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Mayday PAC is Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig's latest effort to stamp out corruption in politics. It's thesis is to use the power of the SuperPAC to fight the influence of SuperPACs in politics. It proposes to do this by raising substantial sums of small donations online from large numbers of grassroots supporters, to match these with very large donations from a handful of (as yet undisclosed) Concerned Zillionaires, and to use these funds to

hire professional campaigners who will craft interventions in targeted districts to make fundamental [campaign finance] reform the issue in that campaign — and to make the reform candidate the winner.
To say that Mayday's goal and strategy (interference by single-issue out-of-state money in local multi-issue elections) is controversial is to put it mildly. Many who view Mayday with concern (and I am one) feel that fighting fire with fire is a great way to burn down a house, but not much else. We wonder why a local election in which so many issues hang in the reform, income inequality, energy policy, reproductive rights, marriage equality, education, civil rights, corporate welfare, tax policy, and so much more...should be decided on just one issue (campaign finance reform) simply because one guy with a whole lot of wealthy friends feels that that's all that really matters right now.

Thus far, Mayday has been rather vague on the details. In my continuing coverage of the PAC (see these four previous diaries) I seek, in my own fumbling way, to help the organization get right with God, employing a dash of snark and a dollop of data. For the latest (and most interesting yet) data, meet me below the fold.

In compliance with federal election law and regulations, Mayday recently filed its first quarterly report with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), for the period through June 30th. Regrettably, the data in that filing are by now rather long in the tooth...addressing just its first $3.3 million in total receipts, and itemizing only $2.1 million in individual donations (whereas, as of today, Mayday's home page trumpets $7.7 million in "large and small" donations (we're not sure whether that includes Concerned Zillionaire matching funds). Note that, in living up to the letter of the law (and, thus far, not one byte more), Mayday's FEC filing excludes itemized donations from individuals whose total donations to the SuperPAC are less than $200 (i.e., quite possibly the vast majority of individual donations). Bear that in mind, below, as we make do as best we can with what we've got.

North Carolina stands out among the rest of these United States in that only it (as far as I'm aware) makes fairly detailed and personally identifiable voter registration data freely available online. This kind-of-creepy-but-extremely-useful resource, plus the itemized donation data regarding its NC donors that Mayday has supplied to the FEC, afford us a small (N equals just 32 donors) -- but nonetheless helpful -- window on the composition of Mayday's 'grassroots' base of support. Folding together the FEC data, the corresponding voter registration information, U.S. census data for North Carolina, and aggregate statistics from the NC Secretary of State regarding the state's registered voter population, here's how Mayday's North Carolina donors (of, remember, ≥ $200 in each individual's aggregate donations) compare with the state as a whole:

North Carolina Mayday PAC donor characteristics versus state population statistics
This sample of Mayday's donors is overwhelmingly male (outnumbering females two-to-one) and lily-white (96%, in a state that is 28% non-white). Republicans are notably under-represented (just 8%, in a state that is 31% Republican), with unaffiliated voters comprising a whopping 50% of our sample. Other (less interesting) stats not shown here include:

     * 19% of donors are not registered to vote in NC (versus 14% of all eligible NC'ers)

     * 13% are retired (versus 14% ≥ age 65 statewide)

     * 3% self-describe as "unemployed" (versus NC's 6% unemployment rate)

     * The average total donated per person was $608 (but remember, this average excludes all those unreported donations totaling less than $200 per individual).

If (and I emphasize 'if') this small sample is representative of Mayday's grassroots donors overall, the most interesting question that comes to my mind is this: what percentage of the five congressional candidates that Mayday plans to support this year will be Republicans? And conversely, what percentage of the five that Mayday plans to oppose will be Democrats? Will Republicans get a free ride, not paying into the PAC but enjoying outsized political benefits from its activities? If so, then with friends like Mayday PAC, who needs enemas?

Stay tuned (may I suggest you follow me in order to do so?).

P.S.: several states provide individual registered voter data for a hefty price, via offline means (usually snailmailed CD ROM flat files). I can't afford to go chasing these, but if any sympathetic readers happen to already have access to such data, let's talk.

