Why Political Fundraising Matters

Money in Politics

If you’ve been involved in politics for any length of time (or frequently watch political news) then you’ve probably heard the following:

  • There’s too much money in politics
  • Campaign fundraising is dirty and slimy
  • People only give to candidates because they want something in return

I have been involved in political fundraising for a long time. I have worked with dozens of candidates and committees to raise money and win elections. And I am here to tell you, emphatically, that there’s nothing immoral or unethical about most political fundraising. Furthermore, despite what you’ve heard, what we need in politics is more money, not less. Hear me out…

The Reason People Get Involved in Politics

The vast majority of people I have met in politics have gotten into it for the right reasons. Whether you are talking about elected officials, candidates, campaign operatives, volunteers or donors, most of them got involved in the political process because they want to make a difference.

Very few people get into politics to get rich, powerful and famous. If they wanted to be rich, powerful and famous, they would have become actors. On the contrary, most people get into politics because they see an issue they care about and want to make a difference. Or because they care about their community and want to help it thrive.

Read the biographies of enough politicians, and you’ll find that most started out on a local township commission or school board somewhere, as an unknown candidate who believed in a cause.

The Reason People Donate to Candidates and Committees

Why does the average donor give to a political campaign or a committee like the RNC or DNC?   What compels hundreds of thousands of people to put $50 checks in a donor envelope or send $25 online to a political candidate? Why would a small businessperson donate $500 or $1,000 to a local political campaign?

People donate to political campaigns because they have issues and candidates they believe in.

If you honestly believe that all of these people are giving because they want some kind of payout or government contract in return, then you haven’t actually met enough donors.

As a political fundraiser, I have talked to thousands of donors during my career, and I can tell you that the majority of them want nothing in return for their donation other than elected officials who believe in the same principles that they do.

People donate to political campaigns and committees because they have issues they believe in, and want to elect people who will tackle those issues in the same way that the donor would.

Don’t Let the Bad Apples Taint the Whole Bushel

At this point, you may be thinking about some politician you saw on TV who took a bribe, or who handed out government favors in return for donations. Yes, there are bad actors out there. Just like any group of people, there are unethical politicians and unprincipled donors. But it is important not to let the bad apples taint the whole bushel.

Each year, millions of people around the world make political donations to hundreds of thousands of politicians and committees. And most of them do so for the right reasons. Likewise, each year hundreds of thousands of candidates run for office, and the majority of them do so for the right reason.

Just because there are bad actors out there doesn’t make political candidates or fundraisers smarmy, slimy, shady or unprincipled.

Political Fundraising is a Noble Thing

I believe that political fundraising is a noble profession, and that the act of donating to a political candidate or committee is an honorable thing. Think about it this way…

The greatest decisions of our time are made in the political arena. Whether at the local, county, state or national levels, every day huge decisions are being made by elected officials. If you believe in something, you need to get your message out. If you want to get elected to make a difference, you need to spend money to make sure people understand what is at stake. The only way to do these things is with money.

So, you gather a team of people who feel the same way you do. They make donations to help you get your message out to the public. You use those donations the way they are intended to be used, and try your hardest to win the election. One side wins, the other loses, but everyone has had their say. Why would this ever be a bad thing?

We Need More Money, Not Less in Politics

Did you know that in the United States, more money is spent each year to buy potato chips than is spent on political campaigns? That’s right… more people donate money to Herr’s and Lay’s to buy potato chips (crisps, for our readers across the pond) than to run and win elections.

Don’t get me wrong – I love a good bag of potato chips as much as the next person. But isn’t something immensely wrong when we spend more money on snack food than on elections, where the most important issues of our day are decided?

That’s why I think we need more money in politics, not less. Don’t let people tell you that political fundraising is a bad thing. Don’t let a few bad apples ruin the whole bunch. Politics is a noble profession. Political fundraising is a good thing. Now go out there and raise some money for a cause you believe in!

Photo Credit:  Philip Taylor


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2 comments… add one
  • Owen, thanks for your comments. As you might surmise, I disagree with you. You say you “get along fine,” but in reality, in the UK (as in the US), people are prohibited from spending their own hard earned money however they see fit, and when it comes to politics, many (including me) believe that violates the First Amendment to the US Constitution:


    Similarly, proponents of campaign spending and donation limits *assume* that they are working, when in reality they are not, and often have unintended side-effects (for example, one reason why there are no nationally-viable third parties in the United States is because of campaign finance limits, which prevent a small group of people from bankrolling an entire new party). See the following from Bradley Smith, former commissioner of the US Federal Election Commission:


    Thanks again for your thoughts!

    – Joe

  • Owen

    In the UK it’s illegal to spend a tenth as much per elector as US presidential campaigns do … we seem to get along fine.

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