Sen. Graham Seeks Review of ActBlue’s Source of Small-Dollar Donations

October 22, 2020 Updated: October 22, 2020

After the online Democratic platform ActBlue helped raise a record-breaking number of small-dollar donations for some Democratic candidates, Republicans such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are calling for lawmakers to review the sources of the money.

Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, recently questioned ActBlue’s source of small-dollar contributions after witnessing record-breaking donation dollars flood his state of South Carolina, where he is running for reelection against Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison.

Harrison greatly outraised Graham in the third quarter of 2020, setting a new record for any senator by collecting more than $57 million. Graham collected $28 million during the same period.

“Where’s all this money coming from ActBlue coming from? How easy would it be to just have a bunch of prepaid credit cards?” Graham said in an interview with The Hill.

ActBlue, a nonprofit founded in 2004, provides an online fundraising platform for Democratic candidates at all levels of government, progressive organizations, and nonprofits.

“Some of these shadowy figures out there running ads, is there any foreign influence afoot?”

“Where is all this money coming from? You don’t have to report it if it’s below $200,” he said. “When this election is over with, I hope there will be a sitting down and finding out, ‘OK, how do we control this?’ It just seems to be an endless spiral.”

Graham was referring to the Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) rule, which doesn’t require the platform to disclose donation amounts $200 or under. Fox News reported in September that the Take Back Action Fund, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate people on conservative solutions for political reform, found that nearly half of the 2019 donations to ActBlue were made by people who were “unemployed.”

Action Fund President John Pudner told Fox News that the FEC rule for small-dollar donations should be reformed.

“It is hard to believe that at a time when the U.S. unemployment rate was less than 4 percent, that unemployed people had $346 million dollars to send to ActBlue for liberal causes,” Pudner said, adding that “4.7 million donations from people without a job … raised serious concerns.”

“My understanding is that any donation under $200 they don’t even have to identify the donor so obviously there’s a lot of opportunity for mischief,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who is also facing tough competition in his state from Democratic challenger M.J. Hegar, who raised $14 million in the third quarter—almost double of Cornyn’s $7.2 million.

According to OpenSecrets.org, the top three fundraisers in the Senate between 2019 and 2020 were Democratic challengers looking to unseat Republican senators in the upcoming election. Harrison raised more than $85 million, followed by Democratic challenger Amy McGrath, who raised $82 million running against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Democrat Mark Kelly, who raised about $82 million running against Republican Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.).

ActBlue said the platform set a new record for donations during the third quarter of 2020, seeing a total of $1.5 billion come in.

The fundraising organization said the three biggest days for small-dollar donations came in September, including the donation of more than $70 million after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, more than $66 million raised at the end of the third quarter on Sept. 30, and more than $43 million raised on the day of the first presidential debate.

ActBlue has reported that their donations have multiplied significantly since the last election cycle, going from about $3 million in the third quarter of 2016 to $31 million in the third quarter of 2020.

The organization attributes the increase in donations to the historic events taking place including the death of Ginsburg and the upcoming presidential election.