Jun 9, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Democrats' Jan. 6 fundraising spree

Donkey holding $100 bill
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Democrats are leaning on this week's Jan. 6 committee hearings and the broader investigation into the Capitol attack to juice small-dollar donor enthusiasm, records show.

Why it matters: Thursday's hearing has set off debate in Washington about whether the probe will move votes for Democrats in November. The more apparent upside, though, is a boost to the the party's grassroots fundraising program.

  • A handful of top Democratic Party committees are invoking the investigation in their digital ads and fundraising appeals.
  • Hundreds of such appeals pegged to the investigation have gone out over the past month.

What's happening: Party committees such as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have peppered supporters with ads and emails about the hearing this week.

  • "Jan. 6 panel announces eight hearings to be held in June," declared one DSCC email subject line (the committee hasn't said how many it will hold). The message "polled" recipients about whether they'd watch, then directed them to a fundraising page.
  • The DCCC has used its organizing chair, Jan. 6 committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin, to fill out fundraising appeals, with emails and digital ads featuring the Maryland Democrat tying donation appeals to the investigation.
  • State-level committees such as the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State also blasted out fundraising emails this week tied to the Jan. 6 attack and investigation.

Outside groups are getting in on the action too.

  • American Bridge, a Democratic super PAC, has sent more than 70 fundraising emails mentioning Jan. 6 or the term "insurrection" over the past month, according to data compiled by the Defending Democracy Together Institute.
  • Smaller groups such as Blue Wave America and Defeat Republicans PAC are raising money from those sorts of emails as well.

What they're saying: VoteVets, a veteran-focused Democratic group that's plugged the investigation in its fundraising appeals, told Axios it's seen success from the tactic.

  • "Our base of progressive military veterans, families and their supporters click through our emails at an especially high rate when we’re promoting our work to hold insurrectionists accountable, and beat back disinformation, like the Big Lie," said Paul Eaton, a retired Army major general and a senior adviser to the group.
  • "[T]hey still take the rule of law, and our Constitution, incredibly seriously and realize we’re at a defining moment. We strongly believe that the majority of voters also realize this, which is why we’re not going to shy away from this issue in 2022.”

By the numbers: DDTI tallied more than 500 emails over the past month from Democratic campaigns, party committees and independent political spenders mentioning or referring to the January 6 attack or investigation.

  • While that data represents just one recipient's inbox, it shows how frequently the issue is appearing in Democratic fundraising appeals.

The big picture: A New York Times story this week analyzed Democratic efforts to turn Thursday's hearing to their political advantage by presenting their case that Donald Trump and his supporters effectively tried to usurp the constitutional order.

  • Conservative commentators have balked at the political utility.
  • "I know people for whom January 6th matters most," wrote radio host Erick Erickson on Tuesday. "They are in the minority, mostly within 100 miles of Washington, and mostly in the press or pundit class."

Yes, but: Even if that's the case, the hearings that begin Thursday don't need to move many votes to have political utility.

  • They're likely to energize the Democratic base — the voters most inclined to pony up to the party's campaigns and committees.
  • "The primary purpose of it is going to be fundraising for a lot of the Democratic Party institutions and establishments," said Murshed Zaheed, a veteran Democratic digital strategist.
  • "It's unclear how much of it to actually move the needle in holding Trump accountable," Zaheed said. But it will "give lots of content for the email programs."
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