1948: Campaign Fundraising Emails

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Campaign Fundraising Emails
The establishment doesn't take us seriously. You know who else they didn't take seriously? Hitler. I'll be like him, but a GOOD guy instead of…
Title text: The establishment doesn't take us seriously. You know who else they didn't take seriously? Hitler. I'll be like him, but a GOOD guy instead of…

[edit] Explanation

Many politicians and organizations in the United States have taken to using email to conduct aggressive fundraising drives seeking campaign contributions. Signing a petition or expressing interest in a cause can lead to being added to a myriad of mailing lists for similar groups, all looking for support. This comic shows a caricature of the kind of inbox that can result from this. The emails get more and more absurd as the list goes on. For example, the last one combines a request for campaign contributions with the infamous 'Nigerian prince' advance-fee scam phishing scheme.

[edit] The emails

E-mail Body Explanation
Donate now. It's crunch time, and we're low on cash. If you chip in just $5 by midnight, we… This is the classic formula for campaign fundraising emails, and may be a real example. It is always "crunch time" during a campaign (at least between filing for candidacy and election day), and campaigns are always "low" on cash relative to the unlimited funding they would prefer. The ends of financial reporting periods, often at midnight, are conflated with "deadlines" of significant consequence. Further, the donation requested is less about the actual money - even if $5 each from several thousand voters can add up - but to get a donor to have their money placed on a candidate, making it more likely that donor will vote for the candidate (via encouraging the "sunk cost" fallacy), or to allow the targeting of future messages based on how engaged the recipient is with the campaign.
Donate $35.57 now! Our data team has determined that we should ask you for $35.57 to optimize the… A key factor in the success of a fundraising campaign is the amount of the donation that is asked for or suggested. Even if the donor is ultimately free to donate whatever amount they want, the initial 'ask' can have a significant effect on the amount donated, due to the psychological effect of anchoring. Increasing the suggested amount may increase the amount of the average donation, but it may also put some people off donating altogether. Finding the sweetspot allows the fundraiser to maximise the income generated.

Most modern bulk mailing platforms allow users send different versions of their emails to recipients at random. Using analytics packages, they can then determine which version of their messages is most effective at eliciting the desired result (such as making a purchase, reading a story, etc.) from recipients, or even from particular segments, and to refine future emails accordingly. Use of these techniques has resulted in fundraisers moving away from traditional 'round' numbers ($10, $25, etc.) to ask for more unusual looking amounts which increase the average amount donated.

However, it would be unusual to use quite such a precise amount, as it would tend to betray the fact that it has been calculated simply to manipulate the recipient, which may appear cynical and put many off donating altogether. The email then compounds this by stating outright that this is what they have done.

Help. Our campaign made some mistakes and we need a lot of money ASAP. Any kind, but cash is… This email is honest about the campaign's incompetence, but is not likely to get much sympathy, except perhaps from those already very sympathetic to the candidate. Any campaign reduced to this level has probably already lost. The email appears to be suggesting that they would much prefer that donors send cash, presumably in the mail. This would raise several red flags: it might suggest that the campaign's finances are in such disarray that it cannot process checks, credit cards, etc. in a timely manner, or it might be that they want to keep donations off the books so that they can be diverted elsewhere, or to circumvent electoral spending restrictions. Even if no dishonesty is intended, it would increase the chances that cash could be stolen or otherwise misused more readily than other forms of payment.
Washington is broken. When I win, I'll look those other senators in the eye and tell them: "Jobs." Then I… This email takes a populist approach of repeating various dog-whistle phrases to imply that they will stand up for the interests of the common people against a system that is rigged against them, without giving any meaningful indication of what they intend to achieve. Not only is the mere statement of "jobs", without any kind of explanation of what problems they believe there are, or what they suggest doing about it, entirely unhelpful, they also seem to suggest that, despite them being elected, it would be everybody else's responsibility to solve it.
Hopeless. It's bad. Really bad. If you don't chip in now, the darkness spreading across the land will… This is a favorite of moral campaigns, on both sides of a debate. Grand statements about evil and corruption taking over the country if the campaign does not get enough support are common, but they are extremely biased and dramatic.
As the first woman to fly a fighter jet through our state's formerly all-male university, I learned… Candidates often like to portray themselves as trailblazers for a particular community, who have persevered and achieved despite the odds. Normally, one would make a virtue of being the first from a university to do something, rather than the first to achieve something involving the university itself. Flying a plane through a university is risky, at the very least, and depending on the definition of "through", could imply destruction of buildings or the plane itself, which might paint the candidate in an irresponsible light. This may also refer to the viral 2017 Congressional campaign ad of Amy McGrath, the first female Marine to fly an F-18 in combat.
We're broke. No paid staff. No ads. And the cafe has told us to stop using their WiFi to send fundraising… This campaign tactic attempts to appeal to the reader's sympathy by describing financial struggles and poverty, but these tactics may instead make the movement look pathetic and poorly-organized, especially because the group is apparently so poor, they can't afford premises of their own to run the campaign from, or an internet connection to continue sending emails to ask for funding.
When Amy decided to run for Congress, I was like "Huh?" but I checked Wikipedia, and apparently it's a branch of… The first few words here might suggest the writer is about to explain how, having initially been sceptical, Amy's inspirational message and / or character has won them over to her campaign. This kind of message is used to make a candidate seem relatable and credible. In fact, though, they just didn't know what she was talking about, as they didn't know what Congress was. Since they clearly don't know much about the subject, this would fail to lend the weight it is aiming to.

