Kerith Strano-Taylor: “The people with money won’t give you their money if you haven’t raised enough money.” — So what do you do?

After being on stage with many other delegates in FDR Park, Kerith and I sat in the grass and talked for couple of hours with our supporters. They want to know, “What comes next? We have all of this outrage and energy and enthusiasm. What do we do with it? Where do we focus it?”

At some point Kerith says:

The model that works right now, which is its own circle of hell– When I said we elect people who are capable of fundraising and not capable of much else, it is not a lie. The party line is you spend 40 hours a week… You call, you might connect with two out of 10, they might give, they might not. It might be five dollars, it might be one dollar.

It’s not an efficient use of time and most leaders that run are good at something. They’re effective, they effectuate change. Imagine sitting in an office, tied to a desk 40 hours a week, not accomplishing anything else, and having no money to show for it. If you haven’t raised enough money, the people that give a lot of money to campaigns, won’t give it to you if you haven’t raised enough money… Emily’s List, bless their hearts, and I respect the work they do–flat out told me that if I don’t raise $100,000 in a quarter they weren’t going to return my phone call. That’s how the system works… You have to raise money before you’re credible.

It’s at 1:38:30 in this video:

Our campaign finance system makes it impossible to benefit anyone except wealthy donors, because that’s what you spend the majority of your time doing: courting donations. And if you’re going to ask for money, it’s certainly easier to call on a few millionaires and billionaires, than it is a few million less-wealthy, average, real people.

It has become so that fundraising is seemingly the only tool that can be used to accomplish anything, and that more time is spent perfecting the art of fundraising, than actually accomplishing what matters. It’s become so that fundraising is now the goal, and that what used to be the goal is no longer meaningful or even relevant.

One of the ways our government enables, and effectively requires, this behavior, is by imposing explicit quotas on members of congress. As soon as you, a Democrat, enter Congress, your party tells you that you must spend four hours a day making phone calls, and an additional hour on “strategic outreach”. (John Oliver elaborates.)


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If you spend more than half of your time asking wealthy people for donations, the rest of your time is not exclusively spent with the less-wealthy constituents. The majority, and likely all, of that time is spent implementing what was promised while fundraising.

If this is true. how can you even be aware of the presence of your average constituents, let alone learn what’s important to them, let alone do something about it?

But who cares? It’s legal. It’s not right, but you won’t get in trouble. I mean, at least not with anyone who has money or power. So what if average people hate you because of it? It’s not like they can do anything about it. Who’s paying attention to them anyway?

This is what America has become.


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So let’s say you do get into Congress the “right way”, by somehow not giving into the negative cycle of fundraising, such as by inspiring people like Bernie Sanders. How do you not get sucked in to this corruption as soon as you enter office? You must immediately stand up to and defy your own party. How can I, as someone who wants to dive into this political world, prepare myself against this massive corruption machine, set up to capture the most eager, enthusiastic, innocent, and incorruptible person?

Kerith again, this time at 2:07:45 in this same video.

The way the system works now, you get elected to office, if you’re Democrat or Republican, you’re expected to spend about 70% of your time raising money. Literally. The day you get in. The day you get in, they hand you a call book. 70% of your time.

If you spend 70% of your job, doing anything other than your job. You’d be fired. Right? So my idea, and I think all of the other 30 Berniecrats that are running, if we get in there: We’re not going to do that.

Now the threat that the DNC makes against those candidates is, ‘If you don’t raise money, we will primary you with another DNC person, and you’ll lose your seat’. To that I say, ‘If I manage to get in, I’m going to spend 100% of my time actually helping people’. I’d like to think this would translate to people wanting me to stay in office. And if they don’t, that’s OK too. That’s OK too! I don’t need to stay forever.

That’s it. Make this declaration the foundation of my campaign. Be open and blunt about it from the very beginning:

On this, the first day of my campaign, I commit to you:

I will spend 100% of my time in office, working with and for the people of my district. All of them. Everyone in my district will have equal access to, and benefit from, my office. I will work with you, not based on the size of your bank account, but because you are a human being.

My party may demand that I spend 50% or more of my time courting wealthy donors, but I will not do that. I will not help only the wealthy. I will not make it easier for those who choose to help only the wealthy.

If this decision results in my being marginalized or ignored or sanctioned by my party, or “primaried by someone who is more cooperative,” then so be it.

I will not be held hostage by a system of begging and bribery. Let us stand up and take back our government, together.

Would I choose to do this by myself? I will, but no, I would not choose to. But if I were among the approximately 440 candidates of Brand New Congress, and we made this declaration, this statement, as a unified team, we could change the world.


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And as Kerith says, “I’d like to think this [hard work for my constituents] would translate to people wanting me to stay in office.”

If you help your constituents, they will pay you back by doing whatever it takes to get you reelected. You don’t need to “hold a fundraiser,” because they will be inspired to contribute. And contribute more than just money. They will contribute themselves. They will volunteer–enthusiastically. They will promote you–enthusiastically. They will call in favors. They will be creative about getting you reelected, contributing in ways you could not have imagined.

And if you don’t get reelected, then you didn’t do enough for them. Or maybe the other guy can do it better. And that’s okay. That’s what America is supposed to be.

Update 9/23: I posed the question to Brand New Congress in this thread.

Their response:

Simply don’t comply is going to be our solution. There is no law about having to hit these quotas – it’s just something the parties make you do for the promise of their support. Brand New Congress is setting up its own infrastructure to help candidates run/provide support while in office, so we don’t need whatever support the Democratic party would offer.

The way the Democratic Party is able to enforce its quotas is it can threaten to pull support if you do not comply with their rules. When a congressperson has no other support system, they have to play by those rules. But we’re providing a separate support system so we have absolutely no intention to have our candidates hit any fundraising quotas imposed by the existing parties.

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