Jan 9, 2020

Australia's wildfires elicit massive donations

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Australian wildfires have elicited massive charitable donations: $33 million crowdsourced from Celeste Barber via Facebook; $1 million from actor Chris Hemsworth; $700,000 from a bikini model sending nudes on Twitter.

But, but, but: Most of the money is ending up in the coffers of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) — part of the state government — and which last year saw donations of less than $1 million.

  • There is no evidence that the RFS is cash-constrained. Its income comfortably exceeded its expenses last year, and it has not made any pleas for donations this year. In fact, it has said that giving away the money will be a "challenge."

Between the lines: The human urge to donate money in the wake of a disaster — to feel that you're doing something — can be incredibly strong.

Why it matters: Firefighting is a central part of what governments should provide, and to that end the RFS receives hundreds of millions of dollars from the government every year. The RFS is staffed by volunteers, but it is not primarily a charity.

Our thought bubble: Part of the challenge facing the RFS is going to be to spend these funds on things it doesn't need, perhaps just by passing the money on to victims of the fire. All necessities should be covered by standard government funding mechanisms.

Go deeper: Australia's deadly fires: What you need to know

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The 2020 Democratic candidates winning the money game

Data: 2019 FEC filings. Donations do not include funds from political committees or the candidates themselves. Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

In a primary race stacked with billionaires, the candidates raising the most money don't necessarily have all the same advantages.

Between the lines: Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer are easily able to outspend and outlast any other 2020 campaign. But while fundraising numbers show how powerful and long-lasting a campaign could be in a long election cycle, they are also a sign of support and excitement around a candidate — something money can't always buy.

Warren becomes fastest first-time presidential candidate to hit 3 million donations

Photo: Sarah Rice/Getty Images

Elizabeth Warren reached 3 million donations faster than any other first-time presidential candidate, per a person familiar with the campaign's fundraising.

Why it matters: She reached this milestone today — about one week before Sen. Bernie Sanders did the same in 2016. While donations come from all over the country, the last-minute surge before the Iowa caucuses suggests growing momentum for Warren before the first nominating contests of 2020.

Go deeperArrowJan 23, 2020

Australia fires: 3 U.S. firefighters killed in NSW air tanker crash

People embrace at Numeralla Rural Fire Brigade near the scene of a water tanker plane crash near Cooma in southern New South Wales, Australia, on Thursday. Photo: Mark Evans/Getty Images

Three U.S. firefighters have died after a New South Wales Rural Fire Service air tanker crashed while fighting bushfires in the Australian state's Snowy Mountains, authorities confirmed at a news conference Thursday.

Details: NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the Lockheed C-130 Hercules, operated by the Canadian company Coulson Aviation, crashed near Cooma in the southern part of the state. NSW RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said, "Initial reports are there was a large fireball associated with the impact of the plane as it hit the ground."

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jan 23, 2020