Republicans and Democrats alike are using Thursday’s Benghazi hearings to trawl the Internet for donations.
As Hillary Clinton and her Democratic congressional allies sparred with the Republicans who helm the Benghazi special select committee, enterprising operatives from across the political spectrum carpe’d the diem, looking to build their email lists and line their pockets with sensational appeals pegged to all the drama.
Late in the afternoon, Ted Cruz sent supporters a fundraising appeal pegged to the hearing.
“As I write you this, Hillary is giving her stump speech before the Congressional Select Committee on Benghazi,” he wrote. “For the past four days, she’s been hiding in her Washington D.C. home—rehearsing. But the truth is, Hillary has been rehearsing since the fight was still going on in Benghazi.”
The email proceeded to criticize Clinton for implying a YouTube video incited the attacks on the consulate—a major point of contention at the hearing.
“While you and I may both agree that Hillary is the LAST person who should lead our nation… Not everyone feels that way,” Cruz continued. “You see: Hillary’s already raised $75 million for 2016. So, I’m personally asking—will you chip into my campaign?”
Sen. Marco Rubio was a bit more subtle, tweeting out to his nearly 1 million followers that a good way for them to support the House’s Benghazi investigation would be to give him their email addresses.
“SIGN and stand with Trey Gowdy as he uncovers the truth about Hillary Clinton’s actions as Secretary of State,” his account blasted out, directing people to his campaign site where they could add their names and email addresses to a petition that will definitely fortify Gowdy’s spirits.
Coaxing Internet-users into signing petitions is a typical way for campaigns to build their email lists—and building those lists is serious work. One conservative email list broker estimated that the average email donor gives $90 per year. The longer a candidate’s email list, the more potential donors. And small-dollar donations are typically viewed as indicators of momentum and grassroots support, which is why candidates care a lot about contributions as small as $3.
Rubio and Cruz weren’t the only White House contenders to use the hearing to rack up new contacts. On the eve of her testimony, Hillary Clinton’s team also encouraged Twitter followers to demonstrate their devotion to her candidacy by forking over their email addresses. In exchange, donors would be eligible for a free sticker.
And it’s not just candidates. EMILY’s List, an organization that supports pro-choice Democratic women running for office, encouraged its supporters to sign an online petition “to demand House Republicans stop their partisan attacks against Hillary Clinton.” Signatories were immediately presented with an opportunity to contribute to the group.
And Correct the Record, a pro-Clinton organization helmed by David Brock, emailed potential supporters encouraging them to “JOIN THE CORRECTORS And Receive The Complete Guide to the Benghazi Select Committee.”
Some skipped the list-building formalities, though, and cut straight to the chase. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee—which works to elect Democrats to the House of Representatives—sent out an email blast with the subject line “Hillary Clinton DISRESPECTED.” The rest of that email was comparably arch in tone.
Besides Rubio, other Republicans were fairly coy about looking to cash in on the day’s proceedings. That may be because Rep. Trey Gowdy—who chairs the committee—took considerable heat for accepting contributions from three PACs headed by a conservative operative who used pictures of Benghazi victims in an anti-Hillary ad against their families’ wishes. After The Washington Post asked the congressman about contributions, Gowdy returned $6,000 he received from the operative, Dan Backer.
It wasn’t Gowdy’s first Benghazi bucks embarrassment. In March, he bowed out of a fundraiser for the Virginia Republican Party because organizers billed it as a “Beyond Benghazi” event.
But even while Gowdy may have passed on an opportunity to fund-raise off the day’s events, others seem to have done pretty well for themselves thanks to the hearing.
According to the DCCC’s site, their outreach effort was at least moderately successful; at press time, a ticker proclaimed they had raised $40,000 of their goal.
“Now it’s time to tear apart the Republicans for this taxpayer-funded political charade,” cried their email writer in boldfaced font. “Help us raise $100,000 during this sham hearing to go after the Republicans.”