Why Helping the Flynn Campaign is especially useful right now

post by kuhanj · 2022-05-09T23:12:14.099Z · EA · GW · 48 comments

Disclaimer: This endorsement is written in a purely personal, non-professional capacity.

The last date ballots can be submitted for the primary elections in Oregon, including the District 6 race where Carrick Flynn is running (see here [EA · GW] for more context on why Carrick seems like an especially impactful candidate to support), is May 17th. That is eight days away.

I think helping out with the campaign is especially impactful right now (as opposed to the general case for impact, which is well laid out in the above post) for three main reasons:

If you’re interested in helping out the campaign in its last week, here are some concrete suggestions:

Feel free to email/message me if you have any questions, and hope you have an impactful week!




Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Matthew Yglesias · 2022-05-10T00:45:35.376Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I would just add to this that it’s worth taking a few minutes to really think if there is anyone you might possibly know who lives in the district — or even a second-degree connection like a friend’s sister who you’ve never met. “Relational” communications are much more high-impact than calling strangers if it’s at all possible to find someone you have any connection with.

Replies from: Mathieu Putz
comment by Mathieu Putz · 2022-05-10T11:03:41.667Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

If you're wondering who you might know in Oregon, you can search your Facebook friends by location:

Search for Oregon (or Salem) in the normal FB search bar, then go to People. You can also select to see "Friends of Friends".

I assume that will miss a few, so it's probably worth also actively thinking about your network, but this is probably a good low-effort first start.

Edit: Actually they need to live in district 6. The biggest city in that district is Salem as far as I can tell. Here's a map.

comment by _pk · 2022-05-10T20:48:37.808Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Oregonian here, born and raised. I don’t live in OR-6 but can see it from my home. I’m by no means a member of EA but I’m aware of it and until now had a generally favorable impression of you all.

I hope that rather than donating, folks in this thread will think about what they’re doing and whether it’s a good idea. The most obvious effect of this effort has been to 5-10x the total spending in this race. It’s pretty easy to read it as an experiment to see if CEA can buy seats in congress. Thats not innovative, it’s one of the oldest impulses in politics: we’re rich, let’s put my friend in power.

Further, it sounds like your friend Carrick is a great guy, but he’s got many defects as a candidate. He’s only lived in Oregon for about 18 months since college. From the few interviews he’s given, he doesn’t seem to have much familiarity or even really care about key issues in Oregon (in particular, the few interviews he’s given show that he lacks a nuanced understanding of issues like forest policy and drug decriminalization). He does not appear to have reached out to local leaders or tried to do any of the local network building you’d expect of a good representative. According to OPB he’s only voted twice in his adult life. He has no experience in government. And, of course, if elected he will very visibly owe his win to a single ultra-wealthy individual who is almost guaranteed to have business before the next congress in financial and crypto regulation.

Even if you think pandemic response is the only issue that matters, there’s little public evidence that he’s an expert: whatever consulting he did is private as far as I can tell. What he appears to be is a policy analyst studying AI governance. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but it’s not how he’s being sold. And frankly, I doubt it’s a pressing issue to most people in the district.

I also don’t see any thought about the other candidates in the race. It’s not your guy vs a potato: there are 3 credible, excellent choices. Reps Salinas and Leon are both children of immigrant ag workers who worked their way up through local politics. If you think pandemic response is the key issue, Dr. Harder is a highly experienced doctor who used to run the Oregon Medical Board. Medical and policy experience: maybe you still think your guy will be better, but by how much?

One final thought. I thought this group was supposed to be about deploying money more effectively. The amount that’s been spent here would have been more than enough to rent an office and pay a salary for Mr Flynn, an experienced lobbyist with a good Rolodex and support staff for several years. You could have had a dedicated smart pandemic response lobbying operation, not a 2% increased chance of your friend getting elected or whatever. How is your approach effective?

Replies from: Mauricio, robirahman, Khorton, _pk, Mathieu Putz
comment by Mauricio · 2022-05-11T06:14:53.710Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for the thoughtful comment! Without commenting on the candidacy or election overall, a response (lightly edited for clarity) to your point about pandemics, which some might see as especially important:

You emphasize pandemic expertise, but pandemic prevention priorities are arguably more relevant to who will make a difference. It might not take much expertise to think that now is a bad time for Congress to slash pandemic prevention funding, which happened despite some lobbying against it. And for harder decisions, a non-expert member of Congress can hire or consult with expert advisors, as is common practice. Instead of expertise being most important in this case, a perspective I've heard from people very familiar with Congress is that Congress members' priorities are often more important, since members face tough negotiations and tradeoffs. So maybe what's lacking in Congress isn't pandemic-related expertise or lobbying, but willingness to make it a priority to keep something like covid from happening again.

