Friday, April 21, 2006

Censure and Progressive Patriot Contributions, pt 2

In my previous post on monthly FEC reports by Russ Feingold's Progressive Patriots Fund, we saw that there was a sharp increase in March contributions. Feingold's censure proposal was announced on March 12, a third of the way through the month. While I think the monthly data make a strong case for the impact of the censure proposal on fundraising, we can look at things more closely by switching to the individual itemized contributions, which are available daily. These are contributions over $200, or contributions by an individual who has contributed a total of more than $200 in the year. I'll call these "large" contributions despite the potential inaccuracy.

The figure above shows convincingly that the spike in contributors coincided with the week Feingold proposed censuring President Bush. Because we can't get daily data on "small" contributors under $200, this is the best available evidence that the censure proposal was indeed the motivating factor in contributions. I speculate that the surge in "small" donors was probably even greater, given both ease of contributing through the website and the small barrier of an under $200 contribution. Those most unhappy with President Bush and looking for a Democratic leader found one in Sen. Feingold.

The next figure shows the total amount contributed by these itemized donors.

Here the effect is also sharp, but the peak falls in each of the two weeks after the proposal. By the last week of March, total "large" contributions had fallen back to only a bit above the rate of January and February. Yet the number of contributors mobilized was still relatively high. Why? Sinking average contributions. (Which must be if N is up and Total is down: Avg=Total/N, after all!)

The average contribution surged only modestly in the week of the cenure proposal, and fell back to among the lowest levels of the Progressive Patriots Fund's short history. Of course this isn't necessarily a bad thing. The evidence from our monthly data is that there was a massive surge in small contributions, hitting $186,457 in March, up from $81,910 in February and $30,700 in January. Itemized larger contributions amounted to $95,667 in March, up from $22,750 in February and $38,750 in January.

Presumably the above graphs reflect the success of the Progressive Patriots Fund in attracting more donors who are able to give over $200 but not multi-thousand dollar contributions. These donors may be more valuable in the long run if their lower contributions can be repeated multiple times. (To digress, a Stevens Point WI woman appears to hold the record for number of discrete contributions to Howard Dean in 2003-04: 63. Hat tip to UW grad student Ben Sayre whose research produced this wonderful factoid.) And once donors are identified they can also be plugged into the Feingold machine for non-monetary activities, should there be need for such in the future.

So I think we can close the books on the question of the impact of the censure proposal on fundraising. The spike is strong and perfectly coincides with the week of the censure proposal. The Progressive Patriot Fund benefited in aggregate dollars and especially in identified supporters. And not to forget Dean's 2003 money machine-- many small donors can add up to some serious money. It appears Feingold has tapped them very successfully since March 12.

Click here to go to Table of Contents