Who is Funding this Politically Centrist Project?
Note: as of this writing (October of 2017), nobody is funding this new centrist project, as we aren’t yet taking donations. The cost to run this as we build the website is relatively minimal (a few hundred bucks a month – most of the ‘cost’ is really just time donated by volunteers), which I am paying out of pocket. The information below details our fundraising rules going forward, that will apply once we begin accepting donations in January.
– Solomon Kleinsmith, founder / editor
Funding Rules Overview for Our Grassroots Centrist Project
The following bullet points should answer most questions we receive about this – please contact us with any questions, or for clarity (I understand that this is complicated stuff, and I’m happy to try and explain any of it for you, sans political jargon):
- Our nonprofit centrist political action arm will be organized as a ‘527 group’, which is legally required to reveal donor information. We believe that this donor transparency should be legally required for any organization that spends a single penny on political activity, so we put our money where our mouths are – literally – by choosing a legal structure that forces us to do exactly that.
- We could have incorporated as a ‘dark money group’ / 501(c)4 organization, like (among a great many others) the organization Bernie Sanders formed weeks after dropping out of the presidential race where he railed against dark money for months, the hard-right Club for Growth, or even the Independent Voter Project (parent company to the IVN blog) and the Centrist Project… much to our disappointment.
- Not only does the 527 status legally bar us from hiding donor information, but donations will also be processed through a fundraising service that automatically collects and reports the donor information to the government for us. That information will be periodically and publicly posted on our website.
- 527 group status also bars us from transferring donated funds to candidate campaigns – which we also believe should be illegal. We strongly believe that only individual United States citizens should be able to donate to candidates running for office. The secondary reason for choosing the 527 group status is that is also legally bars us from doing so, so you can be sure that your money will be spent to grow our online community and offline local big tent centrist grassroots network in cities and states across the country, not bribing politicians.
- I do not foresee entering into any joint efforts with other political organizations that will involve transfers of funds at this time, but should some joint effort involving transfer of funds be proposed, we will give members the opportunity to chime in and vote to approve or veto it. No organizations that are not fully transparent with their funding will be considered.
- Anonymous cash donations will be forwarded to one of several anti-corruption organization fighting against dark money – fighting dark money with dark money seems to us to be the most appropriate use of such funds. Should this be more than a rare occurrence, we may work with members to come up with interesting ways to use anonymous donations to highlight how wrong anonymous funding of political endeavors is.
- We may have to form a connected sister corporation as a business, to handle certain elements of our organization – namely the blog. We will roll everything under the nonprofit umbrella if we are legally able to, but have been told that we couldn’t do things like overtly endorse politicians (a fairly important thing to do for a political blog) if everything is under the umbrella of the nonprofit. We want to be sure that the community is not limited in what it can say or discuss, and so if this ends up being the case, we will pursue ‘B Corp’ status for this arm of the organization, which involves – among other things regarding positive business governance – transparency on funding and spending.
- If we accept advertising on the blog, it will exclusively be ‘native advertising’, meaning it will be administered in-house, and none will be tracker ads administered by invasive advertising networks. All ads will merely be a standard image with a link if you click on it, and the only information advertisers will learn about you from those ads will be the raw number of how many people saw and clicked on it, and any information their website may collects if you spend time on their website.
- Regardless of whether we are required to do so, donations over $250 (the minimum amount to purchase advertising on our blog) will be published publicly on our website, as well as a spending overview.
- On a related note – the only data that we will collect from you is information you choose to share with us when you create your account (including the information you are legally required to share if you donate), and general traffic data that doesn’t tie back to you individually that is collected by a single analytics provider (Google Analytics) that gives us aggregated information on traffic coming through the site. No collected information will be shared with any outside entity of any kind.
A Community Funded Centrist Project
While we’ll certainly not turn down money without strings attached from non-corrupt organizations (we will not accept donations from dark money groups – even centrist or moderate dark money groups like The Centrist Project), businesses or individuals that find us and merely wish to support what we publicly aim to accomplish, the focus of our fundraising will be toward members – specifically monthly small-dollar donors.
To succeed in having a large enough impact on our political landscape to make a different, there’s no way around the need for financial resources to grow. Transparency is one of the best ways of ensuring that organizations like ours don’t rely or are beholden people with known axes to grind, but another way of doing this is by having a large number of small to medium-sized donors that fund you on a monthly basis.
The monthly donation part is more important than you might think. Not only does it give an organization a more steady budget, and take less resources from the work people are giving money to support to raise money, freeing it up to be spent where you want it spent – on building our online and offline network of centrist and moderate voters, representing their views and fighting for our ideals to be represented in the halls of government.
Another upside to focusing on monthly donors is that it has been shown to result in people being more engaged (investing in something naturally leads to a person wanting to see if their money is being used well). This is something I learned over years as a contractor, building websites, social media and search marketing for small businesses – mostly in and around my hometown of Omaha, Nebraska.
Being more engaged means members are more likely to see what we do, watch as we expand our projects and grow our audience – with the help of their donation – and give feedback to make sure we stay on course with what we said we’d do. This undercuts any effort by a deep-pocketed donor, or donors, to come along and try and convince us to change course in some way in exchange for a large amount of money.
Beholden to Centrist Rank & File Members – Not Wealthy Board Members
We have no board that wealthy donors can buy their way onto, giving them special voting power over the decision-making process. In cases where staff or volunteer leaders don’t see a clear path forward on important decisions, we’ll allow members – regardless of the size of their donation – to submit ideas and vote on what to do.
We can’t accomplish our organizational goals without both some level of money, and the commitment of volunteers. Structured as a membership-oriented organization, the most committed of members will be included in – often including offering suggestions and voting on – the most important decisions as we grow and evolve as an organization.
While some donor levels include access to areas of our site where strategies will be discussed and internal decisions will be made, even the smallest of donors can earn their way into the highest membership levels through volunteering and taking on leadership roles, like hosting and organizing local centrist grassroots chapters or managing flyering campaigns (walking through neighborhoods and leaving flyers in doors).
Thanks for your support,
Founder / Editor