This is a seriously bold move from Sen. Warren:
My presidential primary campaign will be run on the principle of equal access for anybody who joins it.
That means no fancy receptions or big money fundraisers only with people who can write the big checks. And when I thank the people giving to my campaign, it will not be based on the size of their donation. It means that wealthy donors won’t be able to purchase better seats or one-on-one time with me at our events. And it means I won’t be doing “call time,” which is when candidates take hours to call wealthy donors to ask for their support. As a candidate for president, the expectation is you make hours of these calls a week and attend dozens of these exclusive events every quarter.
I’m saying no to that. I am grateful for every donation we get — and we need every single one! — but what matters more, much more, is that everybody who supports my campaign is treated equally, regardless of how much they can afford to give. And doing things this way will give me hundreds and hundreds of hours of time back to spend with more voters, grassroots donors, and volunteers.
It’s been estimated that up to 70% of a congressional candidate’s time is spent with potential wealthy donors — trying to get them to give, or as a reward for doing so. It’s safe to assume that goes for presidential campaigns too, and presidential donors are disproportionately white, male, and wealthy. Look at the 2016 election: The electorate was more diverse than ever, and yet 91% of donors were white. Only three percent of Americans were millionaires, but 17% of donors were. The wealthy and well-connected have been taught by politicians to expect that more money buys more access — they’ve done it for generations, and it too often closes out women and communities of color. We have to do things differently.
No doubt about it, there will be a cost to our approach. In fact, making this decision will ensure that I will be outraised by other candidates in this race.
Everyone knows that money buys access, whatever else they might say. This is the first serious proposal that I’ve ever seen that gets to the problem at one of its roots. At this point, it doesn’t even matter if she eventually wins; if she demonstrates that it’s still possible to even come close to winning while running under these rules, it could create a new standard among Democratic candidates. And that would be HUGE.
Money, like water, will always find a new path of least resistance. If that doesn’t mean we stop building dams on our rivers, then there’s no reason to think it should stop us from making improvements here too.