With nearly $30 million each in contributions since January, some new special-interest groups like HRC Rising and Everytown for Gun Safety have joined established liberal activists to start backing Democratic candidates for Congress early with the ambitious goal of flipping the House next year.
“Established organizations like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood are giving way to younger ones,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a research group that tracks campaign money and lobbying spending in elections and public policy, Shirley Krumholz.
“I am not surprised that there is such early energy in providing funding by special-interest groups. Financial support carries a lot of weight in defeating the current administration.”
Everytown for Gun Safety says it plans to invest $25 million for current Democratic congressmen and new candidates who will block gun-accessibility laws and propose legislation to enforce background checks for all gun sales.
“We’re going to spend what it takes to elect more gun-sense champions,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, in a statement.
“This includes launching a new Federal PAC (Everytown for Gun Safety Fund) and holding members of Congress accountable if they choose to support the gun lobby’s dangerous agenda to enact ‘Concealed Carry Reciprocity’ legislation and proposals to profit gun manufacturers by making it easy for anyone to buy gun silencers,” Feinblatt said.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., allows individuals who have a federal permit to own or carry a firearm to carry a concealed handgun into all states that allow concealed firearms, regardless of where the gun is registered.
HRC Rising—a grassroots political action committee of the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for LGTBQ equality— was launched on June 11 with an allocated $26 million to help Democrats win back control of the House.
But more seasoned left-leaning advocacy groups aren’t sitting on the sidelines.
EMILY’s List, whose goal is getting pro-choice Democratic women elected, has committed at least $6 million to state and local races so far in the two-year cycle that began Jan. 1. In 2016, it contributed $3 million of the total $90 million it raised.
Since Election Day, the group has seen an influx of women — about 16,000, according to a spokeswoman — express interest in running for office with EMILY’s List’s help. That’s in contrast to the 920 women who reached out to the organization for help during the the 2016 election cycle.
“In addition to aggressively recruiting candidates for dozens of House districts, we’ve also doubled the budget and tripled the size of our team dedicated to electing women to state and local office,” EMILY’s List spokeswoman Alexandra De Luca said. She said women’s increased interest in running for office is a direct response to President Donald Trump’s victory.
The American Civil Liberties Union also has had a hike in donations since Trump’s inauguration. The group received $47 million from about 356,000 donors. It attributes the influx to its public opposition to the Trump’ travel ban, which barred immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the U.S.
The ACLU, rather than backing specific candidates, is committed to securing equal voting rights for voters in states where Democrats have a chance to take away Republican-held House or Senate seats.
To get a Democratic majority, the ACLU will hire 200 staff members, primarily lawyers, to be a “leader in the opposition to Mr. Trump’s agenda,” said Executive Director Anthony Romero.
In addition to “honing legal theories” to block Trump administration plans, many of the new legal staff will go to states along the Mexican border and reach out to Muslim communities across America as an extension of ACLU efforts to fight for voters who face barriers to casting ballots.
Planned Parenthood has to take a different approach – both lobbying to keep its $555 million in federal funds and fundraising to advocate for reproductive rights.. Executive Director Dawn Laguens said Planned Parenthood’s clinics that provide health services to women cost to much to rely on donations to keep them going.
“There is no way Planned Parenthood could fundraise to be the public health safety net in this country for low-income women,” said Ms. Dawn Laguens, executive director.
However, fundraising efforts earlier this year by former first daughter Barbara Bush at the Texas branch of Planned Parenthood matched with Samantha Bee’s $1 million in revenue from the sale of “Nasty Woman” T-shirt sales have given the group ammunition to pay for its advocacy efforts, which include getting a Congress that will support funding for its clinics in the U.S. and around the world.
But Krumholtz of the Center for Responsive Politics warns these groups that “there is a lesson that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and former Democratic candidate for special election in Georgia’s 6th congressional district Jon Ossoff can attest to: money isn’t everything.”
Political analysts have said Democratic losses in congressional special elections this year – in Georgia, Kansas, Montana and South Carolina – bear out Krumholz’s warning. Despite millions of dollars spent on behalf of those Democratic candidates, there was not a Democratic win.