Furthermore, while a familiar tone could also be part of a communication strategy to make the message seem relatable, this takes it to an extreme that would probably come across as unprofessional and lacking in seriousness.

Are you familiar with the Dutch painter Hieronymous Bosch? His work illustrates my opponent's plan for… The works of Hieronymus Bosch are famous for depictions of Hell and Limbo as brutal places of highly imaginative torments, which the sender implies would be similar to the country under their opponent's plan. This mocks the tendency of political campaigns to present an exaggerated view of how bad things would be if their political rivals were elected.
Being a single mom running a small business while going to law school while being deployed to Iraq taught me… Each of these are typical credentials that a candidate might cite in order to imply that they are hardworking and committed. However, it is extremely unlikely that one person would take on all of these responsibilities at the same time, and attempting to do so might suggest that they lack focus and aren't really that committed to any one thing.
I will lead the fight against the big banks, special interests, the Earth's climate, and our children. I… This is another populist message listing off hot button topics. However, after starting out with some typical promises to fight fairly commonly despised things, it then becomes more controversial. It promises to fight the climate, with the peculiar implication that damaging the climate is the goal, and 'our children', which most voters would think would need protecting. This may be suggesting that politicians using these kind of messages are likely to be hiding bad intentions behind their attractive sounding slogans. The fight "against our children" may be a reference to a popular Bushism.
Wow. Have you seen this video of the squirrel obstacle course? Incredible! Anyway, I'm running because I… A typical form of clickbait. (Don't read another table entry until you've followed that link! Reference #10 will shock you.)
Outrageous. Granted, this was a few years ago, but did you hear what President Ford said about… When a politician makes an offensive comment, it's common for the politician's opponents to send out fundraising emails pointing out the politician's offensiveness as a way of generating donations to the fight against them. Political strategists will often keep dossiers of such remarks to be used when needed in campaigning season. More recently, there has been a trend for trawling opponents' social media accounts for controversial comments they may have made several years previously, or even as a youth. Here, the sender's reaction and e-mail fundraising effort appears to be unusually delayed, as it refers to an alleged comment by Gerald Ford, whose term as President of the United States ended in 1977 and who died in 2006.
Whoops. Due to a typo, we spent months running attack ads against Tom Hanks. Now, we need to make up for… The email apologises for running months of attack ads against American actor Tom Hanks. Hanks is generally a popular and uncontroversial figure with a reputation for being nice and likable in person, making him an unusual target for attack ads. This implies that the sender does not even know who their opponent is, and has mistakenly targeted the wrong person, demonstrating some significant ignorance and incompetence.
They say we can't win—that we're "underdogs" with "no money" who "lost the election last week." But they don't… In multi-candidacy electoral races, campaigns will often suggest that a rival 'can't win here', sometimes prefaced with an appeal to authority, such as 'Polls show...'. The hope is that some supporters of the candidate being attacked may be persuaded to switch their vote to the candidate whose campaign it is, in an effort to prevent a third, more disliked, candidate from being elected. It would seem counterproductive to sabotage one's own campaign in this way.

This may refer to Roy Moore's attempts to overturn his loss in the December 2017 election for one of Alabama's US Senate seats, which came about a month before this comic and made national headlines. After the initial election count had him losing, he demanded a recount. That initial count said he had lost by a large enough margin that Alabama law required him to pay up front for a recount, and his campaign did not have enough funds available.

Our campaign's only chance is to seduce Jennifer ActBlue, heir to the ActBlue fortune. For that, we need a fancy… This e-mail alludes to ActBlue, a political action committee that provides technology to help Democrat and progressive organizations to campaign and collect donations online. In reality, there is no ActBlue family, nor any "Jennifer ActBlue" who is the heir to its fortune; the name ActBlue is a portmanteau from the words "action", in a political sense, and the color "blue", which is closely associated with the Democratic Party in the USA.
Doom. Where is the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing? They have passed, like rain on… This is an excerpt from Tolkien's poem Lament of the Rohirrim, appearing in The Two Towers:

Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow.
Who shall gather the smoke of the dead wood burning,
Or behold the flowing years from the Sea returning?

