Who is Funding this Politically Centrist Project?
Note: Until late April, 2018, nobody is funding this new centrist project, as we aren’t taking donations until our nonprofit launches. Until then, and for a while after that, I am paying for all to most of the costs out of pocket, and will not accept donations until the formation of the organization described below (which requires donor transparency) is underway. The information below details our fundraising rules going forward, that will apply once we begin accepting donations in April.
– Solomon Kleinsmith, Lead Catalyst & Public 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, if I am able):
- 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 and chose 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, the NRA, the parent company of the IVN blog, and even moderate organizations like No Labels and Unite America (formerly the Centrist Project) – much to our disappointment.
- Not only does the 527 status legally bar us from hiding donor information, but once we reach $1250 in monthly donations, we will pay for a service that automatically collects and reports the donor information to the government for us (the goal is to file monthly, even though the requirement is only – I believe – yearly). We would do it sooner, but it is not cheap, and the first $1,000 in spending will all go toward growing faster on social media.
- We will post our filings to the government publicly, on the front end of our website (and will tweet a link to it when we), far more often than we are required to, and provide much more granular details to our donors – not just major donors, but starting with full members at $20/mo and above.
- The service that files our donor information with the government also will be able to export that information much more often – our goal is to update this the first and third week of every month.
- 527 group status also bars us from donating to candidate campaigns – we also believe that only individuals should be able to donate to political candidate campaigns, and that it should be illegal for organizations to donate to candidates, so we chose a form of political nonprofit that doesn’t allow us to do so (unlike standard PACs).
- This means 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 for buying politicians – centrist or otherwise.
- 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 all donors (from $5/m0 and up) the opportunity to chime in, thoroughly discuss and vote to approve or veto it, if we do consider such an arrangement. No organizations that are not fully transparent with their funding will even be considered – no Super PACs or dark money groups / only standard PACs, other 527 groups and possibly centrist parties, if that is legal, it makes sense to us and our rank and file centrist donors vote to approve it.
- Any anonymous cash donations received will be forwarded to one of several anti-corruption organizations 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 dark money is.
A Community Funded Centrist Project
While we’ll certainly not turn down money without strings attached from organizations or individuals that find us and wish to support what we publicly aim to accomplish, the focus of our fundraising will be toward members – specifically monthly small-dollar donors:
- We will not accept donations from dark money groups – even centrist or moderate dark money groups like The Centrist Project / Unite America or No Labels.
- We will accept donations from aligned charities or foundations, but only if our due diligence does not uncover any potential conflicts of interest, and we will open the floor to donors at the $5/mo and above levels to comment before doing so.
- We will accept donations from aligned 527 groups and traditional PACs, as they both legally require full donor transparency, and will not accept donations from any organization that we cannot find up-to-date donation information on – even if centrist or moderate politically.
- We will not accept so-called ‘bundled’ individual donations – where individuals (usually lobbyists) pool together multiple individual donations in order to purchase influence over a campaign or organization. We will only accept individual donations, or donations from the sorts of organizations listed above.
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 focus is more important than you might think. It provides an organization with a more steady budget, and takes 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 – building our online and offline network of centrist and moderate voters, fighting for their views, and toward the goal of seeing our ideals fairly represented in the halls of government at the local, regional and national levels.
Another upside to a monthly donor focus 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).
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 ask for everyone who donates at $5/mo and up to submit ideas and vote on what to do.
Structured as a membership-oriented organization, the most committed of our centrist volunteers 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 higher monthly donor levels include access to areas of our site where strategies will be discussed and internal decisions will be made, even a $5 donor can earn their way into the highest membership levels through large amounts of volunteer hours and taking on serious volunteer leadership positions.
Thanks for your support,