Since its founding in 2004, the online fundraising non-profit ActBlue has helped progressive candidates and causes raise more than $3.5 billion online. Though Republican politicians have frequently denounced the grassroots fundraising platform as some sort of sinister plot, on Monday they will launch their latest attempt to rip off the idea: WinRed.
Though technically a political action committee, ActBlue allows Democratic candidates and non-profits to setup fundraising pages and receive credit card contributions from donors. The site collects all of the legally required donor information — name, address, employer, occupation, citizenship, etc. — and reports that information to the Federal Election Commission. ActBlue invites donors to include a tip to cover operational costs, and transfers the rest of the money directly to the intended recipients.
It’s a fairly straightforward and wholly above-board process, but that hasn’t stopped Republican politicians who do not understand how it works — or who do get it, but hope their voters will not understand how it works — from portraying it as a sinister and probably illegal plot.
Last year, Mother Jones did a stunning round-up of GOP candidates’ smears of ActBlue and of their Democratic opponents’ use of the platform.
Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) is quoted in the article falsely suggesting that his “Indo-American” 2018 opponent might be raising money illegally from people in foreign countries via ActBlue. “Somehow, the other side has arranged for people to send money to this group in Massachusetts, to send it all across the country,” he complained.
“You can find out where it came from, but you have to work hard to find out who gave that money. Now, I guarantee you a lot of that money isn’t coming through legally. It’s coming from overseas or coming way above what’s allowed.”
Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), noting that ActBlue is listed as being in Somerville, Massachusetts, falsely claimed that his 2018 opponent had raised more money from the Bay State than the Lone Star State. His reasoning: the $581,000 she received through ActBlue — much of which was from donors in Texas — should all count as money from Massachusetts.
Carol Miller, Republican congressional nominee in #WV3, is now warning darkly about "money coming in from something called Act Blue" in her race
— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) September 30, 2018
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), currently under indictment for his own campaign finances, ran an ad complaining that his 2018 opponent was being supported by ActBlue and — without evidence — the Muslim Brotherhood. Now-Rep. Carol Miller (R-WV) as a candidate complained that her opponent was raising “money coming in from something called Act Blue.” And unsuccessful 2018 congressional nominee Katie Arrington (R-SC) complained that her Democratic opponent’s ActBlue donations were from “extreme-left, out of state, special interest groups.”
Despite these and other complaints, the GOP has decided to try and replicate ActBlue’s success. According to Politico, Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, and billionaire casino mogul and GOP mega donor Sheldon Adelson were all involved in planning for the effort to create a single online platform for Republican fundraising. The “WinRed” name, the article claims, was suggested by Trump himself and it was adopted after New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft objected to their original working name — “Patriot Pass.”
This is not the first time Republicans have tried to duplicate ActBlue. Since at least 2007, an array of less successful sites have been launched aimed at raising small donations for conservative candidates and causes. Previous efforts have included Anedot/Give.gop, RightRoots, Big Red Tent, and Slatecard.