Mayday PAC is Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig's latest effort to stamp out corruption in politics. It's thesis is to use the power of the SuperPAC to fight the influence of SuperPACs in politics. It proposes to do this by raising substantial sums of small donations online from large numbers of grassroots supporters, to match these with very large donations from a handful of (as yet undisclosed) Concerned Zillionaires, and to use these funds to
hire professional campaigners who will craft interventions in targeted districts to make fundamental [campaign finance] reform the issue in that campaign — and to make the reform candidate the winner.
To say that Mayday's goal and strategy (interference by single-issue out-of-state money in local multi-issue elections) is controversial is to put it mildly. Many who view Mayday with concern (and I am one) feel that fighting fire with fire
is a great way to burn down a house, but not much else. We wonder why a local election in which so many issues hang in the balance...healthcare reform, income inequality, energy policy, reproductive rights, marriage equality, education, civil rights, corporate welfare, tax policy, and so much more...should be decided on just one issue (campaign finance reform) simply because one guy with a whole lot of wealthy friends feels that that's all that really matters right now.
Thus far, Mayday has been rather vague on the details. In my continuing coverage of the PAC (see these four previous diaries) I seek, in my own fumbling way, to help the organization get right with God, employing a dash of snark and a dollop of data. For the latest (and most interesting yet) data, meet me below the fold.
In compliance with federal election law and regulations, Mayday recently filed its first quarterly report with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), for the period through June 30th. Regrettably, the data in that filing are by now rather long in the tooth...addressing just its first $3.3 million in total receipts, and itemizing only $2.1 million in individual donations (whereas, as of today, Mayday's home page trumpets $7.7 million in "large and small" donations (we're not sure whether that includes Concerned Zillionaire matching funds). Note that, in living up to the letter of the law (and, thus far, not one byte more), Mayday's FEC filing excludes itemized donations from individuals whose total donations to the SuperPAC are less than $200 (i.e., quite possibly the vast majority of individual donations). Bear that in mind, below, as we make do as best we can with what we've got.
North Carolina stands out among the rest of these United States in that only it (as far as I'm aware) makes fairly detailed and personally identifiable voter registration data freely available online. This kind-of-creepy-but-extremely-useful resource, plus the itemized donation data regarding its NC donors that Mayday has supplied to the FEC, afford us a small (N equals just 32 donors) -- but nonetheless helpful -- window on the composition of Mayday's 'grassroots' base of support. Folding together the FEC data, the corresponding voter registration information, U.S. census data for North Carolina, and aggregate statistics from the NC Secretary of State regarding the state's registered voter population, here's how Mayday's North Carolina donors (of, remember, ≥ $200 in each individual's aggregate donations) compare with the state as a whole:
This sample of Mayday's donors is overwhelmingly male (outnumbering females two-to-one) and lily-white (96%, in a state that is 28% non-white). Republicans are notably under-represented (just 8%, in a state that is 31% Republican), with unaffiliated voters comprising a whopping 50% of our sample. Other (less interesting) stats not shown here include:
* 19% of donors are not registered to vote in NC (versus 14% of all eligible NC'ers)
* 13% are retired (versus 14% ≥ age 65 statewide)
* 3% self-describe as "unemployed" (versus NC's 6% unemployment rate)
* The average total donated per person was $608 (but remember, this average excludes all those unreported donations totaling less than $200 per individual).
If (and I emphasize 'if') this small sample is representative of Mayday's grassroots donors overall, the most interesting question that comes to my mind is this: what percentage of the five congressional candidates that Mayday plans to support this year will be Republicans? And conversely, what percentage of the five that Mayday plans to oppose will be Democrats? Will Republicans get a free ride, not paying into the PAC but enjoying outsized political benefits from its activities? If so, then with friends like Mayday PAC, who needs enemas?
Stay tuned (may I suggest you follow me in order to do so?).
P.S.: several states provide individual registered voter data for a hefty price, via offline means (usually snailmailed CD ROM flat files). I can't afford to go chasing these, but if any sympathetic readers happen to already have access to such data, let's talk.