When it comes to who makes pandemic prevention a priority, Mr. Flynn does much better than Rep. Salinas, Rep. Leon, or Dr. Harder, none of whom even mention pandemic preparedness or pandemic prevention on their campaign websites (unless I missed it?).

So for someone who sees pandemic prevention as a priority, supporting Mr. Flynn might be a uniquely effective way to help bring about Congressional action.

comment by Robi Rahman (robirahman) · 2022-05-11T13:26:21.021Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

If you think pandemic response is the key issue, Dr. Harder is a highly experienced doctor who used to run the Oregon Medical Board. Medical and policy experience: maybe you still think your guy will be better, but by how much?

The FDA has hundreds of highly -experienced doctors and still had such a disastrous response to the pandemic they probably caused millions of extra deaths. They completely blocked challenge trials and delayed vaccine deployment by six months. What matters is not whether the people in government are doctors, it's the policies on how the government behaves when an important problem arises. And crucially, the key issue isn't pandemic response, it's pandemic prevention. Carrick Flynn is the only congressional candidate I know of who's running on that.

Replies from: _pk, Linch, Linch
comment by _pk · 2022-05-11T21:30:38.886Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks. I agree - you can debate who would be most effective on pandemic prevention! But it is debatable and I’d love for everyone here to factor that into their back of envelope effectiveness calculations.

But I also want to convince you all that your focus is way too narrow. This is not an election for pandemic czar, it’s an open seat several decades in the making and the representation for >650k Oregonians. So it rankles to see the race turned into an experiment to see if huge amounts of money can buy it for somebody who seems disinterested in most issues facing the district.

comment by Linch · 2022-05-11T14:07:36.964Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hmm I fear there might be a cultural clash here. Many people on this forum believe that pandemic response (and especially prevention) was a massive and avoidable bipartisan failure on the part of the US, and a massive failure internationally on behalf of our institutions, experts, and governments overall  (see here [EA · GW] for an anonymous take). Many people on the forum don't believe in the "overwhelming and avoidable failure" narrative, but at least they're sufficiently familiar with this story that this is a common starting point of debates around here.

I think in contrast, many Americans (and I think this is more true of the elite than the public) would rather put the current pandemic behind us. And for those still concerned, a common pattern is to blame members of the other party. And I especially don't like the typical attitudes of the Western intelligensia, which tends to blame the public for what is primarily the faults of our institutions and experts (zeynep's take, my response). 

comment by Linch · 2022-05-11T13:44:26.579Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

The FDA has hundreds of highly -experienced doctors and still had such a disastrous response to the pandemic they probably caused millions of extra deaths

(Note that this has to include non-US mortality as well in the metric). 

comment by Khorton · 2022-05-10T21:59:55.442Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for posting, I think this is a more than fair and very thoughtful challenge.

comment by _pk · 2022-05-11T21:33:29.213Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Let me add a positive suggestion. It’s down to the last few days, but if you’re reading this and still thinking about limiting out, your dollars will be better spent in the next district over.

OR-5 is currently represented by Kurt Schrader, a centrist democrat with a long history of blocking any sort of ambitious or progressive legislation. He was one of the members behind splitting Build Back Better, and therefore killing most of the interesting stuff off (including if I’m not mistaken, a bunch of Covid response funding). But his district was just re-drawn and about half the voters have changed.

He has a strong primary challenger in Jamie McLeod-Skinner, a lawyer with city management experience who is running to his left (you can’t really run to Schrader’s right as a democrat). McLeod-Skinner seems cool, and in her previous run came closer to getting elected in a safe R district than seemed possible, basically through heroic networking and ground game.

Here is American politics right now: good ideas are not scarce, the votes to enact them are. Replacing Schrader is a slam dunk, and it’s a cheaper race. It’s a better use of your dollar. Here’s a link: https://jamiefororegon.com/

Replies from: Owen_Cotton-Barratt, Charles He
comment by Owen Cotton-Barratt (Owen_Cotton-Barratt) · 2022-05-11T23:32:15.241Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks! Constructive suggestions about good things to do seem great.

I think Carrick is getting a lot of support from a combination of making crucial issues like pandemic preparedness priorities, and also benefiting from reputation networks here (so people are justifiably confident that he isn't going to be in it for himself or giving out political favours, which is just a super-important dimension). It's certainly plausible that McLeod-Skinner's campaign is a great opportunity to help out with, but my personal impression is that you haven't (yet) made a comparably strong case, so I'm not sure how many people will be persuaded by what you've said so far. But if you (or anyone) wanted to dive into a deeper analysis of the value of supporting different campaigns from an impartial welfarist perspective, that could be useful, and I imagine you'd find a receptive (if critical!) audience here.

