By John Polis
September 12, 2019 at 5:00 am ET
Free-market values are synonymous with the Republican party. The GOP has long touted ideas of free enterprise, which allow our markets to function effectively for all participants, giving consumers options and promoting competition between producers that allows them to deliver the best products. These ideas don’t just allow our economic markets to thrive; the idea of choice in the free market is a central tenet of our democratic process.
Candidates compete to put forth the best ideas that will drive support from constituents. Constituents can then call attention to issues or candidates of their choosing. They can express their support, or their lack of it, in many different ways, but one of the most effective ways voters can support a candidate besides casting a ballot is by donating to their campaign.
Unfortunately, some of the fundraising methods being used in our elections today don’t follow these patterns. Increasingly, the field of resources constituents can use to support candidates is shrinking — which is in direct opposition to the principles of conservatism, and of democracy as a whole.
This has recently become apparent with the controversy surrounding WinRed, a GOP-backed fundraising platform that has quickly overtaken the market. WinRed has received a resounding endorsement from President Donald Trump, and all the national party committees and target National Republican Senate Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee candidates have committed to using WinRed in the 2020 cycle. Much of the GOP has coalesced around WinRed in order to secure small-dollar donations, similar to how ActBlue works to raise money for Democratic candidates.
While the idea seems effective on paper, the implementation of WinRed has been anything but smooth. Top Republican officials have been increasing the pressure on those within the party to make WinRed its sole fundraising platform and have taken an unyielding approach to those who’ve been reluctant to join the WinRed train. The RNC has said they will withdraw funding and presidential endorsements for campaigns or organizations that use a non-WinRed platform to collect donations. They’ve also made attempts to push other GOP or nonpartisan fundraising platforms out of the market. Earlier this summer, a founder of a Republican payment processor received a cease-and-desist letter from the RNC.
The aggressiveness of Republican leaders to monopolize the campaign contribution market with WinRed has already achieved a high level of public scrutiny. Reports of RNC officials being able to financially benefit from widespread use of the platform have come to light in recent weeks, and although RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel has publicly denounced these claims, the problems with WinRed still remain.
The approach taken with the enforcement of WinRed stifles the values of free enterprise and free-market capitalism that are so ingrained in the Republican party. By crowding out the market and touting WinRed as the only option for Republican candidates to use, party officials have prevented other GOP and nonpartisan fundraisers from participating in an effective system for the campaign finance industry. They’ve also inhibited something that is so central to our democratic process: choice.
Republican leaders are removing the option for constituents and candidates alike to engage in politics that might be outside of their normal purview. For the independent voter who is looking to support a candidate without having to engage with partisan PACs or groups, their options to do so are severely limited when Republican candidates can only be supported through WinRed.
Allowing voters to have a choice in how they support candidates and giving candidates choices on how to engage with voter bases of all kinds is a critical part of our democratic process. We hope that the leaders of the Republican Party see the value in allowing candidates to utilize all the fundraising platforms of their choosing, so that they can better espouse the principles that make our democracy strong.
John Polis is the Republican Co-Founder of Prytany, a political fundraising and issue networking platform.
Morning Consult welcomes op-ed submissions on policy, politics and business strategy in our coverage areas. Updated submission guidelines can be found here.