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Resistance To Trump's Presidency Is Helping Groups On The Left Raise Money


When it comes to political fundraising, nothing brings in the money like adversity. So the first year of Donald Trump's presidency was very good for the nonprofit ActBlue. It makes a fundraising platform that has become the go-to for Democratic candidates and causes. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: ActBlue has been around since 2004. It's played a role in some of the Democrats' big fundraising successes, some of them fueled by a candidate's personality or message, or now increasingly stoked by anger or fear. One early example - this outburst during President Barack Obama's speech to Congress in September 2009.


BARACK OBAMA: The reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.

JOE WILSON: You lie.


OVERBY: The shouter was Joe Wilson, a Republican congressman from South Carolina. A flood of small-dollar contributions flowed to his Democratic rival, Rob Miller, much of it through ActBlue. Miller's cash on hand went from $49,000 before the speech to one point seven million a few weeks afterwards, although he still didn't win. Now, with President Trump in office, many ActBlue clients are tapping the anti-Trump movement. This is from the Democratic Attorneys General Association.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: If you're worried about the Trump administration and what they might be doing in terms of civil rights, immigration - you pick the issue...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: So many people are afraid today, wondering what's going to happen to their rights, wondering...

OVERBY: Here, recovering from a cold, is ActBlue Executive Director Erin Hill.

ERIN HILL: You're having people who are excited about campaigns. And you're also seeing folks wanting to have a reaction to what's going on right now in the White.

OVERBY: ActBlue is basically a digital conduit for online contributions sort of like GoFundMe. Almost 4 1/2 million donors have their credit card information on file with ActBlue so they can give more quickly. That's one measure of ActBlue's role in the anti-Trump resistance. Another is its record fundraising last year.

HILL: So we just closed 2017. And in 2017, folks used our tools to raise $522 million.

OVERBY: ActBlue's best year ever and one-third more money than President Trump's campaign committee raised for the 2016 election. George Washington University's David Karpf explains what ActBlue is not. He's a professor of media and public affairs.

DAVID KARPF: ActBlue isn't like EMILY's List or MoveOn or Democracy for America.

OVERBY: The difference - these other groups choose the candidates they help. ActBlue simply offers a service, free, to any Democrat who wants it. It runs mainly on small transaction fees for all those contributions.

KARPF: So we have a lot of other fundraising sites on the Democratic side, but not a lot of other sites that are trying to do what ActBlue does because ActBlue is already the largest and is already doing it well.

OVERBY: This business model works because ActBlue is a political committee, which means it's tax-exempt. So far no one else, liberal or conservative, has matched ActBlue's business model or its impact. Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.


Peter Overby
Peter Overby has covered Washington power, money, and influence since a foresighted NPR editor created the beat in 1994.