Political Party/527

ActBlue (PAC)

Website:

actblue.com

Location:

Somerville, MA, USA

Type:

527 Political Action Committee

Formation:

2009

Also Known As:

ActBlue Technical Services

ActBlue (Technical Services) is a 527 political action committee started in 2009 to act as “the online clearinghouse for Democratic action.”[1] It is the 527 PAC affiliate of the nonprofit ActBlue Charities and the activist organization ActBlue Civics, which perform similar pass-through roles for 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations, respectively.

The ActBlue website was launched in 2004 by Ben Rahn and Matt DeBergalis as a fundraising platform for left-wing organizations and candidates.[2] The ActBlue PAC was formed five years later in 2009. [3] According to its own figures, ActBlue has helped to raise $2.4 billion for its clients since its creation.[4]

ActBlue is divided into three component organizations, each of which deals with a specific type of donation. ActBlue Non-Federal deals with contributions to state-level candidates and political action committees, ActBlue Civics manages contributions to 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations, and ActBlue Charities manages contributions to 501(c)(3) nonprofits.[5]

As part of its fundraising service, ActBlue provides fundraising software that allows its clients to maximize their fundraising activity without building out their own fundraising platform. These tools are available on all three of the organization’s platforms.[6]

Campaign Contributions

ActBlue Non-Federal has contributed to 13 other PACs since 2004.[7] Donation recipients include the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Progressive Change Campaign, and the Collective PAC.

2018 Election Cycle

In August 2018, ActBlue surpassed $1 billion in contributions to Democratic Party PACs and political candidates for the 2018 election cycle. This amount accumulated through small-dollar donations, which averaged $34.[8]

As a reaction to the high number of small-dollar donations ActBlue receives, some Republican Party politicians voiced concerns in October 2018 that there is no ActBlue equivalent aiding Republicans, leaving them in a fundraising disadvantage.[9] Representative Jim Banks (R-Indiana) on October 23rd started StopSpeakerPelosi.com to raise small-dollar donations averaging $46 evenly distributed for 23 crucial GOP house elections needed to maintain a majority. As of October 26th, the organization has raised nearly $67,000.[10] Among the campaigns supported by StopSpeakerPelosi, it includes Representatives Rod Blum (R-Iowa), Pete Sessions (R-Texas), Barbara Comstock (R-Virginia), David Brat (R-Virginia), and Carlos Curbelo (R-Florida).[11]

Client List

ActBlue publishes a client list of[12] political action committees that use ActBlue’s website as a way to raise funds. [13] This list of solely left-of-center groups includes: Color of Change PAC, the Collective PAC, and 2016 Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s Onward Together PAC.[14][15] [16]

2020 Election Cycle

During the 2020 election cycle, reports indicate that ActBlue served as the conduit for more than $5.1 billion in contributions, leading the combined cash reserves of ActBlue PAC, and their credit card fee processing wing, ActBlue Technical Services, to climb to $172.8 million by the end of 2020. [17] During the cycle, ActBlue accepted donations from small-dollar donors to support an initiative by the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) to help Democrats flip state legislatures within Republican-controlled states in 2020, as part of a means of controlling the process of redistricting congressional lines. [18]

2021 Fundraising

On July 7, 2021, New York Times journalist Shane Goldmacher reported via Twitter that ActBlue processed almost $599.6 million since January 1, 2021. [19] While only half the amount of money ActBlue processed in the first six months of 2020, it was $180 million more than the organization had processed in the first six months of 2019, indicating substantial growth even in non-election years. March 2021 brought the most money for ActBlue with $116.8 million, while April brought the least with $85 million.

Controversies

Hurricane Michael (2018)

On October 11, 2018, the Washington Free Beacon reported that Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida) released an email and a tweet urging people to donate to ActBlue for hurricane relief, despite the organization’s role as a Democratic Party fundraising service and not a disaster relief charity.[20]

Fundraising for Politicians Accused of Sexual Misconduct and Domestic Violence

As of August 2021, the Washington Free Beacon reported that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s reelection fundraising page was still active at ActBlue despite credible accusations of sexual harassment against him, which were later confirmed by the New York Attorney General. [21] Reporters argued that maintaining Cuomo’s fundraising page despite the allegations contradicts the precedent ActBlue set in 2020 when it permanently suspended Democratic Kansas state representative Aaron Coleman’s page after he admitted to circulating revenge porn depicting an ex-girlfriend when he was 12 and making murder threats against another ex-girlfriend in 2019. [22]

The day after the Washington Free Beacon’s article was published, reporters at Axios confirmed that Cuomo’s ActBlue fundraising page had officially been shut down. [23]

Other politicians whose Actblue platforms remained active long after allegations of sexual misconduct and violence against women included New York state senator, Luis Sepulveda, who was arrested in January 2021 for assaulting his wife, and Minnesota state representative, John Thompson, who was accused of choking his girlfriend and exposing his genitals to multiple women while children were present. [24] Actblue also maintained a donation portal for Midwest Values, a PAC associated with former Minnesota senator Al Franken. [25] Franken resigned in 2018 after at least eight women accused him of forcibly groping and kissing them. [26]

