In a long and brutal election season, every weapon in the arsenal is brought to bear against the competition. That includes political action committee websites. These platforms represent a relatively new entrant to the political battleground, one that can prove incredibly potent under the right PAC management.
Cheap, adaptable, and above all else, efficient, PAC websites are taking on some of the power that radio and TV ads used to possess. But they also offer something more. Websites can say and do more than many an endorsement or commercial ever could and they are much less expensive to change and maintain. They can motivate supporters to action – and simultaneously provide a means for doing so.
Consider Progressive Kick, a super PAC based in California that recently launched a new effort aimed at tackling the superdelegate system of the Democratic nomination process. The group's explicit goal is to smooth the path to the general election for Bernie Sanders.
Combining message and action
In February, Progressive Kick unveiled a website allowing users to both track the commitments of their superdelegates and get in contact with them.
Joshua Grossman, the super PAC's president, told Time that the entire effort – from construction to launch – cost only about $5,000. Compare that to the cost of a single primetime TV ad, which can often run upward of six figures.
Grossman said that his PAC is dedicated to ensuring Democratic superdelegates follow voters' lead when choosing which candidate to back. To date, the vast majority of superdelegates – party elites and lawmakers, among others – have pledged their support to Clinton. Progressive Kick argues that the system is undemocratic and looks to change it.
"We're creating tools for people to democratize the process and connect with superdelegates themselves," said Grossman.
By Grossman's own admission, however, the mission to open lines of petition between voters and superdelegates has its limits. It is only part of the PAC's overall goal.
"If I said it was only to make the process more democratic, that would be disingenuous. I'm not going to say that," he told Time. "I definitely did this – not just I, but with the people we're working with – to help Bernie Sanders."
Whether or not Sanders, who has repeatedly pointed to his lack of super PAC support as an asset, would welcome the support of Grossman's PAC is unknown. Grossman doesn't see a problem with it, however. He told Time the website came together using money leftover from 2015 and volunteer energy. Even if Sanders did have a problem with the website, there's little he could do outside of asking for it to be taken down.
"In just a few days, the site drew more than 175,000 signatures in favor of its cause."
Big results in short time
Progressive Kick would be hard to distinguish from a crowd of other PAC websites were it not so demonstrably effective. In just a few days' time, the group's website garnered more than 175,000 signatures arguing for a more transparent and accountable superdelegate system.
The website provides a simple means for users to contact their state's superdelegates via social media and petition on Sanders' behalf – even if it's done without his outright consent. It also lists which superdelegates support each candidate or if they are undecided.
It's still too early in the process to form a clear idea of how Progressive Kick's efforts might affect the Democratic Party's nominating mechanisms, if it all. What PACs nationwide can take away from this exercise is the incredibly swift response to the group's call to action. Perhaps more than any other tool, PAC websites have the ability to inspire support and extend a campaign's reach beyond classically defined boundaries.