Nearly 14,000 people have donated ?thus far to fund Approve R-74 campaign
by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Everything costs money these days. And the price for all things needed, desired, or required has consistently gone up your whole life. Unless you've got a lot of it, money, for the most part, sucks. There are few things in life, however, that can cost you both in dollars and in freedoms. Political campaigns are one of those things.
When Washington United for Marriage (WUM), the broad coalition working to defend the state's new law granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples, announced it would fight to defend the law in November by campaigning to Approve Referendum 74, you could almost hear a collective groan from donors - small and large. And for good reason, too - right out of the gate, Zach Silk, WUM campaign manager, told SGN readers this campaign would cost a minimum of $6 million, and to beat our opponents we would need to at least match them dollar for dollar. That was six months ago, shortly after Gov. Gregoire signed the Marriage Equality Act into law.
DEFYING THE SKEPTICS
These days, thanks to nearly 14,000 donors, WUM is sitting on a pile of money that many in the community never would have guessed was possible. To date, WUM has raised $7.29 million dollars to defend the freedom to marry.
August was particularly a good month. On September 4, WUM announced that more than 5,000 new donors helped raise $1.758 million during August alone.
WUM now has 13,866 individual contributors, possibly the largest number of donors in any Washington state ballot campaign. According to the Public Disclosure Commission's online records dating from 2000, only 2008's I-1000 came close, with approximately 9,500 contributors.
The average gift in August was $50, with 84% of those donations coming from Washington state residents. Additionally, those 5,000-plus new contributors in August constitute a 47% increase over the 8,900 individuals who had donated to the campaign by the end of July.
'We are so energized by the confidence so many people and organizations have placed in our campaign and the drive to defend our marriage law in November,' said Zach Silk, WUM's campaign manager. 'With the campaign season now fully in gear, we've got a broad and deep field organization in literally every corner of the state, and none of that would have been possible without the generosity of our donors.'
A STATEWIDE CAMPAIGN
At the same time that the campaign set statewide fundraising records, WUM's field effort continued to build into one of the largest ever launched in a statewide ballot measure.
Among the highlights: a total of 33 field staff are operating out of seven offices statewide, including three new operations in Tacoma, Shoreline, and Bellevue; volunteers are calling voters across the state from 50 separate phone banks every week (the number of calls to voters in August increased 300% over the number placed in July); and the total number of active volunteers now exceeds 2,800, the campaign reports.
In August, more than $208,000 was raised online, with the average gift being $73; house parties were held at 38 different locations across the state, netting $85,964; the largest single gift of $525,000 came from Freedom to Marry, with the Human Rights Campaign contributing $260,000 and T-Mobile donating $25,000; and Millions for Marriage, a fundraising program that brings family, friends, and co-workers together to raise money for the campaign, brought in nearly $128,000.
RESPECT FOR ALL
Silk says that as we head into the heart of the election season, it seems an appropriate time to reflect not just on the muscle, but also on the values of this campaign.
'We have all worked hard to prepare for this moment,' he said to supporters in an e-mail blast. 'The campaign will certainly heat up and passions will run high. That enthusiasm and perseverance will serve us well in these final, all-important weeks.'
'But let's remember that passions will run high on both sides,' said Silk.
'There are good people who simply do not view marriage equality as we do,' he reminded supporters. 'We might not be able to change everyone's mind, but we always want to treat everyone fairly and with respect.'
For Silk, it always comes down to the Golden Rule. 'We must work tirelessly until November 6, and the next day we not only want to savor the very first win for marriage at the ballot box, we want to know that we treated everyone fair and square, no matter where they were on this issue,' he said. 'So, let's keep those conversations about the freedom to marry going strong.'
For more information about Washington United for Marriage and the campaign to Approve Referendum 74, go to www.washingtonunitedformarriage.org.
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