In Fundraising Email for Hurricane Relief, Bill Nelson Directs Users to Group That Builds Donor Lists for Dem Campaigns

Sen. Bill Nelson / Getty Images
October 11, 2018

Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.) on Wednesday sent out an email encouraging people to donate money for hurricane disaster relief with a list of nonprofit groups that provide aid, but he did not disclose that the links for each group direct users to the website of ActBlue, an organization that helps Democrats raise money and saves donor emails for future fundraising efforts.

Hurricane Michael hit Florida on Wednesday as a category 4 storm, leaving hundreds of thousands of Floridians without power and killing at least four people in the state. After the storm devastated the Florida Panhandle, it hammered Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia, killing at least another two people—a child in Georgia and a man in North Carolina. In total, nearly 1.1 million people in six states have been left without power.

Within hours of the storm hitting, Nelson sent out an email with a list of nonprofit organizations, which he said are "vital resources for people who need help." The nonprofits include American Red Cross, Big Bend Homeless Coalition, Florida Disaster Fund, and Team Rubicon, among others.

Each organization has a link that sends users to a page on ActBlue's website asking people to donate to hurricane relief efforts.

Nelson also tweeted out an ActBlue link for people to give donations for hurricane relief on his website.

"The devastation from #HurricaneMichael is widespread across the Panhandle and Big Bend in Florida," Nelson tweeted. "Anything you can give to these nonprofit organizations will help people with needed relief."

ActBlue, a federally registered political action committee that was launched in 2004, has called itself "the online clearinghouse for Democratic action."

"ActBlue is a nonprofit, building fundraising technology for the left," the organization says on its website. "Democratic campaigns get more donations through ActBlue than any other platform."

"A majority of Democratic Senate and House campaigns—along with the DCCC, DSCC, DGA, over one-third of statewide campaigns, and advocacy organizations around the country—have chosen ActBlue," the website adds, noting that the organization has raised $2,862,403,745 for "Democrats and progressive causes" in 14 years.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee slammed Nelson for his "desperate attempt" at trying to win reelection next month.

"Bill Nelson has reached a new low in a desperate attempt to save his political career," said NRSC spokesperson Camille Gallo. "While Floridians were trying to save their homes and lives, Bill Nelson used this tragedy as an opportunity to save his taxpayer-funded job by shamelessly using disaster relief efforts to bolster his fundraising operation."

This is not the first fundraising email that Nelson sent this week. He sent multiple emails to voters who were within the path of the hurricane with bolded statements, including  the captions "Losing Florida would cost Democrats the Senate" and "We can't win without your immediate donation, friends."

Nelson also received backlash last year for trying to fundraise off Hurricane Irma. In an email at the time, Nelson attempted to raise money off his decision to urge major airlines not to raise fare prices with the storm coming toward Florida.

Nelson, a three-term senator, faces Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R.) in his reelection bid next month.