FDL Action PAC 2009 Statement of ExpensesIn 2009, FDL Action PAC was formed for the purpose of advocating for progressive issues within the electoral realm, funded by small-dollar donations through ActBlue. Our initial activities began during the health care debate, and were devoted to fighting for the inclusion of a public option in the health care bill. Those efforts were successful in keeping a public option in the more progressive House bill and also the first version of the Senate bill, though the final neoliberal Senate bill which eventually passed did not include one. As a part of that campaign, FDL Action PAC notably ran TV ads in Arkansas telling Blanche Lincoln and Mike Ross to “act like Democrats — or we’ll find someone who will."
FDL Action PAC also fought to protect a woman’s right to choose, which the big pro-choice groups and the Senate bill’s neoliberal supporters were all too willing to sacrifice. The “Once Voice for Choice” campaign was an innovative program targeted at likely 2010 voters in swing districts, and was singled out by Politico’s Mike Allen as a “fascinating new force in politics.” FDL Action PAC’s activities in the final weeks before the passage of the health care bill were also instrumental in breaking up a last-minute deal to reinsert Bart Stupak’s more restrictive anti-abortion language into the bill. In the end, the PAC was one of the few organizations still advocating for the progressive necessity of a public option in the health care bill, when others were encouraging the passage of the neoliberal Senate bill without one.
For a PAC that operates on as small a budget as we had, complying with FEC laws is burdensome and expensive. Nonetheless, through hard work and frugality, we achieved more than organizations with ten times our budget. We are extremely proud of the impact we were able to have, and the value that our donors got for the money they gave to support our two primary activities: advertising and field organizing.
For 2009, FDL Action PAC’s expenses were $154,237.94, excluding fees taken off the top directly by ActBlue that were never actually received by the PAC. After a one-time setup cost for email list acquisition, FDL Action PAC’s expenses were $140,126.28. A total of 83.59% went to program expenses and 16.42% went to operating expenses. The American Institute of Philanthropy rate as “highly efficient” those entities that spend 75% or more of donations on programs, a bar that FDL Action PAC was able to meet in 2009 even including the one-time cost of email list acquisition.
The breakdown of expenses is as follows:
Program Services Expenses: 75.93%
Operations Expenses: 14.92%
Fundraising and activism: 9.15%
Advertising and PR: This figure represents the total cost for the creation, placement and promotion of network television, cable and online ads. Roughly 13% of this budget went to the placement of online advertising on political blogs through a variety of networks. In the interest of full disclosure, one of the networks used was CommonSense Media, a company I have a partnership interest in.
District field and phone banking: This figure represents expenses incurred for voter outreach activities conducted within the congressional districts of targeted members of Congress. It includes the cost of field organizing, the purchase of voter ID lists, and expenses incurred in phone banking and other direct voter contact activities.
Consulting fees: Money paid directly to those providing services to the PAC. Includes are accounting and program management fees, and money paid to KPM Research, my political consulting firm. KPM was created expressly because many servicing companies, such as the one that supplies our voter ID lists, charge a much higher rate to PACS if they sell that information directly to them, than they do if it is done on an individual list-by-list basis through consultants who contract to those PACS. KPM thus provides voter ID lists to numerous entities in addition to FDL Action PAC because of its status as a political consulting firm.
Shared Overhead: By law, corporations were prohibited from contributing to PACs in 2009, and FEC regulation required that FDL PAC reimburse FDL corporation for any labor and overhead that the corporation devoted to PAC activities. Since the PAC has no employees and almost all of the work done to develop the campaigns, write emails, create pages, provide the technical labor and execute actions was performed by employees of FDL corporation using FDL equipment, offices and resources, this amount represents reimbursement for those costs. The costs fluctuate on a monthly basis depending on the amount of work devoted each month to PAC activities, and it represents a common practice that keeps PACS from having to employ full time staff to meet all of its needs. We work to keep the amount that FDL Action PAC reimburses FDL corporation as low as possible. Compare it to the $857,122 that the Tea Party Express paid to the GOP consulting firm that created it in 2009, which represents 65% of all that PAC’s expenses.
Email List: FDL corporation is the owner of an email list that was used by FDL PAC for the purpose of soliciting fundraising and encouraging activism. Without a robust and extensive email list FDL Action PAC could not conduct its activities, but since FDL corporation could not legally give its list to the PAC, it rented the list to the PAC using the same per-email cost that MoveOn uses. The PAC was thus able to grow its own email list from its activities renting the FDL list such that the activists lists of the two entities are almost equal in size. For the sake of comparison, last week the assets of Air America were auctioned off. The price paid for their email list, which is the same size as FDLs, was $40,000 -- and in all likelihood the quality of the list had degraded in the 6 months since it had been last used. The cost of the email list acquisition by FDL PAC represents a one-time startup cost, and the most equitable and legal way that the corporation could transfer to the PAC the ability to develop an email list with which to conduct its activities.
When we put the call out to work for progressive change, we were gratified by the support for all we have been trying to accomplish. Thank you for your partnership in the work we share, and we look forward to working with you in the fights that lie ahead.