Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Never-Ending Fundraising Operation? C’est La Vie. Now Let's Move On!

It’s not surprising most candidates hate raising money. After all, who wants to be the equivalent of the friend you have to avoid because they sell Amway, Avon, or dietary supplements and you fear any interaction opens the door for “the ask?”

But is there a time when it’s not only unpleasant, but also actually gauche to raise money?

I ask because some 2010 Democratic candidates for countywide office and their campaign staffs grumbled that mayoral and city-county council candidates raised money this year.

I remembered this when, a few weeks ago, I received an invite for a high-priced fundraiser for prosecutor-elect Terry Curry hosted by Marion County Democratic Party Chair Ed Treacy and Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan. Yesterday, I got an email touting a second low-dollar event for Curry at Sun King Brewery. The dates? December 2nd and 8th, 2010, respectively.

Democratic candidates and activists focusing on 2011 now have their chance to bristle about a guy who hasn’t even taken office raising money for 2014.

They shouldn’t. The 2010 candidates and their staffs were wrong, and anybody who gripes about the Curry fundraisers now is equally wrong.

Excluding the ban on Indiana legislative candidates raising donations while the Indiana General Assembly is in session, there is no “off season” for fundraising. Ever.

When people complain about somebody raising money in their year, they’re really complaining about their own lack of fundraising traction. Anybody who is going to give to Candidate A will do it. When a prospective donor tells Candidate A, “I don’t have the money because I gave to candidates B, C, and D already,” it’s the same as when your dating interest tell you he is she is not ready for commitment. To paraphrase Chris Rock, they’re just not ready to commit to you.

But more critically, money is a transferrable good, and it behooves any party to have as much of it in the hands of as many of its candidates as it can get with the hopes it will travel.

Some people can raise money from certain donors when others can’t. I can easily envision people who would not traditionally give to Democrats (including Curry) who might fall over themselves now to throw money at the newly-elected prosecutor.

If Emily Post on Political Fundraising dictated that you sideline your money horses, you never get to see what they can pull in for the good of other candidates.

And that’s the real issue – will a candidate raising money in an off-year share the spoils of war?

With Curry, I’d say it’s a given. I haven’t tabulated the total, but I noticed at least one donation to Curry for $12,500 from the Marion County Democratic Party. For Curry to set the Dems up for 2011 would be a fitting token of appreciation.

As long as that’s Curry’s plan, there’s no naughty here, and Santa should reward him with two huge holiday fundraisers.

UPDATE: Several people have suggested that these events are to retire campaign debts, and there's no doubt that's true. But if you fall in the "it's unfair, waaa waaa!" crowd, that would actually be worse because political dollars are being taken out of circulation that could be used for 2011 and there won't even be anything left to share. iPOPA makes no distinctions on contributions regardless of their form, time, or purpose and says simply: If you are a candidate, quit worrying about what others do, run YOUR race, and raise YOUR money.


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