Campaign donors squeezed at end of month

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It was the end of the month and the wheedling, pleading, demanding and outright begging were at full throttle as political parties, racing the latest fundraising deadline, tried to shake every nickel out of potential donors’ pockets.

And nowhere was that battle more heated than in the email inboxes of regular donors, who in the final days of every month get flooded with messages from the likes of Sen. John F. Kerry or House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi underneath subject lines such as “In jeopardy” or “Let’s break it.”

“We’ve got just 12 hours until our midnight deadline. We can’t act if you don’t,” Mr. Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, pleaded in a fundraising email sent Monday afternoon by the Democrats’ Senate campaign committee that says $5 donations are the key to battling a super PAC co-founded by Karl Rove, political adviser to the last Republican president.

Mr. Kerry’s email was bracketed by other requests from the Senate campaign committee’s top staff and its online communications director, also begging for money to lubricate the political machine.

The monthly dance is intensifying with the election now little more than six months away, and as the major party committees spar to top their opponents on bragging rights — and begin to lay their spending plans between now and November.

The deadlines themselves are, in some ways, artificial. They exist chiefly to break up the calendar and set the times when the campaigns must report their donors to the Federal Election Commission.

For most candidates, the reports are due every three months. But for active presidential campaigns and the national party committees — one for each party in the House and Senate, plus one each for the governors and the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee — the reports are due every month and serve as a way to measure who has momentum and who needs to be worried.

The committees are reluctant to reveal too much about their strategies, but thanks to tools that can tell them which emails get opened and how many people proceed to click through and donate, they know what drives contributors.

“At end-of-month and end-of-quarter fundraising cycles, you look at the metrics and see what works and what doesn’t, and when you find out what works, you go back to the well on that,” one GOP operative said. “The challenge is not to go back to the well every day or every week.”

Another Republican said some big names work particularly well in headlining fundraising — such as Rep. Paul Ryan, the House Republicans’ point man on the budget.

For the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — the political arm of House Democrats — the pleading started in earnest Sunday with an email that read like an invoice, saying a $5 donation was still “pending.” Later in the afternoon, the DCCC’s top staffer, Robby Mook, pleaded for a $3 donation to help close a final $37,000 gap in the committee’s April numbers.

By Monday morning, the gap was down to $26,000, according to the fundraising email sent under the name of Mrs. Pelosi. On Monday afternoon came yet another plea, from DCCC political director Kelly Ward, begging for 1,300 more supporters to sign up by midnight.

“It’s the deadline that usually has the most impact — the emails you get that say 72 hours, 48 hours, 24 hours,” said Jennifer Crider, deputy executive director at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The pushes can be incredibly effective. The DCCC had its best-ever online fundraising day on March 31, collecting more than 2,000 donations, or a quarter of the month’s total.

For Republicans, the month-end pressure is somewhat less intense than for Democrats.

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