Campaign Reform Could Boost E-Mail

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Campaign finance reform is expected to result in more candidate dollars being spent on direct marketing and, as a result, also could give e-mail marketing a boost.


President Bush on March 27 signed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, or H.R. 2356, which after the fall elections will outlaw unlimited "soft money" donations, or those to a party from businesses, unions and others for party-building activities.


The measure also will double the amount individuals can give per election in "hard money" donations to individual House of Representative or Senate candidates to $2,000.


This means direct response drives for small-dollar, hard-money donations will become more important.


And though the donor universe is still small, e-mail is emerging as an effective fundraising vehicle, said William Greene, president of Strategic Internet Campaign Management Inc., Atlanta, a recently launched conservative fundraiser.


"We expect to see more e-mail activity" as a result of finance reform, Greene said.


The universe of conservative e-mail addresses -- available from, for example, ConservativeHQ.com, NewsMax and WorldNetDaily.com -- is between 600,000 and 1 million, he said.


New York e-mail list development and management firm NetCreations claims 190,000 self-identified Democrats, 200,000 Republicans, 15,000 independents and 550,000 interested in government and politics.


Given the comparatively small numbers, selecting known donors, as is commonly done offline, results in lists that are too small.


"However, because the cost of e-mail is so low, the return [on blasts to every known conservative] is relatively high," Greene said.


Mailings to conservative e-mail lists generally garner a 2 percent response rate and an average donation of $30 to $40, slightly higher than that of direct mail, Greene said.


"I think it's because people use credit cards online, [making it easier to impulse donate a larger amount]," he said.


Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee is crediting recent improvements in its use of technology for its small-dollar direct response program having achieved a record fundraising quarter for the first three months of 2002.


DNC chairman Terence McAuliffe sent a memo recently claiming that the program raised just over $8 million through 235,706 donations from 205,514 people. The average gift was $34. The program also garnered 34,636 first-time donors in the quarter, the memo said.


Overall fundraising for the first quarter of 2002 will be $26 million, it said.


"This past year we made great strides in narrowing the technology gap that existed between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party," the memo said.


Republican fundraisers long have claimed to be better at small-dollar direct response than Democrats.


"For 40 years conservatives have worked to develop the trained professionals, the techniques and the lists to significantly outraise the left in political contributions (hard dollars)," conservative direct marketer Richard A. Viguerie said in a column on his Web site, ConservativeHQ.com, published before H.R. 2356 was signed. "If McCain-Feingold becomes law, an instant advantage goes to Republicans -- especially conservative Republicans."


However, the DNC claims to have nearly 1 million e-mail addresses, up from 70,000 last year. The committee recently added a "tell a friend" feature to its Web site, allowing people to give six of their friends' e-mail addresses.


The DNC also claims its active direct mail donor base will reach 1 million in 2002, up from 400,000 a year ago.


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