Originally posted to DocDawg on Sun Jul 20, 2014 at 01:04 PM PDT.

Also republished by North Carolina BLUE.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (4+ / 0-)

    Beneath the beam that blocked the sky, none had stood so alone as I - and the Hangman strapped me, and no voice there, cried "Stay" for me in the empty square. (The Hangman, Maurice Ogden)

    by DocDawg on Sun Jul 20, 2014 at 01:04:15 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for taking the time to do this post and (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DocDawg, kaliope

    for following Mayday in all of its nebulousness.  From the time that I first read about it, I've been suspicious.  Its website is minimalist and not very informative at all.  The same with statements made by Lessig and others associated with Mayday.  I'm amazed that they've raised $7.7 million for grassroots support, if they have.  Or even half that, if the zillionaires have added 50%.  

    Like you, I think that there are too many issues involved to back a candidate primarily because he says, "Let's get corporate money  out of politics."  Using that as a basis, Mayday could support a Gohmert for re-election.   No, I think I want to assess the whole candidate and his positions before I make a donation.

    A word to the wise is sufficient. Republicans need at least a paragraph.

    by d3clark on Sun Jul 20, 2014 at 02:00:33 PM PDT

  •  If They Will Support 1 Republican Anywhere In Any (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DocDawg, kaliope

    race I'm out.

    They will, and I am.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Jul 20, 2014 at 02:01:46 PM PDT

  •  R any 2014 race Repugs supporting spending limits? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    If so, presumably Mayday will find one or two of them in order to continue avoiding the 'Dem-Left' profile that it has so far sought to avoid.  How Mayday goes about this will probably range from annoying to credibility-destroying.

    The diary's critical posture is fully justified, and its research and analysis is greatly appreciated.

    But there are some grounds for hope that Mayday can be a positive influence:

    1. If most of Mayday's targeted campaigns reflect the interaction of Mayday's stated targeting criteria with reality, then several Dems who are being ignored by the DCCC could be put over the top against odious Repugs.

    2. The opposite result is hard to envision, because many Dems, but no Repugs that I can think of, have potential to win 'but for' lack of money and lack of voter attention to campaign spending (and this combination is effectively one of Mayday's stated selection criteria).

    3. Although Lessig consorts too much with people holding counterproductive political views, he also spends time around plenty of people at Harvard and (previously) Stanford that can draw his attention to countervailing facts and principles (including Elizabeth Warren when she taught at Harvard).

  •  Mayday's stated criteria for House-Senate races: (0+ / 0-)

    are posted here (along with invitation to submit recommendations). Summary:

    •    ...plausible path to victory where MAYDAY can make the difference.
    • bad actors and support good ones.
    •    ...cost-effective.
    •    ...“ripple-effect,” proving that MAYDAY is a powerful threat to incumbency.

    •  Curiously, (0+ / 0-)

      these criteria don't even mention campaign finance reform.

      Beneath the beam that blocked the sky, none had stood so alone as I - and the Hangman strapped me, and no voice there, cried "Stay" for me in the empty square. (The Hangman, Maurice Ogden)

      by DocDawg on Sun Jul 20, 2014 at 07:09:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Targeting criteria are tactical; stated goal is: (0+ / 0-)

        (extracted from this webpage):

        legislation that would achieve some version of publicly-funded elections.

        While the MaydayPAC is agnostic about the specific legislation, we favor systems of “small dollar public funding” of elections, (a.k.a. “citizen-funded” elections)...

        There are two prominent types of “small dollar public funding”: matching system, and vouchers.

        Under a matching system, such as John Sarbanes’ (D-MD) Government By The People Act, small dollar contributions are matched by the government, at the extreme with a 9 to 1 match. Thus, a $100 contribution is worth $1,000 to a candidate who funds her campaign with small contributions only.

        A voucher system gives small dollar vouchers to all registered voters. Voters can use those vouchers to contribute to candidates for Congress who restrict their funding to vouchers only, as well as small contributions beyond vouchers.

