ActBlue, known in conservative circles for its overwhelming fundraising ability and dedicated commitment to turning Republican strongholds blue, has found itself the target of skepticism from election watchdogs. As reported by Fox News, the Take Back Action Fund revealed that nearly half of all 2019 donations to ActBlue came from donors reporting themselves as unemployed.
At first glance, this sounds bizarre; why are so many unemployed and, therefore, financially insecure contributors donating in the first place? The details of the report indicate a more concerning pattern that has led prominent Republicans like Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) to accuse ActBlue of campaign contribution fraud and of potentially even facilitating foreign interference in the 2020 elections.
“[M]ore than 4.7 million donations came from people who claimed they did not have an employer,” Action Fund’s John Pudner says.”Those 4.7 million donations totaled $346 million ActBlue raised and sent to liberal causes.” For 2020, more than 50% of ActBlue’s donors claim to be unemployed.
ActBlue v. WinRed
Political donors are required by law to list their employers when contributing money to political campaigns. It’s important to note that speculation about ActBlue’s fundraising cannot compare to Republican efforts. The Republican counterpart to ActBlue, WinRed, was found to have only around 4% of its donors reporting themselves as unemployed contributors compared to ActBlue’s 48.4% figure. This is more than a 40% difference between the two groups in the same timeframe when the unemployment rate was at 4% nationwide.
Questionable fundraising efforts are not new in presidential elections. In 2008, The Washington Post reported that Barack Obama was receiving huge donations from untraceable prepaid credit cards to get around the legal limit for individual contributions. At the time, the paper even reported that the potential for donations to come in from foreign nationals through these methods was not out of the question, and the scenario in 2020 is no different.
Harsher responses to this latest news have accused ActBlue of potentially facilitating foreign interference in the upcoming elections. These accusations lack corresponding evidence for the time being, but it has already been confirmed from intelligence reports that Iran, China, and Russia are attempting to interfere in the 2020 election, and a vulnerability in an anonymous political donor network needs to be investigated if there is any semblance of civic responsibility within the FEC. In 2015, a bipartisan group of more than 100 legislators attempted to outlaw the use of unverified credit card systems to donate money to political campaigns. Many other political fundraising websites switched to payment systems that verify whether donations were coming from Americans, but ActBlue has yet to do so.
Democrats are already arguing that stay-at-home mothers, students, and retirees are all considered unemployed when contributing to campaigns and that these distinctions explain the discrepancies in the report. Older Americans have long tended to vote Republican, which debunks the idea that Democrats have suddenly become the prime choice of retired American donors. Students do tend to support the Democratic Party more than the Republican party, but is it possible to suggest that the financial contributions from an age group that has lackluster voter turnout would make up the difference?
Election Interference for Thee, Not For Me
Since 2016, Democrats have baselessly accused Republicans of allowing foreign interference to take place. Democrats once looked inward and attempted to fix the hypocrisies within their party, but in today’s hyper-partisan climate, doing so would be akin to political suicide. On social media, Democrats are already playing defense for ActBlue, accusing Republicans of pushing conspiracy theories when their own favored media outlets have reported the same in the past. If reports of questionable donations to WinRed had surfaced, Democrats would instantly accuse Republicans of knowingly facilitating foreign interference. While political factions will disagree on what this report means for the upcoming elections, it’s clear that these loopholes need to be looked at and closed if the worst-case scenario turns out to be true.
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