Tuesday, January 22, 2019

(Fund) Raising Some Major Alarms

Republicans love to copy what Democrats are doing right on political fundraising and campaigning, and then they cheat to make their version more successful while hamstringing the blue side.  The latest scheme is the GOP's answer to Act Blue and other grassroots funding groups, rolled into what Republicans hope is a multi-billion dollar fundraising juggernaut called "Patriot Pass".

President Donald Trump’s political team and top Republican officials have reached a landmark agreement to reshape the party’s fundraising apparatus and close the financial gap that devastated them in the midterms.

With the deal, Republicans hope to create a rival to ActBlue, the Democratic online fundraising behemoth that plowed over $700 million in small-dollar donations into Democratic coffers in the 2018 campaign.

Republicans have had no comparable centralized platform to cultivate small dollars. Since the election, officials including White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy have privately insisted the party needed to come up with an answer.

Following weeks of closed-door discussions, Republicans have agreed to create a new platform dubbed Patriot Pass, which will be used to cultivate and process online donations. The GOP — whose jungle-like ecosystem of vendors has long fought bitterly over contracts and dollars — has struggled in the past to create such a unified system

The accord, revealed for the first time to POLITICO by officials at the center of the effort, has received the explicit blessing of party leaders. Under the arrangement, Data Trust, the Republican National Committee’s designated clearinghouse of voter information, will form a joint venture with Revv, a donation processor used by the Trump campaign. The two entities will form the nucleus of Patriot Pass.
As part of the agreement, Victory Passport, a small-dollar platform used widely by Republican congressional candidates, is expected to eventually shutter and encourage its clients to use the new platform.

The far-reaching consolidation reflects the urgency confronting Republicans, who concede their widening small-donor deficit reached a breaking point in 2018. Fired-up liberal donors funneled cash into House and Senate races through ActBlue, a centralized and easy-to-use hub of Democratic giving that allows users to enter their credit card information and contribute to their candidate of choice with a click.

After watching dozens of their candidates get massively out-raised, Republicans are looking to Patriot Pass to close the gap. The new tool is is expected to launch next month. While party officials concede that catching up to or surpassing the 14-year-old ActBlue won’t happen immediately, they contend they can level the playing field through a platform that can mimic ActBlue’s technology.

“The Democrats clearly in congressional races — not at the presidential level but in congressional races in 2018 — had an advantage in small-dollar donors. And so you say, ‘Why is that? There was enthusiasm in both parties.’ And it’s because they had the mechanism to harness and add rocket fuel to that energy,” said Mike Shields, a Data Trust senior adviser.

This story should be setting off gargantuan alarm bells.

Of course the real issue is that we know Republican voter data operations are deeply compromised by Russia, and a massive database of small dollar donors are exactly the kind of leverage Putin wants over the GOP, now that the NRA is a smoking ruin as a money-laundering clearing house and under Robert Mueller's watchful eye.

House Democrats should keep a very careful eye on Patriot Pass, because I guarantee you that it's going to be the basis for some serious Trump 2020 fundraising shenanigans, and I'm sure we'll find out a few years from now just how detailed the slush fund machine was.  If you wanted a vehicle to put Russian mob cash in not just Trump's pocket but in hundreds of GOP campaigns in 2020, this is exactly what I would come up with in order to do it.

Count on this being dirty as a Moscow sewer.

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