Warmest greetings. I am the crown prince of Nigeria. I am running for Congress because I believe that… The opening line is designed to sound like spam for an Advance-fee scam. These scams typically involve impersonating someone rich, often a Nigerian prince, who claims to be in trouble and promises to share a large sum of money if the victim helps him by sending a small fee in advance. However, the second sentence of this email switches to sounding like a political fundraising email instead of an outright scam. This is either to establish a degrading comparison between flagrant scams and fundraising emails, or just to create a bait-and-switch joke.
The establishment doesn't take us seriously. You know who else they didn't take seriously? Hitler. I'll be like him, but a GOOD guy instead of… (title text) A candidate who compares himself to Hitler, even when promising to be GOOD instead, will probably not get many votes. The title text does however conform to Godwin's law.

[edit] Transcript

Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.

[An e-mail inbox window is displayed. On each line appears an illegible e-mail address and a checkbox.]

Donate now. It's crunch time, and we're low on cash. If you chip in just $5 by midnight, we…
Donate $35.57 now! Our data team has determined that we should ask you for $35.57 to optimize the…
Help. Our campaign made some mistakes and we need a lot of money ASAP. Any kind, but cash is…
Washington is broken. When I win, I'll look those other senators in the eye and tell them: "Jobs." Then I…
Hopeless. It's bad. Really bad. If you don't chip in now, the darkness spreading across the land will…
As the first woman to fly a fighter jet through our state's formerly all-male university, I learned…
We're broke. No paid staff. No ads. And the cafe has told us to stop using their wifi to send fundraising…
When Amy decided to run for Congress, I was like "Huh?" but I checked Wikipedia, and apparently it's a branch of…
Are you familiar with the dutch painter Hieronymous Bosch? His work illustrates my opponent's plan for…
Being a single mom running a small business while going to law school while being deployed to Iraq taught me…
I will lead the fight against the big banks, special interests, the Earth's climate, and our children. I…
Wow. Have you seen this video of the squirrel obstacle course? Incredible! Anyway, I'm running because I…
Outrageous. Granted, this was a few years ago, but did you hear what President Ford said about…
Whoops. Due to a typo, we spent months running attack ads against Tom Hanks. Now, we need to make up for…
They say we can't win- that we're "underdogs" with "no money" who "lost the election last week." But they don't…
Our campaign's only chance is to seduce Jennifer ActBlue, heir to the ActBlue fortune. For that, we need a fancy…
Doom. Where is the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing? They have passed, like rain on…
Warmest greetings. I am the crown prince of Nigeria. I am running for Congress because I believe that…


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Discussion

can someone make a table with all the emails and an explanation column? I'm shit at formatting. DPS2004'); DROP TABLE users;-- (talk) 16:38, 29 January 2018 (UTC)

Relevant username? 172.68.58.83 17:42, 29 January 2018 (UTC)
Actually more based on Exploits of a mom DPS2004'); DROP TABLE users;-- (talk) 15:05, 30 January 2018 (UTC)

ActBlue is a political action committee aimed at helping people on the internet raise money for the Democratic party - there is no Jennifer ActBlue Heir to the ActBlue fortune. 172.68.174.40 17:14, 29 January 2018 (UTC)Daniel Macintyre

That's what Jennifer wants you to think.162.158.122.12 17:23, 29 January 2018 (UTC)

It's interesting to note that for three of the emails, the subject isn't bolded, indicating that those emails were read. All three refer to female candidates JamesCurran (talk) 17:20, 29 January 2018 (UTC)

Are we sure those are subject lines? I don't usually write or get emails where the subject line flows seamlessly into the contents like this. (Not sure what else they could be, of course.) Also, the lack of bold text could indicate an email without a subject line. 162.158.78.220 18:54, 29 January 2018 (UTC)
I had actually initially taken the bold text as having being tweaked to emphasize those words, or that they were bold in the email, and that the emails which didn't were actual interesting and legitimate messages. :) Of course that would leave these emails without subjects, so the bold text being subjects makes more sense, and the lack of bold is just without a subject. As for part of the email starting after the subject, I think I've seen that. I know different email providers and programs show things differently. I have my email setup to only show subjects when I'm in my Inbox like this, but I've also seen ones where there's a couple of lines of preview. Perhaps Randall just has his to show only 1 line of subject and preview. If I cared about having a preview in my Inbox I'd set it that way, to save space. NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:20, 30 January 2018 (UTC)
The default Gmail inbox view looks more or less like this - albeit there's a dash separating subject and body, and if there's no subject it displays "(no subject)". 141.101.98.244 17:08, 31 January 2018 (UTC)

I'm guessing the $35.57 may have been related to a recent Jimquisition episode focusing on this ad: https://youtu.be/Tu3rwf27VRE Odysseus654 (talk) 21:13, 29 January 2018 (UTC)

Some of these scenarios are especially hilarious to me!

