Democrats Fundraise Off Clinton’s Announcement—Even If They Can’t Endorse Her

The party organizations are barred from officially supporting the presidential candidate, but they’re still finding ways to ride the enthusiasm.

National Journal
Adam Wollner
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Adam Wollner
April 13, 2015, 2:01 p.m.

It’s only Hillary Clinton’s first full day as a candidate, and political operatives already are filling Democrats’ inboxes to the brim with fundraising requests. But most of those requests are not coming from the former secretary of State’s newly launched presidential campaign.

Rather, it’s the Democrats’ party committees that are eagerly asking activists for cash and online petition signatures following Clinton’s official announcement of her 2016 presidential bid. Nearly every message marked Clinton’s candidacy with either exclamation points or all-caps font, complete with a plea for a small donation at the bottom.

Of course, none of these emails explicitly endorsed Clinton for president—at this point party organizations aren’t supposed to be endorsing anyone until voters have picked their nominee. But the opportunity to piggyback off the enthusiasm of one of their party’s best-known and most-liked figures proved too much for the organizations to pass up. After all, it was a rare early-cycle chance to boost their fundraising, collect data from voters, and build their valuable email lists.

The tapdance in the 24 hours following Clinton’s announcement was a preview of things to come for the party’s leaders, as they’ll have to endeavor throughout the primary to ride Clinton’s coattails without explicitly serving as her booster.

Their opening attempts revealed just how tricky that needle is to thread:

“Hillary Clinton just announced “¦” read the subject line of a Democratic National Committee email sent on Sunday afternoon. Another message landed shortly after: “Hey: Hillary’s in. Are you?”

“Hillary’s in. Add your name to support Democrats,” a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Sunday email blast featuring a giant photo of Clinton stated.

“She (!) Will Run” read another from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. They followed up a few hours later with an email highlighting a Republican National Committee ad campaign against Clinton containing the subject line, “historic moment RUINED.”

“IT’S ON!!!” the Democratic Governors Association emailed Sunday (and again Monday), pledging to double any contributions to the group.

The parties’ super PACs are getting in on the action too. House Majority PAC, which aims to elect Democrats to the House, sent an email on Monday stating that Clinton “needs to know that Democrats from across the country are standing with her and are committed to electing more Democrats to have her back in Congress.”

The near-unanimous participation demonstrates the dearth of fundraising opportunities Democrats will have during the primary, particularly in relation to Republicans. Andy Barr, a Democratic digital strategist, said a more drawn-out primary process on the GOP side will mean more high-profile opportunities to engage with and raise cash from grassroots supporters.

“Whether you’re a big Hillary fan or not, this is a big moment in Democratic politics,” Barr said. “I think it’s totally appropriate for our side to be doing whatever they can to be using the excitement around that to bring people in. When you look at the calendar, outside of the few months ahead of a presidential election, there just aren’t that many moments where you have people outside the Beltway just sort of captivated by what’s happening in the political sphere, and this is one of them.”

DNC spokeswoman Holly Shulman said she expects the committee to engage in similar efforts when other Democrats officially jump into the race.

“We see each announcement as an opportunity to engage our supporters and reach out to new ones and have them say they’re in and ready for 2016,” Shulman said.

Other Democrats said they were not concerned about being perceived as endorsing Clinton. A DCCC official said “the language made it very clear that the fundraising emails intended to support Democrats up and down the ticket.” And DGA spokesman Jared Leopold said “the DGA joins Democrats everywhere who are excited about electing the next Democratic President to fight for middle-class families.”

A spokeswoman for the DSCC did not respond to a request for comment.

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