#PAGov: Why Isn’t John Hanger Catching Fire With Small Donors?

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One line of pushback I’ve been getting in pointing out that poorly-funded candidates are hurting Democratic chances of unseating Tom Corbett by polluting the field is that this is somehow equivalent to saying rich people should rule our politics.

That couldn’t be further from the truth. As you’ll recall, Barack Obama’s campaign attracted an enormous number of small donors, even as big money bundlers accounted for most of his historic haul. Obviously that’s pretty rare in down ballot races, but you do often see grassroots candidates people are truly excited about getting a lot of small donations alongside the big money. There’s some confusion about how this works – the money follows the excitement, and mostly it follows who people think can win.

So far lots of online progressives say they like the idea of John Hanger, but by revealed preference, they don’t think he’ll win the primary because they’re not opening their wallets and wasting their money on his doomed campaign. The fundraising reports aren’t out yet, but it’s clear Hanger’s trying to preempt his terrible report by pretending a weak hand is actually a strong one. It’s cool you guys, he doesn’t want money! Obviously that’s absurd, and he would love to have a whole bunch of small donors to point to even if the topline numbers are no good. He doesn’t have that, or else he’d be bragging about it.

People also need to get it out of their heads that special interests donate to “buy” politicians. Special interests donate to who they think they’re most likely to be working with. Naturally the Interested Public would love to be able to “install” certain candidates, but rarely is that high degree of coordination actually possible. What they’re actually trying to do is bet on who the winning candidates are, and give the winning candidates a lot of money, so when they go and ask for favors later, they can say “we gave you this much money before, we’re prepared to give you this much money next time you run, hint hint help us out” That’s a crucial difference from the cartoonish image a lot of folks have about how this works.

Industries that Bill DeBlasio said he was going to tax gave tons of money to Bill DeBlasio because they knew he was going to win. That’s how it works.

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8 Responses to #PAGov: Why Isn’t John Hanger Catching Fire With Small Donors?

  1. People also need to get it out of their heads that special interests donate to “buy” politicians.

    Why? Because they do!! Just look at BdB. Why did he appoint Bratton after what he campaigned on? Rich people don’t donate to political campaigns out of the goodness of their heart.

  2. It seems clear from past posts that this site’s staff is supporting Katie McGinty for Governor. Why not just say so and end the pretense of objectivity in covering that race? She’s a reasonable candidate for progressives to back. But so are others. You might wish she were the only former Secretary of the PA DEP in the race, but she isn’t.

    You posted “McGinty College Affordability Plan…” on Jan. 7 No problem. But John Hanger and Allyson Schwartz released plans months ago to make college more affordable. Why not feature their ideas too?

    Why not compare platforms rather than aiming to make one candidate look best? We all know how to read between the lines.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      Actually I honestly haven’t made up my mind yet. Jake posted that. Education’s not really my issue. I care, but don’t know enough about the qualitative policies and have mainly just focused on the funding issue here that I think all Dems can agree on.

      At the moment I think Katie McGinty and Rob McCord are the best two options, but I’m hanging back and waiting to see what other positions people offer, what the polling looks like vs Corbett, and what the fundraising looks like.

  3. steventodd says:

    “We gave you this much money before, we’re prepared to give you this much money next time you run, hint hint help us out” sure sounds like “special interests donating to ‘buy’ politicians.”

    Geeting says “That’s a crucial difference from the cartoonish image a lot of folks have about how this works.” He then fails to show any difference between buying politicians and buying politicians. This leaves the inquiring mind as clueless to his point as it was prior to reading his explanation.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      The key difference is that special interests are always bullshitting. They’ll still give money even if they don’t get their way, if they think somebody’s going to win the election. Money gets you in the door, it doesn’t mean it gets you the policy outcome you want. That sucks, but it’s not the straight cash for policy positions some people are imagining. Personal gifts are probably even worse than campaign donations, because it’s the friendly relationships that create trust and loyalty and cloud judgment.

      • steventodd says:

        I don’t know anyone who imagines straight cash for policy positions, i.e. the proverbial sack of cash in the smokey room. Money gets you in, but on many of the most lucrative decisions, it is a slam dunk, in that We The People are ignored or ridiculed when we oppose or even question the proceedings. It’s the access that is afforded to the small and shrinking group of mostly non-constituent donors that locks almost all of us our of The Political Class. It is for that reason many without two extra nickels are working hard for Hanger: we don’t care why he isn’t owned by the bribery you accurately describe. We just want someone who isn’t.

        • Jon Geeting says:

          It’s a slam dunk on issues where people aren’t paying close attention, or where there’s asymmetry of interest. That’s just politics though. The people who are super committed get their way over the diffuse public interest. It could be as simple as nobody’s writing letters to tell the politician they want some other outcome, but they’re getting lobbied hard by interested parties. I don’t see how not having a lot of campaign money changes anything about that. There’s no substitute for electing people who, at base, want to do the right thing.