1) When Amy decided to run for Congress, I was like "Huh?" but I checked Wikipedia, and apparently it's a branch of...
Who needs to know anything when we have Wikipedia?
2) I will lead the fight against the big banks, special interests, the Earth's climate, and our children. I...
Won't someone please think of the children? (Those little !#$!%#^$^s!) [Edited slightly, because they are really horrid when they have at-signs in their expletives.]
3) Whoops. Due to a typo, we spent months running attack ads against Tom Hanks. Now, we need to make up for...
Yay, automation!
4) Our campaign's only chance is to seduce Jennifer Actblue, heir to the Actblue fortune. For that, we need a fancy...
That is just what we need: a candidate with a fresh approach. Will he get slapped?

108.162.216.154 21:30, 29 January 2018 (UTC) Gene Wirchenko [email protected]

The wiki screwed up your nice legible formatting, LOL! Looks great in the edit box, a little confusing once submitted (I've noticed the wiki ignores a single New Line, unless followed by a colon) NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:20, 30 January 2018 (UTC)
I have just repaired the formatting. The wiki had also interpreted my faux expletive as an E-mail address (and protected it). Mr. Munroe needs to do a strip on how computers "help" us like this. 108.162.216.154 06:23, 30 January 2018 (UTC) Gene Wirchenko [email protected]

Is it just me, or does anyone else think that the wording of the message starting "Hopeless" is deliberately written in the style of Donald Trump's tweets? 108.162.250.41 02:01, 30 January 2018 (UTC)

Right now there's a double Incomplete message, with one asking for contact information in case someone wants to actually donate to one of these campaigns... Is it just me, or does this in fact NOT IDENTIFY ANYBODY? As in, there's nobody to donate TO! NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:20, 30 January 2018 (UTC)

Note that the "Doom" email says "Where is the horse and the rider" not "Where now the horse and the rider," and also skips several lines in the middle of the poem. It's quoting the Peter Jackson movie, not the book. 172.69.70.185 05:43, 30 January 2018 (UTC)

It looks like you're correct (as indicated on the linked TolkienGateway page). I do wonder what the sender's address was supposed to be, though. Perhaps [email protected]? ;-) --IByte (talk) 10:30, 31 January 2018 (UTC)
And the beginning of Tolkien's ubi sunt, and the first question of Doom are both translations of the Wanderer 'Hwær cwom mearg? Hwær cwom mago?' --User:Richardelguru

I know what Ford's controversial comment was: it was characterised by The New York Times as "FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD". 162.158.165.190 07:09, 30 January 2018 (UTC)

The comment about the establishment not taking Hitler seriously might be referring to that "the powers that be" in pre-Nazi Germany thought they could control Hitler and use his popularity to their advantage. We all know how this plan worked out. --LordHorst (talk) 10:16, 30 January 2018 (UTC)

Having read it before, I still laughed more at the linked "Bushism" Wikipedia page than at today's comic. 172.68.25.208 12:29, 30 January 2018 (UTC)

Having that my college does some fund-raising events, I have seen some of the mails like this being displayed on my lecturer's laptop, so I find it relatable.Boeing-787lover 13:24, 30 January 2018 (UTC)

I'm trying to figure out what the typo was in the Tom Hanks attack ads. Perhaps they attacked Big Hanks instead of Big Banks? -- 172.68.34.46 17:50, 30 January 2018 (UTC)

Or perhaps the opponent's real name was Tim Hanks, or Tom Henks, or something else similar? -- 108.162.215.148 22:10, 30 January 2018 (UTC)

The "They say we can't win ..." email may also be a reference to this SNL campaign ad parody with Will Ferrell and Chris Parnell, which takes the opposite approach ... Ferrell has already won the election, but insists on continuing to hound his opponent about the questions he'd raised in his attack ad, continuing the sarcastic use of quotes ("He says the election is 'over' and that he 'lost'") often seen in real attack ads and the parody here. Daniel Case (talk) 23:12, 6 February 2018 (UTC)

I think it's more of a third-party kind of thing - "They [the pundits, the two main parties, etc.] say we can't win, but we'll prove them wrong yada yada". And then it turns out they already lost. 172.68.34.70 22:23, 27 February 2018 (UTC)


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