Politics

Is The New Republican Fundraising Platform Just Lipstick On A Pig?

Photo credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Saurabh Sharma Contributor

WinRed is the platform being cited as the future of small dollar fundraising on the right, but an investigation by The Daily Caller has revealed that there is little new technology at the core of this service.

The fundraising platform, which was announced last week by President Donald Trump on Twitter and via a press release on WinRed’s website, is essentially a re-skinned version of a pre-existing platform called Revv, which was already in use by various Republican committees and the Trump campaign prior to WinRed’s announcement.

Revv is based on the Silicon Valley payment processor Stripe, which the Daily Caller has previously reported has a checkered history with political censorship. Revv was founded in 2014 by Gerrit Lansing in between his role as digital director of the National Republican Congressional Committee and the digital director of the Republican National Committee. (RELATED: GOP Chooses Silicon Valley Censors To Power Major Fundraising Tool)

While the service was still in its infancy, Lansing started his role at the RNC, and quickly gained clients from his role atop the Republican digital operation. Lansing received a payout of nearly $1 million from Revv the year after he joined the RNC. He is now the CEO of WinRed.

The service went on to be used by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, a fact that gained it prominence within the field of other payment processers, including some much larger and more widely used than it, like non-partisan processor Anedot.

Trump 2020 re-election campaign manager Brad Parscale boards Air Force One to travel to West Virginia with the U.S. President Donald Trump at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S. August 21, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Trump 2020 re-election campaign manager Brad Parscale boards Air Force One to travel to West Virginia with the U.S. President Donald Trump at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S. August 21, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

What the rebranded Revv software, now called WinRed, has added is the legal layer of what is known as a conduit PAC, something WinRed’s website claims will allow it to do what are known as tandem donations, where a donor can donate $100 and have it split up by the processor among multiple candidates of their choosing.

This structure is inspired by ActBlue, the fundraising giant on the left that has powered many Democratic campaigns for nearly a decade, culminating in a whopping $700 million in donations processed last election cycle.

But ActBlue’s structure is a product of the time it was founded, the early 2000’s, when the only way the Federal Elections Commission and the technological limitations of the time would have allowed tandem donations was via a conduit PAC. Now, there are other ways, as evidenced by competitors to WinRed being able to offer tandem donations without a conduit PAC.

Choosing a structure is important because it determines compliance costs and maintaining a federal election committee is expensive business. In the 2018 midterm election cycle alone ActBlue spent over $17 million on compliance costs associated with having a conduit PAC. One oddly archaic component of this cost is the need to physically send a check from the conduit PAC to candidates.

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD – FEBRUARY 28: Ronna McDaniel, Chair of the Republican National Committee speaks during a session at CPAC 2019 on February 28, 2019 in National Harbor, Md. (Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

In a quote to Politico about WinRed, Chairman of the Republican National Committee Ronna McDaniel said that with the platform Trump is “offering a tremendous hand to other Republican candidates,” because of the ostensible help that down ballot candidates would have in fundraising by having a unified platform with Trump. How this arrangement would work is yet unclear, since WinRed’s FAQ says that “nobody can get any donor data from Data Trust at any time for any reason. This includes the RNC, Donald Trump Campaign, etc.” Data Trust is the entity that will house all data collected from WinRed.

It appears that the NRC and NRCC are having trouble selling campaigns on the benefits of WinRed. In documents obtained by Tom LeBianco, the NRCC is offering 30% off of congressmen’s “dues,” the fundraising minimums for NRCC they are required to hit for each election cycle.

Since WinRed’s launch a major challenger has emerged in Give.GOP, which promises minimal transaction fees for its users and is built on the Anedot donation platform, which is currently the most used platform by Republican campaigns.