My guest today is Laura Weisel, co-chair of Force Multiplier. Welcome to OpEdNews, Laura.
Joan: I'm willing to bet that most of our readers have not yet heard of Force Multiplier. Can you get started bringing us up to speed?
Laura: Hi, Joan. Thanks for inviting me to talk to your readers. I'm the Co-Chair of Force Multiplier (forcemultiplierus.org) an all-volunteer, self-funded, unincorporated group that believes that we must retain a Democratic Congressional majority to protect our democracy and make progress on issues like reproductive rights, climate action, gun safety, voting rights, immigration rights and social/economic justice. We have raised $12.5M from over 10,000 donors since we started in 2017.
Joan: How do you go about doing what you do, Laura?
Laura: We do extensive research to identify US House and Senate candidates that have a fairly good chance of winning and need our financial support. Typically these races are rated "toss up" by Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball. Once we identify a pool of candidates, then we look at their fundraising, the voting history of their district/state, and any other data that will help us target the races that must be won if we're going to keep Congress blue.
We also support voter empowerment groups in Senate battleground states that are helping to ensure that people can and do vote. We've partnered with America Votes and with the Rural Democracy Initiative to identify grassroots, peer-to-peer groups that work year round to become trusted partners in their communities. These groups have helped their neighbors access social services, provided interpretation services, hosted food banks and COVID testing centers. They educate their communities about the importance of voting, help folks register to vote and then during election season, they help their neighbors navigate voting rules and processes.
Joan: How do you put your strategy to work?
Laura: Force Multiplier raises money for our endorsed candidates and voter empowerment groups by hosting them and their celebrity surrogates at Zoom fundraising events. We use ActBlue to convey contributions from donors directly to campaigns and groups. Force Multiplier never touches the money. In fact, we don't have a bank account!
Over the years we've hosted Stacey Abrams, Jamie Raskin, Adam Schiff, Bill McKibben as well as Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock, Mark Kelly, and dozens of House candidates.
Joan: That's impressive. How did you become involved in the first place?
Laura: I joined Force Multiplier when it was just a few months old. I was about to retire from Harvard Medical School, and was looking for an organization that would satisfy my need to "do something" in reaction to Donald Trump's 2016 election. What I found in Force Multiplier was a small bunch of talented, committed activists who shared my fear for the future of our democracy. We're a bunch of retired, or near retired Boomers who among us have hundreds of years of experience managing complex organizations, solving knotty problems, and providing clinical, legal and marketing advice to patients, clients and not-for-profits.
Joan: Those are definitely handy skills to have. Can you give an example or two from past elections in which Force Multiplier was a player? Show us what a small, 100% volunteer organization in business for just a few years has already accomplished.
Laura: We're a political and pro-democracy fundraising organization. We're identifying federal candidates who have a chance of winning and need our financial support. Typically they are rated "toss up" by Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball, though occasionally we'll support a campaign that is rated "lean R" or "lean D". Consequently, the odds that the candidate will win are approximately 50/50. After the election, we look at the vote in each campaign. Was the vote close? How many seats did we win? Of those we lost, how close was the race? We don't expect to win every race we endorse, because no matter how much money we raise, we're still a small portion of the total campaign budget. And of course, there are so many other factors that impact the outcome of a race. In 2018, we supported 15 House challengers and 13 won. That was the 2018 Blue Wave midterm elections. But in 2020, when Democrats weren't knocking on doors, and Republicans were, we were able to hold the House and flip the Senate, but it was very very very close.
Though fundraising is merely a means to an end, we are proud of our fundraising success. In 2018, when all of our fundraising events were in-person, we raised $680k from 1200 people for those 15 House challengers. In 2020, taking advantage of Zoom and the anti-Turmp mood, we raised $6.3M. Our mailing list topped out at 12,000 people from all 50 states. As happens after every election cycle, our mailing list dropped to 7000. We're over 10,000 now. Since many donors only become active after Labor Day in the election year, we expect to come close to raising as much in this midterm cycle as we did in the 2020 presidential election cycle. Another measure of success might be the "stickiness" of our donors and our volunteers. While we've grown fast, we've also retained virtually all of our donors and our active volunteers.
Laura: Here's another way to describe our success, as articulated by my Force Multiplier colleague, Ed Loechler: Let me emphasize that FM's goal is NOT to pick winners. That would actually be easy. Our goal is to choose THE MOST competitive toss-up races"the ones that will decide who controls the balance of power in Washington. And that means we have succeeded when we have chosen close competitive races. So, of the races FM supported - 15 in 2018 and 22 in 2020 - about half (19) were decided by less than 4%--meaning they were very competitive. Of FM choices, another 8 races were decided by (4-6%).
Thus, approximately 75% of races supported by FM were close or very close. But of those, how many turned out to be winners? 25-of-37, which is really very good!
Joan: This all sounds wonderful. And it makes so much sense. But it's already late September, Laura! Early voting will start soon and Election Day is not far behind. Isn't it simply too late to jump in? Could an interested citizen still bring him/herself up to speed quickly and get involved? How?
Laura: It's not too late to get up to speed on the state of the 2022 House and Senate races. Our website provides a lot of information. You can also go to the Cook Political Report, Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball and 538 for more information. The time to get involved is NOW. Campaigns need our financial support in these last weeks of the campaign. Most voters are just beginning to pay attention to the races and making their decisions about who to support. Our endorsed candidates will use financial resources to get their message to voters; they'll buy air time on tv, radio, digital and streaming. They print and mail flyers to households that might vote Democratic. And they'll spend on traditional campaign material like lawn signs and bumper stickers.
Joan: Thanks so much for talking with me, Laura. Force Multiplier is an exciting grassroots organization that really resonates with me. I'm betting that will be true for our readers as well.
Their motto is "Do Something" and I think that says it all.