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November 9, 2008 [LINK / comment]

Stupid fundraising tricks

If Dante had written The Inferno in today's world, I'm sure he would have designated a special place in hell for those who make a career out of raising funds for political campaigns. We are all familiar with the barrages of colorful mail solicitations screaming that the world will come to an end in January if you don't send in your money right away. Blistering, strident, simplistic political buzz words to get your blood boiling and your wallet opening!! Or what about those "surveys" in which the candidate or party pretends to care what you think about, in hopes that you will send them some of your hard-earned dollars. What kind of fools respond to those dumb appeals, anyway? With all the modern computer technology at their disposal these days, why don't political campaigns target their campaign mailings according to some kind of demographic criteria?

This year, the appeals for campaign donations have blazed new frontiers of tackiness, breaking ethical standards left and right. Somebody figured out that the best way to get the recipient's attention is to send the appeal by U.S. Postal Service Certified Mail, as though the envelope contained an absentee ballot or some other sort of legal document. (It says "Certified Election Material," so it must be important, right?) A normal-size Certified Mail letter costs $3.12 to send, forcing the recipient to sign for the letter. If he or she is not home when the mailman rings the doorbell, however, then it's down to the local post office to get the letter. How insulting and aggravating! I know that Elizabeth Dole's campaign resorted to that attention-grabbing trick, and I wonder if it cost her more votes that it won?

But the grand prize for the sleaziest mail fundraising campaign of all goes to the "National Campaign Fund," which is headquartered in Washington, D.C. The "National Chairman" is Floyd Brown, but apparently it's just Floyd and his buddy Jim Lacy, and maybe a secretary or two. They used the big yellow envelope trick, the Certified Mail trick, and an extreme example of the old nickel-in-the-envelope-window trick often used by legitimate charities: he sent a big envelope with two dollar bills, a nickel, and three pennies which were visible through the cellophane window. The accompanying letter tried but failed to explain the significance of that particular amount, $2.08. (Maybe it referred to the year 2008 but with a missing zero.) The return envelope says "John McCain for President" in the upper left corner, and it looks pretty official. In the fine print at the bottom of the letter, however, is the following disclaimer:

Paid for by the National Campaign Fund Political Action Committee, and not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

In other words, that "organization" evidently has no connection whatsoever to John McCain or the Republican Party. I'm sure it never even occurred to many of the easily-duped senior citizen Republicans who sent in their money that it was not going to the McCain campaign at all. What a pity... Floyd's Web site automatically redirects to, which is nothing more than a bunch of blog posts dated September 29, September 30, October 4, and October 16. (Hell, I could have done that in an afternoon...) If they really wanted to "help John McCain," of course, they would have automatically redirected their Web traffic to Just to be safe and avoid criminal fraud charges, they did include a link to the official McCain Web site.

Because of Barack Obama's smashing success at online fundraising, there probably won't be much interest in reforming such bogus fundraising practices for the next couple years. What's the moral of our story? Caveat donor!

Posted (or last updated or commented upon): 09 Nov 2008, 11: 10 PM

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