Maine politics reaching ‘national pathetic base level,’ campaign hand says

We probably have Barack Obama to blame.

As the Federal Election Commission fundraising quarter ended, the pleading emails poured in.

“Rebekah, meet Marissa. She is one of our finance staffers, helping us crunch the numbers so we know exactly what our campaign needs in order to get Shenna’s message out,” came the “note” from Democratic Senate candidate Shenna Bellows’ campaign at 11:52 a.m. Monday. “Marissa is doing everything she can to make sure we hit our critical FEC fundraising goal at midnight tonight. We are just $5,500 away from our goal!”

But apparently the goal was not met – at least not at 4:19 p.m.

“Rebekah, 11:59 tonight is our deadline for contributions, and the second test of the power of grassroots donations from real people,” came the second pitch of the day. “The deadlines and the money we need to raise each quarter are the means. The end goal is to make a difference on things that matter. Your investment today will help me stand up for what matters.”

The frequent, frantic pleas – a last-second burst of lobbying to pump up fundraising numbers – are not just coming from Democrats. Republicans, in Maine and elsewhere, also play the game.

“It is vital for our campaign to have a strong fundraising quarter so we can send a message to my challenger and Washington’s liberal elite that this seat will remain in our hands,” wrote the campaign for Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. “Our goal is to raise $5,000 online between now and midnight tonight.”

There’s nothing wrong with the emails, really. Other than the fact that their annoying if you are on the lists. But let’s be clear: The ‘goals’ are arbitrary and meant to entice you into donating just a little more to get the candidate over the finish line. We can blame the president, really, because it was his fundraising team that bothered to start testing the success rates of certain fundraising pitches – from tone, to words, to donation amounts – and found out it really can matter.

Maybe that’s why yesterday there was someone in my inbox from Organizing for Action, a group formerly known as Obama for America, with a list of five kitten gifs.

“If you do, you’ll be helping win some of the biggest fights of our time — immigration reform, climate change, raising the minimum wage, and more. Chip in $5 or more before midnight tonight,” it said. “And if you need some extra special motivation, think of all the kittens who are hoping you don’t miss the deadline…”

And though it’s gone on for at least a couple years in Maine by pols seeking congressional seats, one local campaign hand recently groused about the most recent display.

“It’s Maine politics reaching this sort of national pathetic base level,” he said. “It’s a standard national fundraising technique, to state an artificial goal for the end of the quarter to your donors and then challenge your donors to meet that deadline.”

Rebekah Metzler

About Rebekah Metzler

Rebekah Metzler is a breaking news editor for CNN's digital politics team in Washington. Previously, she was a senior news editor with U.S. News and World Report, where she began her three-year tenure as a political writer. She spent much of 2012 on the road covering the presidential campaign in battleground states across the country. Metzler proudly tells all who will listen she hails from the great state of Maine where she covered state politics for the Lewiston Sun Journal and MaineToday Media. Metzler earned her master’s degree in journalism from Boston University and her undergraduate degree from Bowdoin College.