A New Idea for Everytown for Gun Safety
If.Then.Fund is a DC-based start up looking to short-circuit the influence of lobbyists and mega-donors. Their idea is simple. Citizens donate their money not in support of a candidate, but in support of a piece of legislation. Once that piece of legislation is voted on, I.T.F distributes the money equally among the legislators who supported the bill — or the general election opponents of those who opposed (learn more about how it works and its history).
It’s a simple, yet novel, strategy for getting politicians to pay attention to the voices of regular people who can’t write five-figure checks.
If.Then.Fund needs a partner to prove its model and get a big win. Everytown for Gun Safety, Michael Bloomberg’s gun control coalition, should be that partner.
Why Everytown for Gun Safety?
Other well-funded c4 advocacy organizations could also try this tactic (and should), but Everytown is in a unique position that gives it a higher chance for success and greater impact regardless of the outcome. Here’s why:
- While opinions on gun control overall are split, there are a number of measures (like universal background checks) that enjoy broad public support yet have failed to move through Congress. As such, it’s an issue that is ripe for experimentation with any new models that have the potential to translate public support into political will.
- As a coalition, Everytown for Gun Safety is an organization with broad support across the country, potentially able to rally donors in every legislative district.
- Funded by Mike Bloomberg to the tune of $50 million dollars, Everytown doesn’t need to raise money from its supporters, as many c4 nonprofit organizations do, in order to stay afloat. Asking supporters to donate to someone else does not represent a material loss for the organization in the same way that it might for others.
- The tactic doesn’t discriminate against Republicans or Democrats, satisfying Bloomberg’s need to operate in a bipartisan fashion.
- Supported by Bloomberg, Everytown has a unique ability to deploy a spokesperson that can turn the outcome of this experiment into national news, increasing the chance of a positive outcome — either in the legislature or in the court of public opinion and the norms of our political system.
How Would It Work?
When the next piece of federal gun control legislation is introduced, Everytown should begin a process of educating its members (via email and social media), about the legislation and about its new partner. Supporters would be directed to visit If.Then.Fund to make donations in support of the legislation. Hopefully, after a series of solicitations, this will yield a rather large sum of money. If the bill passes — awesome (victory!). But if not (the probable outcome), Everytown will have two powerful stories to tell:
- For those who voted in favor, Everytown can demonstrate tangible public support for those politicians in the form of donations directed through If.Then.Fund. Hopefully this will be a large number, supplied by an equally large number of donors, and will show the benefits of standing up for sensible gun policy.
- For every legislator who opposed the bill, Everytown can point to the fact that these politicians not only defied the will of their constituents, but left money on the table. And that sum can be compared to the amount of donations they may/may not receive from the gun lobby. What’s more, that money isn’t just left on the table, it’s going into the coffers of their next opponent. It’s a net negative overall for the legislator. Hopefully that would act as an incentive to vote differently in the future.
Will this change the mind of every politician — or even a majority of politicians — on the issue? No. But it may be enough to influence some. And if this tactic catches on in the same way as other distributed campaign fundraising platforms, like Act Blue, maybe we’ll see a small shift in power away from large donors back to the people.
Either way, it’s worth a shot.