Just when you think you’ve heard of everything, along comes a new twist: Fundraising by forum. We are sure you’ve heard of political fundraisers -- they happen all the time. Candidate A appears before an audience that, depending on the wealth of the crowd, could have paid several thousand dollars for being in the mere presence of the candidate while everyone chows down on some form of chicken dinner. It costs extra for a picture.
But now, the local Bibb County Democratic Party -- robbed of its funding stream in a nonpartisan election -- has turned to fundraising by forum to raise some much needed cash. No checks, please. When there are partisan primaries, the two political parties share in the qualifying fees paid by candidates. That could be a chunk of money. It costs the mayoral candidates $3,000 to qualify and commission seats go for $450.
The Democratic group, which gives new meaning to the word dysfunctional, has decided to charge candidates ($50 for mayoral and $25 for commission) to participate in forums sponsored by the party. There are 25 commission candidates and seven, if you count the write-in candidate, running for mayor.
To be clear, there is nothing illegal about fundraising by forum -- it just smells bad. It’s akin to blackmail with not a lot of return. If every candidate decided to participate, and some have already stated that they will not, the draw is less than $1,000. But we guess if you’re broke, that’s a good start.
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This fundraising-by-forum ploy is an act that shows desperation. It is a shame for this to happen in a county that is a Democratic stronghold, where the majority of City Council and County Commission seats are held by Democrats; where the mayor and commission chair are Democrats. Has the party really come to this?
The Democratic Party, in its effort to inform the public, shouldn’t make it harder for candidates to deliver their message. We would suggest other avenues of fund-raising. Unfortunately, having a merry-go-round of party leadership doesn’t help the situation. With no continuity, raising money is almost impossible.
The local Democrats have ignored the basics of grass-roots organizing. Since it’s busted, it can’t adequately seed candidates running under the Democratic banner. It has, in a word, become, “irrelevant.”
There are plenty of forums planned by legitimate organizations, such as the League of Women Voters, the Chamber of Commerce, neighborhood groups and others, where a candidate’s time would be better spent.