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Published — November 7, 2016

Liberal super PAC dispatches army of door knockers

Direct outreach approach used over advertising campaign


Hedge fund manager and environmentalist Tom Steyer — also a top Democratic bankroller — speaks during a panel at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December 2015. Michel Euler/AP

Political advertising may get more attention but with Election Day hours away, a liberal super PAC is betting direct outreach to voters is actually more effective.

For Our Future has “a goal of 8,093,518 knocks by Election Day,” according to its most recent publicly posted strategy memo.

The group was formed last June and supports Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Democratic candidates for Congress, including U.S. Senate candidates Katie McGinty in Pennsylvania, Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada, Russ Feingold in Wisconsin and Deborah Ross in North Carolina.

It has since spent millions of dollars on digital outreach and a field organizing program.

Super PACs must operate independently from campaigns, but For Our Future has been publicly posting updates on its plans and work, which allows campaigns to take those efforts into account when planning their own outreach.

In addition to knocking on doors, the super PAC is sending direct mail and using phone calls and texts to reach potential voters. It’s targets, as identified in strategy memos, are “sporadic voters” — those who lean toward supporting Clinton and the Democratic slate, but are not necessarily motivated to get out and vote.

Who’s behind it?

For Our Future is a collaboration between NextGen Climate Action, which is backed by billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, and an assortment of unions: the AFL-CIO; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association.

Unions are traditionally among the organizing powerhouses of the Democratic party.

The super PAC is run by a cadre of experience Democratic operatives, including Paul Tewes, who directed the Obama campaign’s 2008 Iowa caucus efforts.

Money in

The super PAC took in $34.3 million through Oct. 19, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Of that amount, unions collectively contributed more than $21 million, with the largest contributions coming from AFSCME ($5.2 million), the AFL-CIO ($4.75 million) and AFT (about $4.1 million).

NextGen Climate Action contributed $6.5 million. Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife, Cari Tuna, each contributed $2.5 million.

Money out

The super PAC reported spending $32.4 million through Oct. 19, according to disclosure reports filed with the FEC and analyzed by the Center for Public Integrity, including more than $7 million on the presidential election.

For Our Future has made millions of dollars in contributions to other organizing groups across the country, including Working America, an AFL-CIO affiliate.

Other expenses include canvassing, digital advertisement production, robo-calls, direct mail and print ads in Asian publications.

Why it matters

For Our Future allows unions and other groups to more easily coordinate their organizing efforts, carving up territory and pooling resources.

In addition, For Our Future is trying to get out the Democratic vote by providing “sporadic” voters with information about issues, as well as where and when to vote.

Read more in Money and Democracy

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