It's Not Just Votes: Today's Fundraising Deadline Is "Final Chance" For Campaigns In Home Stretch

Midnight on October 14 marks the final FEC deadline before voting concludes on November 3. Here’s why your $7 donation actually matters to races up and down the ballot.

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden square off during the first presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio on September 29, 2020. (Photo by JIM WATSON,SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden square off during the first presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio on September 29, 2020. (Photo by JIM WATSON,SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

If you’ve ever expressed interest or donated to a political campaign, you’ve likely been receiving a barrage of emails in the last 48 hours.

Here’s why: midnight on October 14 is the final fundraising deadline for campaigns set by the Federal Election Commission before voting concludes on November 3. The FEC oversees and enforces campaign finance law, and campaigns must report their numbers to the commission monthly as well as quarterly. The next reporting deadline won’t be until November 23, well after voting has finished.

The FEC deadline also applies to Senate candidates, as Democrats are making a concerted effort to flip the Senate. The cutoff applies to all federal-level races; state campaigns abide by different sets of deadlines.

Interested supporters can still donate to campaigns after midnight on October 14—their donations just won’t be counted in publicly announced totals before November 3, which is why candidates are emphasizing this deadline as the one that will ensure they can make it through the final stretch of campaigning and voter outreach.

Several states are already seeing record voter turnout with in-person early-voting and vote-by-mail, but with the chaotic results of the 2016 election, campaigns don’t want to take anything for granted.

“It’s the final chance we all get to assess the strength and support of individual campaigns before Election Day,” said Matt Compton, Director of Advocacy and Engagement at Blue State, in a statement to NowThis. “Reporters take stock and write stories about what a campaign can do in the final stretch. Activists see where their investments of support are paying off. For better or for worse, it’s a barometer of campaign health — so candidates have to take the deadline seriously and let their supporters know that time is running out.”

That’s exactly what the 2020 campaigns have been doing. In a Biden campaign email sent to supporters on Tuesday evening, former President Barack Obama wrote of the deadline: “Once it passes, Joe and Kamala will have to reveal how much they've raised, and the whole world will see whether they have the resources they need to finish the race strong, or whether Donald Trump and the wealthy Super PACs that support him can drown out our message in the final weeks before Election Day."

In a follow-up email Wednesday morning, Obama added: “I know from running for president myself just how critical a surge of support in the final weeks can be.”

Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, which conducts its own fundraising in concert with the Biden campaign, similarly wrote in an email on Monday to its listserv: "Our party is facing its final FEC deadline of the cycle on Wednesday, and what we can raise before then will be among the last funds we can spend on messaging, voter outreach, and turnout in these crucial, final weeks of voting."

Perez called it the “One-Term President Fund” and wrote “there’s still time to ramp up the voter outreach and turnout we’ll need to elect Democrats up and down the ballot.” His starting ask was $7—small-dollar contributions shaped the 2020 Democratic primary and have continued to be a crucial part of general election fundraising.

“Democrats up and down the ballot have routinely crushed their Republican counterparts in fundraising, largely from small-dollar donors who contribute through ActBlue, a Democratic payment processor that launched in 2004 and has morphed into a fundraising behemoth,” Politico reported this week.

The Trump campaign is making its last-ditch calls for donations, too. As for “barometers of campaign health,” Business Insider published a story Tuesday evening about how the Trump campaign “almost went broke” after former campaign manager Brad Parscale “spent big with plans for a $200-million cash surge this month.”

Business Insider’s DC correspondent Tom LoBianco tweeted that Parscale “had been planning for campaign contributions to almost double in October,” and that “it would have been $200 million more than the campaign pulled in for a regular month, a Republican close to the president said.”

Parscale, who received accolades for his work as digital media director during the 2016 Trump campaign, was named the 2020 campaign manager in February—but he didn’t have any prior experience running presidential campaigns, and by July, he was replaced with current campaign manager Bill Stepien.

Under Parscale, the Trump campaign mismanaged hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a New York Times report in September, and the president had reportedly considered putting some of his own money into the race.

The team under Parscale reportedly “spent lavishly.”

The Times reported that “More than $800,000 had been poured into boosting Mr. Parscale’s Facebook and Instagram pages; those ads ceased the day after he was removed as campaign manager.” More than $39 million was given to two firms controlled by Parscale as well. On September 30, Parscale stepped away from the campaign completely.

“The next 24 hours could determine the fate of the White House and the Senate,” the DNC wrote in a Tuesday night email. “We are running out of time to make a difference in this election -- and the future of our country, and our democracy, is on the line. … It is no exaggeration to say that a contribution made today or tomorrow is tremendously more effective than one of the same amount made next week.”