Misleading Tip Solicitations

In 2021, reports suggested legal and ethical concerns surrounding the fundraising tactics of ActBlue. While ActBlue has stated that they do not profit from the 3.95 percent processing fee which they charge for donations made on their platform. ActBlue Technical Services, the organization’s nonprofit credit card processing fee division, has reported paying more than $1 million in income tax on tips that it has received since 2013. ActBlue asks donors to make “tips” to ActBlue Technical Services for the purpose of keeping the organization running and handling administrative and operational costs, and claims that 1.5 percent of the 3.95 percent processing fee is utilized for the upkeep of their service.[27] From 2013 to 2020, ActBlue accumulated $147.7 million in tips, exceeding their operational costs, but continued to solicit tips on the basis that the funding was necessary to continue operations. Former National Republican Congressional Committee General Counsel, Chris Winkelman, stated that “If ActBlue’s claims of tips being essential to their operation are in fact false, and donors are making contributions based on those claims, this raises serious legal concerns.” [28]

Leadership

Matt DeBergalis, chairman of the board of directors, and Benjamin Rahn, advisor to the board chair and former executive director, co-founded ActBlue in 2004. [29] [30]

Erin Hill serves as executive director of ActBlue. [31]

Jonathan Zucker, the founder of It Starts Today, worked at ActBlue from 2005 to 2008 as chief operations officer and counsel, senior strategist, executive director, and as a member of the organization’s board of directors. [32] Prior to his tenure at ActBlue, Zucker acted as the national director of operations for finance at the Democratic National Committee.[33][34]

Patriot Pass

After the 2018 U.S. midterm elections, Republican figures such as Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Republican National Committee (RNC) chairwoman Ronna McDaniel agreed to promote a new small-dollar donation internet platform called “Patriot Pass” to rival ActBlue. The intention is to combine the RNC’s voter data bank (Data Trust) and the Trump campaign’s donation processor (Revv) to form the new platform. This is an attempt to consolidate a variety of Republican donation websites and will require other donation platforms like Victory Passport to eventually shut down. While the Republican Party does not intend to launch the website until February 2019 and do not expect it to be an immediate rival to ActBlue, the program has support from National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Tom Emmer (R-MN) and White House aide Jared Kushner. The project is being overseen by Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale. [35]

