Bernie breaking online fundraising records; Obama calls for universal automatic voter registration; and more.
Small donors, big data: In 2004, Howard Dean’s presidential campaign built a grassroots base of 600,000 donors, largely by using the internet, and vaulted a formerly obscure small-state Governor to the top of the Democratic field, for a time. “We all felt the muscle flex of this new progressive movement and were stunned by it,” Nicco Mele, Dean’s webmaster, told me back then. Well, now a formerly obscure small-state U.S. Senator has been vaulted to the top of this year’s Democratic field, and overnight between Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary and yesterday afternoon, we saw that muscle, rebuilt, flex again. In the 18 hours after the polls closed, the Sanders campaign reported raising $5.2 million, at an average of $34 per donation. In 23 hours, it hit $6.3 million, according to this Kenneth Vogel story in Politico (which does a nice job of profiling Tim Tagaris, one of Sanders’ key online strategists). By the evening yesterday, according to an ActBlue thermometer included in a follow-up email from the campaign, the Sanders’ haul had reached $7 million, a new record for one day during a president primary.
The one-day record for a fundraising email by a presidential campaign during a primary was previously held by the 2008 Ron Paul campaign, which invented the “money bomb” and raised $6 million from 58,000 donors on December 18, 2007 (the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party). The 2012 Obama campaign raised $10 million overnight after Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, where she mocked him for being a “community organizer.”
New Hampshire has long been a great springboard for fundraising online; in 2000 John McCain’s upset victory over George W. Bush generated $1 million in such donations through his website, averaging $110 each. (Kids, candidates with websites and people making donations using credit cards was a novelty back then. It was a big deal in the fall of 1999 when Bill Bradley, the Sanders to Al Gore’s Clinton, announced he had raised $650,000 that way.)
Speaking of records, Kickstarter celebrated the 100,000th successful project on its crowdfunding platform a few days ago. Nearly 9.1 million people have pledged to those projects.
Speaking of large numbers, Marc Andreessen’s offhand tweet criticizing anti-colonialism in India had the effect of riling a county of one billion, prompted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to explicitly disassociate himself from Andreessen’s comments. Andreessen is a member of Facebook’s board.
Trump watch: Robert Paxton, a noted historian of fascism, explains to Isaac Chotiner of Slate how the short-fingered vulgarian compares to Hitler and Mussolini.
What sharing economy? Remember Airbnb’s “transparency” press event at Civic Hall in December, when it invited members of the press to come view a spreadsheet of its New York City user data? A new report by Murray Cox of Insideairbnb.com and Tom Slee, author of “What’s Yours in Mine: Against the Sharing Economy,” shows “the data was photoshopped: Airbnb ensured it would paint a flattering picture by carrying out a one-time targeted purge of over 1,000 listings in the first three weeks of November.” Specifically, the company removed more than 1,000 “entire home” listings from its site, using the resulting data to argue that only 10% of those listings belonged to hosts with multiple listings. “The true number had been close to 19% for all of 2015,” Cox and Slee point out. The number of multiple listings is an indication of “sharelords,” people who aren’t just renting out a room or their own apartment on occasion, but using the platform to turn their properties into de-facto hotels and circumvent state laws.
Commenting on Cox and Slee’s report, New York state senator Liz Krueger, a longtime Airbnb critic, said, “Far from being open and transparent, this report shows that Airbnb intentionally misled the press and elected officials in New York. The data clearly disproves Airbnb’s perennial argument that they want to work with city officials to protect everyday New Yorkers, fight illegal hotel activity, and remove “bad actors” from their site. Instead, it appears the company took extraordinary onetime measures to manipulate data and make themselves look good on one day in one city.”
Cox and Slee’s report has generated critical coverage in The Guardian, Re/Code, The Awl, and Fusion. Christopher Nulty, Airbnb’s public affairs head for eastern North America, has responded to the report, arguing that most Airbnb users are single-listers, not sharelords. He says, “Our community in New York has evolved to a point where 94 percent of hosts have just one listing and where there is no material presence of illegal hotels, which is why accusations from the same elected officials who called for there to be no illegal hotels on the platform and now want to fine middle class families $50,000 is akin to asking someone to walk on water and then, when they do, fining them for not swimming.”
This is civic tech: Public Lab’s Jeff Warren announces the launch of Spectral Workbench 2, an updated version of the nonprofit’s kitchen table tool for analyzing chemical traces. Here’s a great profile of Public Lab’s work by Benjamin Preston for Make magazine.(Full disclosure: I serve on Public Lab’s board.)
President Obama went to Springfield, Illinois, on the 9th anniversary of his launching his first campaign for the presidency to talk about fixing the nation’s politics, and issued a call for universal automatic voter registration and an end to partisan gerrymandering of election districts.
Crypto-wars, continued: Rep. Ted Lieu (R-CA) has introduced the “Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,” or ENCRYPT. As Brian Barrett writes for Wired, it’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.
If the core conflict of the 21st century is between open and closed, as our friend Alec Ross likes to say, then Simon Oxenham’s story on the rise of Sci-hub.com, a sort of Pirate Bay for academic science papers, is proof that open is winning.
Your moment of zen: There’s a strange poetry to be found in the subject lines of campaign emails; to wit, the emails the Clintons have been sending of late.