People, have you been barraged by emails from candidates asking for donations? If so, do you feel popular or besieged?
“I’m an election lawyer,” said Daniel Weiner, “and on Thanksgiving my relatives kept asking: ‘Why am I getting these emails and can you do something about it?’”
Weiner, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Election Reform Program, would certainly be a good person to ask, and he’ll tell you one option is to click the little — some cynics would say itty-bitty — unsubscribe note on each missive.
Another is to just suck it up and give something. If you want candidates to be responsive to ordinary voters rather than wealthy special-interest donors, there’s got to be some way to wring cash out of normal, non-rich Americans. “Politics costs money. If you care about politics, and have the means, consider making small donations,” Weiner advised.
There are many, many folks out there attempting to make a (large) living by compiling and selling monster mailing lists. As a result, some requests for donations may seem to come from far afield. “Big news — check out our new ad,” says an email I got, hoping I’d send money to Erick Allen, a candidate for lieutenant governor of Georgia.
Still, a lot of this email exhaustion is simply the fault of — yes! You guessed it! — Donald Trump.
I got more than 50 emails from Democrats seeking campaign cash right after Thanksgiving, but that paled beside the flood from Trump, who seems intent on pitching every person in America several times a day.
“President Trump’s Exclusive Wine Glasses are running extremely low on stock, and we saw you haven’t claimed your pair yet,” warned an email this week. “There are only A COUPLE of Trump Wine Glasses left, and our team can only hold YOURS for the next 15 minutes.”
How many of you believe the team is really low on Trump wine glasses? Well, if you do, act fast, “contribute $70 or MORE right away” and you’ll get your very own set.
The wine glasses, by the way, actually look like something used to provide water for members of a charter revision committee during a long public hearing. And if you hit the contribution button you’ll see the really important thing — a set of prechecked boxes asking that your $70-or-more become “a monthly recurring donation.”
Watch out for anything that authorizes recurring donations. It’s like those robocalls trying to get you to press 1 for further information. Never press 1! Never authorize recurring donations! OK, unless you’re really in love with one particular politician, have complete confidence he or she won’t break your heart over the next 11 months, and don’t want to be bothered recommitting on a regular basis.
Not something you need to consider when it comes to Trump making sneaky attempts to get a recurring donation commitment in return for terrible thank-you gifts. “For a short time, when you make a contribution of $75, we’ll send you one of our ICONIC Trump Save America Christmas Ornaments FOR FREE,” said one email this week. Now, the ornament is not the absolute worst holiday item on Trump’s list. (Have you seen the Christmas stocking with his face on it?) But do you find it strange that he wants $75 for that “FREE” decoration?
The emailers like to toss in personal details, just to show that we’re pals. I’d gotten used to being addressed as “Friend,” but more and more seem to know my name. A recent letter to “Gail” from the Democratic National Committee explained how important it was that I be “one of 16 more supporters from Flushing to contribute $7 to ensure Democrats have the resources they need to compete and win everywhere.”
The only problem, as you may have guessed, is that I don’t live in Flushing.
Right now everybody wants to help you prepare for holiday giving. You may have gotten a gift guide from the “Official Democratic Store” that features, inevitably, a presidential “Cup o’ Joe” coffee mug, as well as a “Dogs for Democrats” collar. Sorry to say the Joe Biden ice cream scoop was already sold out.
Rafts of non-presidential candidates are mailing, too. Unlike Trump and Biden, they’re probably people you’ve never heard of. But if you make a donation, you will most definitely hear from them again.
And from a lot of other folks. Give once and your name is probably going to wind up on donor lists that are compiled, traded and sold all over the political world.
“Once you get on that list it’s almost impossible to get off,” said Rick Hasen, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, School of Law.
So what to do? Well, you can treat the emails like spam, or hit the unsubscribe option. Can’t promise they won’t return in some new form, but it’s a start.
Or you can just jump into the fray, pick some candidates you like, and respond to their emails with donations. Active citizens make for better politics and being a reasonable person who takes part helps beat back all the lunatics who seem to be thinking of nothing but bombarding you with email around the clock.
No offense, Donald.