Introducing Rightroots

For a long while now, people have been talking about the impact of the blogosphere on politics. On the right, bloggers have helped take down people like Dan Rather, Eason Jordan, and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. Even today, as this column is being written, there’s lots of chatter about Reuters photographer Adnan Hajj, who has been fired and had all of his pictures yanked offline after sharp-eyed conservative bloggers caught him photoshopping pictures from Lebanon.

On the other hand, while liberal bloggers haven’t had as much success as conservative bloggers at breaking big stories, they have done one thing extremely well: raise money for liberal candidates. Granted, they don’t have much of a win and loss record, because more often as not they seem to support candidates that don’t have any chance to win, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are funneling lots of lucre into Democratic coffers.

So, why have the liberal bloggers been able to raise so much money when conservative bloggers have been unable to do the same thing? Well, as RNC eCampaign Director Patrick Ruffini told me in a June 6, 2006 mini-interview, there’s actually a very simple explanation:

John Hawkins: Oh, let me just throw this in. Why do you think the left side of the blogosphere has been so much more successful than the right at fund raising (for candidates)?

Patrick Ruffini: To the extent that’s true, it’s a matter of asking. You can’t receive if you don’t ask…when you see these candidates on the left (that raise a lot of money), the Francine Busby’s of the world, it’s because they keep pounding and pounding and pounding away.

Those comments got me thinking, “Here we are in an election year and the GOP is desperately trying to keep Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid from grabbing the reigns of power. Yet, even though we have the liberal blogosphere raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars for Democratic candidates, we conservative bloggers are just sitting on our hands.”

Someone needed to step up and do something and since no one else was doing it, I decided that someone had better be me. So, I immediately starting reaching out to influential bloggers who might be willing and able to help out with a project like this. In short order, Mary Katharine Ham from Townhall, Robert Bluey from Human Events, Erick Erickson from Redstate, Ed Morrissey from Captain’s Quarters, Patrick Hynes from Ankle Biting Pundits, and Lorie Byrd from Wizbang all volunteered to help out.

Once we got a team together, the next step was selecting candidates we could endorse. The first thing we decided to do was to back candidates in competitive races. So, we didn’t bother with any candidates that were certain to win or certain to lose. We also decided not to back any incumbents, not only because an incumbent shouldn’t need our help to raise funds — but because we wanted to give people who weren’t satisfied with the performance of the Republican Congress a slate that they could feel comfortable helping. Then, after much discussion, we decided not to back any candidates in contested primaries in order to avoid the sort of dog and pony show that Connecticut has turned into for the Democrats. In the end, we came up with a slate of 18 candidates — 4 Republicans running for the Senate and 14 candidates contending for House seats.

Next, after we had our candidates, we still needed a place to handle the money. That’s where ABC PAC came in. ABC PAC, which is completely separate from Rightroots, is run by experienced political professionals like Jason Torchinsky, the Deputy General Counsel to Bush-Cheney ’04, and Michael Turk, the former eCampaign Director at the Republican National Committee. Soon after we sent them a slate of candidates, they had a Rightroots page prepared and were ready to help us raise money.

But, then came the debut of Rightroots on August 1st and I have to admit that we were all on pins and needles. On the right side of the blogosphere, no one had ever endorsed a whole slate of candidates before and we wondered what the reaction would be. Would other bloggers react favorably to the idea? Would it get any attention? Most importantly, could we raise money for these candidates? We were hopeful, but tense.

So, what happened? Well in our first week, we raised over $36,000 for our candidates, we were endorsed by Bill Frist, and we had Jack Kingston’s PAC agree to chip in another $14,000 to our candidates. In my book, that is a fantastic start!

However, if we’re going to keep that momentum going, we will need some help. We’re going to need more contributions and we’re going to need more people to spread the word about Rightroots. Although this started as a blogosphere project, we don’t want it to end there. That’s why we’d love to have more bloggers endorsing and linking our efforts, but we’d also love to get conservative magazines, talk radio, politicians, and party activists all helping out, too. After all, it is called, “Rightroots” and the “roots” of the party aren’t just made up of bloggers.

We have a great opportunity here to help the GOP retain Congress by giving Republicans a way to contribute to some of the key races in the country, even if they don’t live in competitive states or districts. Moreover, if we succeed in our efforts, there’s no reason why we can’t build on this effort. In the future, ABC PAC will have the capacity to allow just about anyone to set up a group of candidates, just as Rightroots has done. So, if we can show people that this fledgling effort can make a difference, then next time around in 2008, there may be dozens of independent fund raising groups like “Rightroots” that will all be working to create a conservative majority. That’s why it’s so important to help us make the Rightroots project successful, because the seeds we sow in the next three months have the potential to grow into an enormous harvest for conservatives by the end of the next election cycle.

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