        Mayday summarizes this goal as seeking 'reform to reduce corruption', and its targeting criteria include to
        target those politicians who are clearly captured by special interests and stand against reform, and candidates who will fight for a fundamental change in Congress and will champion the issue [of corruption]

  •  MI-06: Clements v. Upton meets all Mayday criteria (0+ / 0-)

    as detailed in these Dkos diaries:

    Please consider making a submission (here) to Mayday in support of it selecting this race to support Clements and target Upton.

  •  Mark McKinnon thrived in $-dominated scene that he (0+ / 0-)

    is now joining Lessig et al in denouncing.

    If MM is now positioning himself to thrive in a future political scene that becomes less subject to direct dominance by pure spending power,

    ...this could be good news rather than bad.

  •  Giving Mayday benefit of doubt cd look foolish (0+ / 0-)

    when Mayday announces its targeted races, but

    ...some level of optimism, and risk of foolishness, is a necessary precondition for taking present electoral politics seriously.

    •  I'm all for giving benefit of the doubt... (0+ / 0-) I did, initially, with Americans Elect...which turned out to be a huge (but, fortunately, inept) scam.

      When I learned that Americans Elect's ex-CEO (and ex-President of StudentsFirst) was a member of the board of Mayday, I figured my doubt benefits had all been consumed already. Fool me twice....

      Beneath the beam that blocked the sky, none had stood so alone as I - and the Hangman strapped me, and no voice there, cried "Stay" for me in the empty square. (The Hangman, Maurice Ogden)

      by DocDawg on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 05:50:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  According to Wikipedia (0+ / 0-)

        "Americans Elect was open to candidates from any party, as well as independents. Presidential candidates would have been required to choose a vice presidential running mate from a party different from their own to ensure a balanced ticket."

        And DocDawg was [initially] on board with that? That is very surprising.

        •  DocDawg was never on board with that. (0+ / 0-)

          I was, in fact, one of the very first to raise the alarm about them when everyone else was swooning over them, and subsequently devoted many hundreds of man-hours to bringing them down...and won.

          Beneath the beam that blocked the sky, none had stood so alone as I - and the Hangman strapped me, and no voice there, cried "Stay" for me in the empty square. (The Hangman, Maurice Ogden)

          by DocDawg on Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 09:26:32 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I believe you (0+ / 0-)

            My confusion stems from your comment that you initially gave Americans Elect the benefit of the doubt. How do you oppose the principle component of something, and give benefit of the doubt at the same time? It's puzzling.

            •  for me, 'at one time' = 15 minutes (0+ / 0-)

              Beneath the beam that blocked the sky, none had stood so alone as I - and the Hangman strapped me, and no voice there, cried "Stay" for me in the empty square. (The Hangman, Maurice Ogden)

              by DocDawg on Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 04:39:13 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  No (0+ / 0-)

                You never gave them the benefit of the doubt. Fifteen minutes doesn't count in terms of love, sobriety, or benefit of the doubt.

                Holding your breath for 15 minutes might mean something.

                With that said, I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt.

  •  This article is BS (0+ / 0-)

    How do you take data based on such a small number of participants and draw conclusions that should be objective? Yes, I know you added your disclaimer "If", but if your were really serious about that, this article would not have been written until you had more data.  

    "simply because one guy with a whole lot of wealthy friends feels that that's all that really matters right now " Now that is a statement of pure willful ignorance. You have obviously done your best to avoid any facts about the MayDayPac.

    How can you question the validity of not focusing on myriad specific issues when not a single one of those issues is not rooted in special interest financial dominance of Congress? So you would have us dealing with results while ignoring the cause?  

    Your "reporting" here , if that is what you call what you do, is highly biased and the fact that Daily Kos would even sanction such dribble is enough to elicit my unsubscribe request.

    If you took the time to do your due diligence on MayDayPac, you would find plenty of information about it, but obviously you prefer that "shoot from the hip" brand of journalism so many have come to love to hate.

    Follow you? Where? To  the land of Fox news wannabes?
    Your is the same BS.

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