GOP officials have long debated whether to devise a similar tool but have struggled to reach an agreement among the multiple firms competing for business from Republican campaigns and groups. The task has been complicated by rivalries among consultants, who can take a small cut of every dollar given online.
But after Democrats raised record-setting amounts of money in small-dollar donations in the 2018 midterms, GOP officials began seriously considering a rival to ActBlue, which has nearly 7 million users and boasts of raising more than $3.5 billion for Democratic candidates and causes since its founding in 2004.
The advantage of ActBlue, a payment processing service similar to PayPal or Venmo, is that nearly every Democratic campaign and group raises money using it. ActBlue makes it easy for donors to give money with one click on their smartphones or in response to email or text appeals and give to multiple recipients at a time.
WinRed is emulating that model in the hopes of taking over the entire Republican online fundraising market. It will allow donors to give to multiple Republican candidates and groups with just one click. And officials say they have a leg up on Democrats: Trump’s army of small-dollar donors.
Trump’s 2016 campaign raised an unprecedented $239 million from donors who gave him a total of $200 or less, responding to his anti-establishment message. The ability to attract and sustain small-dollar donations has allowed the Republican National Committee to amass a war chest that far exceeds what the Democratic National Committee has been able to raise.
“It’s a great opportunity to leverage the excitement for President Trump out there,” said Henry Barbour, board chairman of the data management firm Data Trust, which is involved in the effort. “We’re not going to catch ActBlue overnight. But I’m very confident that it’s going to have a meaningful impact in the 2020 cycle, and it will be even more than that going forward.”
The White House, Senate and House leadership, and longtime party donors were involved in planning, according to those involved.
WinRed is a joint venture between Revv, a digital payment processor, and Data Trust, a firm that has an exclusive list-sharing agreement with Trump and the national party. Revv was founded in 2014 by Gerrit Lansing, a former chief digital officer at the RNC and the Trump White House who now works for the GOP consulting firm IMGE.
The four main party committees have begun phasing their online operations over to WinRed, according to Monday’s announcement: Trump’s reelection campaign, the RNC, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC focused on electing Republicans to the House, also announced it would adopt the platform.
It is unclear how receptive Republican campaigns will be to the new tool. The party committees’ announcement on Monday is meant to be an incentive for campaigns to sign up.
But competitors say they remain open for business and have in fact seen new clients sign up as a result of the WinRed announcement.
“We welcome free-market competition,” said Paul Dietzel, chief executive of Anedot, a rival firm to Revv. “Anedot is trusted by more Republicans than all competitors combined.”
ActBlue executive director Erin Hill noted that ActBlue is a registered nonprofit, rather than a for-profit company like WinRed.
“Part of the reason they have that fractured universe is they are looking at it kind of like a treasure chest,” Hill said. “It’s being backed by billionaires. Our grass roots are leading.”