In its original fundraising appeals to large and small donors, the use-big-money-to-stop-big-money Mayday Super PAC declared that it would raise $12 million for spending on 2014 races (with $6 million from small-to-medium donors, $6 million from megadonors), then stop fundraising and spend the raised money in campaigns.
Here’s the documentation of that plan from multiple Mayday Super PAC sources.
Text of the plan sent to solicit contributions earlier this year:
“Critical to our funding strategy is a two-step crowdfunded and contingent match. We have set two funding targets — $1 million and $5 million. For each, we have run “kickstart” campaigns, raising small and medium dollar pledges to meet each target. Our first campaign to raise $1M launched on May 1, 2014, and we met the target 19 days before the deadline, on May 13th. We launched our second campaign to raise $5M on June 4th, and we met that goal 9 hours before the deadline, at 9:00 p.m. EST, July 4th, 2014
“Now we will secure matching funds, bring our total amount raised to over $12M dollars.
“Once matching funds are secured, our fundraising for this cycle will end. The PAC will then turn its focus to the campaigns exclusively.”
A description of the fundraising plan in a piece written by Mayday Super PAC director Lawrence Lessig:
“About a year ago, with a grant from two very different funders (one a libertarian, the other a liberal democrat), we commissioned a study about how much it would cost to win a Congress in 2016 committed to fundamental reform. The answer we got was a very big number — but the most important recommendation we got was that we must fight this battle in two election cycles, 2014 and 2016. And that in 2014, we target a small number of races where we could first learn what it would take to win, and second, by winning, convince others to take this campaign seriously.
“The cost for that 2014 campaign was relatively small — just $12 million. In April, I announced a plan to raise that money on Kickstarter. We would kickstart half of it in two stages — first by raising $1 million in thirty days, and if we met that goal, kickstart $5 million in thirty days. Each of those targets I said I’d find a match for, so that by the end of June, we’d have the $12 million for the 2014 campaigns.”
A description of the fundraising plan in a June 2014 Salon interview with Lawrence Lessig:
“We think of it as a two-stage process: pull together the resources, and then pass the resources into the context that can most effectively spend them to win in those five districts.”
“For 2014, we have two fundraising targets:
“We have already hit our first target.
“We raised $1 million from over 12,800 individual citizens, giving a median of $50, in an extraordinary show of demand for this type of reform. And we’ve gotten that $1M matched from Reid Hoffman, Peter Thiel, Chris Anderson, Brad Burnham, David Milner, Fred Wilson, Joanne Wilson, and Vin Ryan. But it’s not quite enough.
“Our second target – the one we are aiming for now – is $5 million by the end of June. If we meet that goal, that $5 million will also be matched, and our fundraising for 2014 will end.…
“Our experience in 2014 will give us a better sense. And based on what we learn, we will decide whether this moonshot is feasible.
“If it is, in January 2015, then we will launch the second round of the Mayday PAC, crowdfunding small-dollar contributions to fund a superPAC big enough to win a majority in Congress in 2016 committed to fundamental reform.”
Lawrence Lessig’s thank-you letter to contributors on July 4, when the Super PAC’s fundraising target was reached, reiterated the plan that fundraising for the Mayday Super PAC was done for the year 2014:
“After we get some sleep, you’ll hear more from us. But fear not: the campaign to raise money is over for this cycle. I won’t be asking you to DONATE NOW again and again. That bit is done. Instead, for the rest of this cycle, what you’ll hear from us is about how your campaign is working.
“We’ve got lots of ideas about how to make this work. We’ll be testing them and improving them and building lots that’s new. But you’ve raised the money. It’s time to get down to work. So stay tuned.”
By its own description, having received the amount of money it needs for 2014, the Mayday Super PAC should have stopped soliciting donations until January 2015. “Fear not,” proclaimed Lawrence Lessig, “I won’t be asking you to DONATE NOW again and again. That bit is done.” But the plan has changed. With the announcement of its first two favored candidates today, the Mayday Super PAC has changed its front page to look like this:
Right down to the presence of all caps, this new front page does exactly what Mayday director Lawrence Lessig told us his Super PAC wouldn’t be doing. It asks you to “DONATE NOW.”
On the right-hand side of every page in the Mayday website, a special “Donate in Two Minutes or Less” advertisement requests more money. On each of the two new pages promoting favored congressional candidates, another red “Donate Now” button draws the eye. And in another new page created to solicit funds for favored congressional candidates, a specific link requesting that you “Click here to make a donation to the general MAYDAY PAC fund” has been added.
When Lawrence Lessig and his colleagues asked Americans to “embrace the irony” of using big money in political campaigns to fight the influence of big money in campaigns, they were asking us to trust their ability to resist the temptation of money, money, and more money. They asked us to trust that they would raise enough to get the job done without getting addicted to an ever-bigger cash stream. They said they’d cut themselves off. They didn’t.
Perhaps now the staffers at the Mayday Super PAC are telling themselves that they just need a little bit more, just one more hit, that they can stop whenever they want, they just don’t want to stop anymore. This is how the corrupting influence of money in politics takes hold.
If Mayday PAC wants to be taken seriously, it needs to stick to the plan. It needs to ignore the money jonesing and go cold turkey.