The Democratic Party’s directive to establish a 130,000 donor quota to qualify presidential candidates for participation in the third primary debate is raising concerns among campaign officials.
Two-thirds of the 2020 Democratic field might not qualify to participate in the September debate due to the measure, The New York Times reported Thursday, citing officials from multiple campaigns. The threshold doubles the amount of donors needed to participate in the two preceding debates scheduled for June and July, which is set at 65,000 donors.
Several campaign officials said the party’s donor rules are “skewing the way they allocate resources,” according to The NYT. Campaign officials said the mandates are forcing them to choose to funnel money into increasingly expensive Facebook ads instead of investing in their staff. (RELATED: Biden, Sanders Dominate Democratic Primary Poll)
Four candidates publicly reported having 130,000 or more donors, including Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, with both Joe Biden and Beto O’Rourke likely at in the ball park of that mark, The NYT reported.
Digital campaign strategists said the measure could bring about “poor habits,” such as spamming supporters in a race to accrue countless small donors.
“Let the irresponsible email acquisition and direct-to-donate spending continue! Build national email lists while drowning out U.S. Senate and House campaigns!” Democratic digital strategist Ryan Alexander tweeted.
Betsy Hoover, another strategist, said candidates farther from the top will have to make a hard choice on where to spend their limited resources.
“For second- or third-tier candidates, they have to choose: They can either spend their money achieving these metrics, or invest in programs on the ground in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Very few are going to be able to do both,” she said.
Democratic 2020 candidate Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado critiqued the rules Wednesday at an event in New Hampshire.
“When you have people competing for donations by creating viral moments that have nothing to do with governing our country or ideas that will move us forward, I think that’s challenging for our democracy,” he said.
“I certainly don’t think the D.N.C. should be favoring national fund-raising and cable TV over decisions by voters in early states,” he continued.
Democratic Party officials said the measures are necessary, since a viable presidential candidate will require “hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of donors to win a general election,” according to The NYT.
DNC chairman Tom Perez is reportedly considering a lottery system to decide which order candidates will debate each other for the first debate set for June.