Money in Politics

Someone asked me yesterday why I couldn’t just use free digital avenues to build support for my campaign, instead of asking for money. I thought it might help if I explained some of the costs, which frankly kind of shocked me after I started my run. This may also be helpful in understanding why money is such a HUGE factor in politics (and why Republicans keep winning).

I do plan to keep leveraging every digital avenue I have, but there are lots of people who aren’t on Facebook or Twitter, or really, much online at all, especially older voters. And the people who bother to vote in off-year elections (about a tenth of the local populace) are often among our older population.

To reach the voters, you can do things like go door-to-door (which I’ll be doing), but at least around here, most people are working during the day, so your window to reach them is very limited. There also aren’t that many days between now and April 4th, so I’m not going to have time to knock on every door, even if I wanted to. You can stand outside grocery stores and train stations, and I already have some of that in the schedule too. But the main other thing you can do is spend money.

Let’s say I want to do a basic flyer, about me and about what the library board does. If I send it to all the likely voters in this election, about 6000 people, that’ll cost $3000 just for the postage. $3000! I admit, I was really startled by that number. If you want to make five hundred buttons, that’ll cost perhaps $300 for design and printing. Full color bookmarks? That might run another $1000, if you want to send them to all the voters. Political palm cards, with info about you and the date of the election, that can be tucked into the doors that you’re passing — another $1000 or $2000. A full-page ad in the League of Women Voters program book will cost something; so will a newspaper ad. And let’s not forget pizza for your weary volunteers!

When I started this, I thought, oh, I don’t even know if I’ll need to raise money at all. And then I thought, well, I’m sure $2-3K will be plenty. Now I’ve realized that I could easily spend $10,000 on print materials alone, and even that wouldn’t guarantee that all the voters in Oak Park would even see my name once before they got to the ballot box. And someone told me recently that it usually took about seven ‘touches’ — seven mentions of your name — before someone decided to actually vote for you.

So, hope that helps explain why I’m asking for money, and why, if there’s anyone whose campaign you want to support, contributing money is actually really helpful.

Democrats, in particular, I think are more likely to be reluctant to give money to political campaigns (rather than non-profit orgs), feeling like money in politics is somehow a little corrupt, that we ought to be able to win on the purity of our ideas alone, the rightness of our cause. I know I gave to the ACLU and the SPLC long before giving to any candidate. But I’ve recently come to realize that before the voters can vote for the good guys, they need to know their names, and ideally, a little of what they stand for.

Money helps tremendously with getting the word out.

(And I would be remiss if I didn’t at least link to my own campaign, after all that. https://www.crowdpac.com/campaigns/163679/mohanraj-for-oak-park-library-board)

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