Democratic Candidates Solicit Donations To Qualify For Debates They’re Already Invited To

REUTERS/Max Whittaker

David Benkof Contributor
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Despite having qualified for the Democratic presidential debates weeks ago, three candidates are deceiving visitors to their websites with fundraising pitches falsely claiming additional donors are necessary for a debate invitation.

The campaign websites of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Congressman John Delaney (D-Md.), and Congressman Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) all urgently solicit donations using access to the debate stage as the carrot.

Tim Ryan’s front screen shouts “GET TIM ON THE STAGE,” asking voters to “join the drive to 65,000 grassroots supporters to get on the first Democratic debate stage. Donate $1 or more now!”

The Inslee campaign’s dishonest pitch appears at the very top of his site:

“Jay needs your support to get on the debate stage,” it reads. “Jay needs 65,000 donors to step up right now to make sure he gets on the stage at the Democratic debates in June. The debates are our next best shot to put climate change front and center for 2020. Join our climate movement. Chip in now.”

And John Delaney’s front-screen “Contribute” button links to a page called “The Delaney Debate Challenge” which promises to donate two dollars to charities like Planned Parenthood and the ASPCA for every new donor who contributes to the campaign, saying “Help me get on the debate stage!”

Yet all three candidates have already qualified.

Under rules set by the Democratic National Committee (DNC), a candidate must either receive donations from 65,000 people (including 200 donors apiece in 20 states) or has to register 1 percent in three pre-approved polls. (RELATED: Here Are The 2020 Dems That Have Qualified For The First Presidential Debate)

Inslee has met the second hurdle in four polls, and Delaney and Ryan in three each.

Comments on Inslee’s Facebook pitch show that some voters who don’t plan to vote for the candidate are being bamboozled into donating because they want him and his climate-change agenda included in the debates.

For example: “I’m in for ten bucks. Inslee is not my first choice for President, but I absolutely want him and his climate change focus on the debate stage,” wrote Kate Miller. And Robert R Fiske said he donated because he believes “it’s necessary to get serious pro-climate candidates onto the debate stage, and Inslee IS one of those.”

The Ryan campaign was the only one to respond to inquiries by press time. Campaign spokesman Mike Morley told The Daily Caller it’s unclear to him what will happen if more than 20 candidates qualify for the debates, and he plans to ask the DNC that very question in a meeting Thursday. Anticipating that the DNC may disqualify any candidate who hasn’t met both requirements, the Ryan campaign will continue the debate-oriented fundraising pitch until they had 65,000 donors, Morley said.

The prospect of 21 qualified candidates seems unlikely. There are only 20 declared candidates in the crowded field (three of whom have not yet fulfilled either requirement). Others may, of course, join the race.

In addition to the Inslee and Delaney campaigns, the Democratic National Committee failed to respond by press time when asked for comment, as did the non-profit technology company ActBlue, which handles the technical side of all three campaigns’ fundraising.

Like most Democratic candidates, Delaney, Inslee, and Ryan have all repeatedly attacked President Trump over the issue of honesty.

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