References

  1. “Where’s the Money?” The Harvard Crimson. Accessed April 24, 2018. http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2008/4/30/wheres-the-money-p-alignleftthe-office. ^
  2. Hartmann, Michael E. “ActBlue Fundraising Platform Strikes Gold — for Liberals | RealClearPolitics.” RealClearPolitics. January 23, 2018. Accessed July 23, 2018. https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2018/01/23/actblue_fundraising_platform_strikes_gold_–_for_liberals_136068.html. ^
  3. “Business Entity Summary.” Corporations Division. Accessed January 16, 2019. http://corp.sec.state.ma.us/CorpWeb/CorpSearch/CorpSummary.aspx?FEIN=270160261&SEARCH_TYPE=1. ^
  4. “Billions Raised Online since 2004.” ActBlue. Accessed July 23, 2018. https://secure.actblue.com/. ^
  5. Hartmann, Michael E. “ActBlue Fundraising Platform Strikes Gold — for Liberals | RealClearPolitics.” RealClearPolitics. January 23, 2018. Accessed July 23, 2018. https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2018/01/23/actblue_fundraising_platform_strikes_gold_–_for_liberals_136068.html. ^
  6. Castenell, Aimée. “How to Increase Donations on Giving Tuesday with ActBlue.” Fission Strategy. October 17, 2016. Accessed July 23, 2018. https://fissionstrategy.com/now-nonprofits-can-increase-donations-on-giving-tuesday-with-actblue/. ^
  7. “PAC to PAC/Party.” OpenSecrets. Accessed July 25, 2018. https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/pac2pac.php?cycle=2018&cmte=C00401224. ^
  8. Schouten, Fredreka. “Exclusive: Fired-up Liberals Raise $1 Billion on Website for Candidates, Causes Ahead of Midterms.” USA Today. August 02, 2018. Accessed August 06, 2018. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/08/02/liberals-donations-through-actblue-top-1-billion-ahead-midterms/884400002/. ^
  9. Bogorowski, Hanna. “GOP Rep. Jim Banks Launches StopSpeakerPelosi.com In Final Effort To Keep House Majority.” The Daily Caller. October 24, 2018. Accessed October 26, 2018. https://dailycaller.com/2018/10/24/jim-banks-stop-pelosi-midterms/. ^
  10. “StopSpeakerPelosi.” Support GiveGOP – Anedot. Accessed October 26, 2018. https://secure.anedot.com/givegop/stop-speaker-pelosi/tandem#toggle-tandem. ^
  11. “StopSpeakerPelosi.” Support GiveGOP – Anedot. Accessed October 26, 2018. https://secure.anedot.com/givegop/stop-speaker-pelosi/tandem#toggle-tandem. ^
  12. “Directory.” ActBlue. Accessed July 25, 2018. https://secure.actblue.com/directory. ^
  13. “Directory.” ActBlue. Accessed July 25, 2018. https://secure.actblue.com/directory. ^
  14. “Directory.” ActBlue. Accessed July 25, 2018. https://secure.actblue.com/directory/all/independent-expenditure. ^
  15. “Directory.” ActBlue. Accessed July 25, 2018. https://secure.actblue.com/directory/all/org?page=1. ^
  16. “PAC to PAC/Party.” OpenSecrets. Accessed July 25, 2018. https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/pac2pac.php?cycle=2018&cmte=C00401224. ^
  17. Kerr, Andrew. “Democratic Fundraising Powerhouse ActBlue Amassed Nearly $150 Million from Small Donors with Misleading Sales Pitch, Documents Show.” The Daily Caller. The Daily Caller, October 25, 2021. https://dailycaller.com/2021/10/24/actblue-small-donors-fundraising-tips/. ^
  18. Severns, Maggie. “Democrats Plan $50M Campaign to Flip State Legislatures before Redistricting.” POLITICO, January 15, 2020. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/01/15/redistricting-state-legislatures-campaign-099437. ^
  19. Goldmacher, Shane. Twitter Post. July 7, 2021, 9:47 am. https://twitter.com/ShaneGoldmacher/status/1412770228447100930. ^
  20. Cawthorne, Cameron. “In Fundraising Email for Hurricane Relief, Bill Nelson Directs Users to Group That Builds Donor Lists for Dem Campaigns.” Washington Free Beacon. October 11, 2018. Accessed October 12, 2018. https://freebeacon.com/politics/bill-nelson-sends-fundraising-email-hurricane-relief-build-donor-lists/ ^
  21. Foldi, Matthew. “Actblue Has Not Cut Ties with Cuomo amid Sexual Harassment Allegations.” Washington Free Beacon, August 3, 2021. https://freebeacon.com/democrats/actblue-has-not-cut-ties-with-cuomo-amid-sexual-harassment-allegations/. ^
  22. Foldi, Matthew. “Actblue Has Not Cut Ties with Cuomo amid Sexual Harassment Allegations.” Washington Free Beacon, August 3, 2021. https://freebeacon.com/democrats/actblue-has-not-cut-ties-with-cuomo-amid-sexual-harassment-allegations/. ^
  23. Markay, Lachlan. “Scoop: Democratic Fundraising Platform ACTBLUE Cuts Donation Page for Cuomo.” Axios, August 5, 2021. https://www.axios.com/democratic-fundraising-platform-actblue-boots-cuomo-49597235-7e72-4542-9bd8-64476a08fc68.html. ^
  24. Foldi, Matthew. “Actblue Has Not Cut Ties with Cuomo amid Sexual Harassment Allegations.” Washington Free Beacon, August 3, 2021. https://freebeacon.com/democrats/actblue-has-not-cut-ties-with-cuomo-amid-sexual-harassment-allegations/. ^
  25. “I Just Gave to Midwest VALUES PAC!” ActBlue. Accessed August 4, 2021. https://secure.actblue.com/donate/midwest-values-pac-1. ^
  26. Pramuk, Jacob. “Here Are All the Sexual Misconduct Accusations against Sen. Al Franken.” CNBC. CNBC, December 7, 2017. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/12/07/al-franken-news-list-of-sexual-misconduct-allegations.html. ^
  27. Actblueblog, Actblueblog, and T1 Service Provider said: January 18. “Built to Last.” ActBlue, July 2, 2007. https://blogdotactbluedotcom.wordpress.com/2007/07/02/auburn-quad/#comments.7687 ^
  28. Kerr, Andrew. “Democratic Fundraising Powerhouse ActBlue Amassed Nearly $150 Million from Small Donors with Misleading Sales Pitch, Documents Show.” The Daily Caller. The Daily Caller, October 25, 2021. https://dailycaller.com/2021/10/24/actblue-small-donors-fundraising-tips/. ^
  29. “Matt DeBergalis.” LinkedIn. Accessed July 25, 2018. https://www.linkedin.com/in/debergalis/. ^
  30. “Benjamin Rahn.” LinkedIn. Accessed July 25, 2018. https://www.linkedin.com/in/benrahn/. ^
  31. “About Us | Meet the Team.” ActBlue. Accessed August 21, 2018. https://secure.actblue.com/about#meet-the-team. ^
  32. “Jonathan Zucker.” LinkedIn. Accessed July 25, 2018. https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonathanzucker/. ^
  33. “Jonathan Zucker.” LinkedIn. Accessed July 25, 2018. https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonathanzucker/. ^
  34. “PAC to PAC/Party.” OpenSecrets. Accessed July 25, 2018. https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/pac2pac.php?cycle=2018&cmte=C00401224. ^
  35. Isenstadt, Alex. “Exclusive: GOP Reaches Landmark Agreement to Juice Small-dollar Fundraising.” POLITICO. January 21, 2019. Accessed January 23, 2019. https://www.politico.com/story/2019/01/21/republican-fundraising-patriot-pass-1116642. ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Erin Hill
    Executive Director
  2. Jonathan Zucker
    CEO, Former COO
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ActBlue (PAC)

366 Summer st
Somerville, MA 02144
USA