Jefferson Smith's Campaign Lands with a Splash

Evan Manvel

Jefferson Smith's Campaign Lands with a Splash

Jefferson has a corneal abrasion, but is working hard

Rep. Jefferson Smith’s mayoral campaign has landed with a splash.

In his first week, Jefferson has raised over $31,000 from 210 donors – all in checks of one thousand dollars or less. While the first contributions are the easiest to raise, it’s an impressive haul for a single week in both dollar amount and numbers of donors.

The many small checks talking point may become a theme of Jefferson’s campaign, as he works to contrast himself to the other candidates. Last week the Willamette Week published an interesting breakdown of Brady and Hales’ financing, highlighting large checks. At the time of last week's reporting – still very early in this long race – Brady had raised $177,000 and Hales $155,000 (reportedly Brady is around 500 total donors, and Hales over 200). The Willamette Week notes:

In this race, it’s the really big checks—far bigger than federal campaign spending limits would allow—that have fueled [Brady and Hales’] campaigns.

Jefferson has set a goal to raise his first $50,000 in checks of $1,000 or less. He’s also set some ground rules: no money from out-of-state corporations or out-of-state groups. For political insiders, this is a reminder of Charlie Hales’ connections to and support from companies across the nation, and Eileen Brady’s support from the national group EMILY’s List. I haven’t seen polling on it, but undoubtedly voters prefer local support.

Jefferson’s campaign also says it has lined up 200 volunteers and received 700 new Facebook fans. While he inherits Facebook supporters from his legislative campaigns, Smith’s 1500 fans put him significantly ahead of the other candidates (Hales has just over 400, Brady nearly 1000). If his first week is any indication, the social media battle will be won by Jefferson’s supporters.

It’s not surprising Jefferson is long on supporters, given his background in community organizing. As founder of the Bus Project, Jefferson has long preached about the importance of person-to-person grassroots work in winning elections, and poured countless hours of work into it. Now he’s translated that into his mayoral campaign.

On Wednesday October 5, the three major candidates will appear together for the first time at the VOIS Champions of Change event. VOIS - the Voice for Oregon Innovation and Sustainability - bills itself as Oregon's Chamber of Change, "committed to using the power of business to accelerate change for a healthy, prosperous future." I, for one, am eager to see how the candidates differentiate themselves at that event, and in events to come.

Buckle your seat belts, Portlanders. This is going to be one heck of a ride.

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    Evan, just using the numbers you put out there, Eileen Brady's largest contributions are two $10,000 contributions, but her average contribution is more like $354. It's hard to thus distinguish Jefferson Smith by saying that he's trying to keep donations under $1,000.

    What's even more interesting, I think, is that WWeek was pitching the "look at this shaping up to be a big money race," while your conclusion/pitch is that it's not. Don't you think that in reality, this campaign will be about both connecting with as many people as possible (like always) and having enough money to make one's voice heard (like always)?

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      I think the difference is that Jefferson is deliberately and intentionally trying to run a campaign that is about more grassroots supporters and fewer big checks.

      Of course some of his supporters will want to write checks bigger than $1,000, or will give more than $1,000 over a period of months, but it's way quicker and easier to raise buckets of money by tapping a few affluent supporters than by going to the grassroots, and I think it speaks well of Jefferson that he is doing so. Full disclosure: I have already contributed to Jefferson and I support him.

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        No, if he wants to position himself as the Tom Potter of 2012, he'd have to limit gifts to $100, not $1000. In fact, in the debate over Portland's Voter Funded Elections, I believe that Common Cause argued that a $1,000 was a reflection of a candidate being dependent upon wealthy contributors.

        As for social media, I'm pretty confident that the number of FB friends is almost entirely irrelevant to who might win this election. Presumably the question is how Jefferson Smith's numbers do in all categories, once Bus Project volunteers have all made their choice(s).

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          I don't remember anyone drawing any comparisons between Jefferson Smith and Tom Potter, Jonathan. That straw man came from you.

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            OK, Stephanie. Tell me what race before that race EVER included any sort of "I limit the amount of contributions from any donor?" I don't think Jefferson Smith is trying to be Tom Potter (I believe former Mayor Potter has endorsed Eileen Brady, incidentally), but that he appears to be trying to pick up that strategy; or at least, Evan is suggesting it.

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      I'm not ready to pass judgement on who's more grassroots. I think we've got eight months of campaigns and financials ahead of us to rule on that one.

      Nor am I thinking this won't become a big money race. I agree with the Willamette Week that this has been driven by big checks up to now.

      I'm not ready to draw many conclusions; the only conclusion I drew above is that Jefferson's doing really well in social media, as well as in number of donors and amount raised in his first week.

      Thus far, Jefferson's average donation seems about $147, which is about 42% of what Eileen's is. I think it's pretty easy to distinguish the difference, and which number feels more reasonable to the average voter. But I also think I'm playing with incomplete numbers, as we've really just started the campaigns.

      I imagine Brady's average will go down in the future, as she gets more small donors through house parties and the like. Similarly, Hales has just begun to do the sort of small donor work that brings down averages. Jefferson's average could go either way - up, once he accepts larger checks, or down, as he reaches beyond his core.

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        I continue to disagree with your decision to define grassroots support entirely in financial terms. Jefferson Smith may have done well in his first week, but he has benefited from the attention Eileen Brady and Charlie Hales have brought to mayoral race. Both Brady and Hales had to work hard to build their own momentum. They started their fundraising in the summer, a time where very few people pay attention to politics. Certainly not for a primary race that won't happen until the following Spring.

        Lastly, I think it is disingenuous for you to determine what average contribution size equals grassroots support. If Jefferson Smith has defined his own fundraising goal based on contributions of $1,000 or less, shouldn't that be the basis you should be using for comparison?

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          Again, I'm not ready to pass judgement on who's more grassroots. I agree with you that the campaign work, phone calls, door knocking, etc. as well as the fundraising will show us over the next eight to 14 months who's more grassroots.

          I mention more than just the fundraising numbers in the article. Admittedly I didn't quote numbers of volunteers from all the campaigns, as that's apples-to-elephants comparison, because volunteering can mean so many different levels of support and you have a self-reporting problem.

          As far as what to compare right now if you wanted to, people could either compare the top donation amount (Jefferson's 10% of Eileen's) or the average donation right now (as I did above). Blurring the top donation with the average is not appropriate, but both would figure into most people's considerations.

          People can draw their own conclusions based on the numbers - I don't think I drew conclusions above based on them.

          In the end, I think we'll see lots of grassroots support for all the candidates.

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    Looks like Jefferson Smith will have some more questions to answer about Bus Project Financing, according to BoJack - himself a longtime tax law professor.

    Nice to see someone is following the money while WWeek continues to shill for Rep. Smith.

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    And today, there are more questions about Jefferson Smith and the Bus Project, which he will have to account for.

    For a candidate tauting full transparency for city government, perhaps it's time Mr. Smith gives a full accounting of the money flow between his multiple Bus Projects.

    He had no problem providing glib answers to questions about his voting record and his driving record. Let's see how or if he answers the growing concern over the Bus Flow money flow.

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    I understand that politicos like to focus on minutia of elections. I don't really care whether someone's contributions average $50 or $250. We need a strong mayor for this wonderful city, and I am looking for discussion about who has the record and abilities to lead the city.I don't believe there is a dime's worth of difference among the candidates in terms of issues- this race is going to be about personal qualifications. there is much meat here- set's get serious.

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