said he received from people who signed up to automatically donate to his campaign. each month.

A year from now — just as Democrats in Nevada and South Carolina weigh in on the presidential nomination — this first round of donors will have already contributed $7.2 million to Sanders’ presidential ambitions — with little effort or effort. campaign expenses.

This “subscription” approach to politics is an increasingly popular way for candidates to build a sustainable fundraising base.

About 20% of the money given to Democratic candidates and organizations through ActBlue in the 2018 cycle came from recurring contributions, Caleb Cade, a spokesperson for ActBlue, told CNN. ActBlue does not disclose fundraising details of individual candidates who use its online platform.

But New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who entered Congress last month with the highest proportion of small donors of any House member, is one of the most prominent examples of a politician using recurring donations to fuel his campaign. In total, about 62% of his money came from donors who contributed amounts of $200 or less, according to a nonpartisan analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.

“It’s like Netflix but for unbought members of Congress,” Ocasio-Cortez recently tweeted of recurring contributions. She called it one of the “most important things people can do to get a lot of money out of politics.”

Republicans, including President Donald Trump, also encourage recurring donations to their campaigns.

Presidential campaigns are expensive.

Spending by President Barack Obama, his Republican challenger Mitt Romney and outside groups aligned with the two men topped $2.3 billion in the 2012 election. need by courting donors at private fundraisers in the wealthiest corners of the country, from Beverly Hills to the Hamptons.

How long does fundraising take?

In 2016, then-Congressman Rick Nolan of Minnesota told “60 Minutes” that both political parties expected new lawmakers to spend 30 hours a week dialing in to get dollars from countryside. A campaign finance expert, Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, who teaches at Stetson University Law School even wrote a full article on washington’s hamster wheel for fundraising, which she dubbed “Time Suck”.

So, finding a renewable source of money frees up one of a campaign’s most valuable assets: the candidate’s time.

The Netflix subscription model “not only allows candidates to recoup some of their time,” said Sheila Krumholz of the Center for Responsive Politics, “it also allows them to say, ‘I present my campaign to the people.’”

While all the mechanisms are in place for recurring political donations through platforms such as ActBlue, Krumholz notes that one thing hasn’t changed: a candidate still needs to “generate the enthusiasm that excites small donors to get involved.” register to donate” in the first place.