[Not me for US races; I'm not an American so won't be giving anything. I'm following this one because Carrick is an ex-colleague and I think he's a great guy.]

comment by Charles He · 2022-05-11T22:20:27.979Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I know some Oregonians too and I think they find the use of money in all politics deplorable and would be fine or pretty happy with the candidate mentioned in the original post.

Do you mind telling us who you are and what your relationship with this OR-5 candidate is?

I’m not sure every person here understands how many forum accounts/time/erudite writing a full $2,900 political donation could produce.

Replies from: Charles He
comment by Charles He · 2022-05-11T23:16:48.089Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thinking behind my comment above or why you should care (something something minimal trust investigations)—I’m not saying I’m Correct, but this is how I sort of think so if this is terrible someone should stop me.

(I’m on mobile so formatting is weak.)

The comment pattern satisfies noticeable patterns for me that suggest a lot of practice or intent.

— Something noticeable is the how they repeat certain critiques in a way that is superficial. They do this in such a way I doubt their writing could be the full story behind this person’s views, or another plausible explanation is that their view is shallow and they found this content to fill out the comment. Either of these is less consistent with how I expect most concerned people to pop onto the forum to talk about OR-6. It suggests cultivation.

— Broadly, opinions and views repeat patterns and ideas that come from elsewhere.

— Their messaging across comments is pretty tight and goes through a progression I find deliberate . (I was born in Oregon and can see OR-6, have a favourable view of you guys) but then moves into critiques of funding later on, and then moves into what I would consider outright rhetoric and a leading point (is this the best way to spend your money?), which then seats the position for an ask.

— Note that the later content gives a funny characterization of EA (the CEA reference is not the biggest issue), this isn’t deceptive but it is consistent with learning enough about EA to make this comment (eg no real prior interest).

I don’t think this is evil or anything. The person is just trying to support someone they care about. The level of sophistication here is like at the level of any experienced campaigner.

My friends uses similar level of sophistication for buying a used car for example.

Other points:

— EAs focus on messaging and branding and have historic sensitivities. I think it would benefit EAs to know how sensitivities are being broadcast and their effect.

— Many political races have a candidate who could be supported to move it to the left. It’s unclear how or why the indicated race OR-5 would be a good donation.

— In general, no one has agreed or even raised the topic of EA generally supporting left (or right candidates). The support of the candidate mentioned in the OP has a more specific theory of change.

— The forum has been broadcast in national media multiple times now. I’m guessing the reason why cultivated activity hasn’t appeared is because communicating and learning EA diction and coming up with the indicated pattern I pointed out takes time and is risky. I think this has some information to judge comments that do make it in (Something something Bayesian).

Replies from: _pk
comment by _pk · 2022-05-12T18:02:24.645Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

My friends uses similar level of sophistication for buying a used car for example.

Ouch, was I really that bad?

I’m gonna retract the parent comment and didn’t mean to raise questions about my motivations. (I think you’re suggesting I might be a McLeod-Skinner secret agent? I’m flattered, I think). For what it’s worth, I have no connection to her campaign, have never met her, and am actually not even a donor in her current race (I donated to her first campaign a few years ago).

I was simply trying to provide an alternative, since I think you all are mis-spending kind of a lot of money.

Many political races have a candidate who could be supported to move it to the left.

For the amount being spent in OR-6, you could have had a significant influence on a bunch of those.

Replies from: Charles He
comment by Charles He · 2022-05-12T18:28:09.287Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Nothing you wrote was bad. In fact it was fantastic.

I think you could use your real name and that seems very low cost.

The one issue on substance is that I wish you could have delved into more, was engaging about the long, high effort comments that was made about pandemic prevention, which isn’t the same as covid response. Especially not just saying that an incremental package from another candidate was comparable.

There is such a world of difference between pandemic prevention and another covid response package—that difference reflects how you could influence the people here who are donating to the candidate in the OP to donate somewhere else.

Re: too much spending.

(Another reason why the money is going where it is, is that this could lift the cruel 50% work hours that a congresswoman spends just calling donors and serving the party, with that lifted, they have freedom to serve their country and their constituents).

As a meta comment (a point about the process of my commenting), I guess my main issue is with the response here with the EA.

By the way I’m not an EA, no one likes me so this isn’t official or anything like that.

Replies from: Charles He
comment by Charles He · 2022-05-12T18:30:34.001Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

For anyone else reading this, including full on partisan and political policy people—I think EA and everyone would welcome detailed, policy like discussion on pandemic preparation.

You can do this even if it (highly) unfavorable to the candidate. That is the nature of EA.

One major opportunity with this press and money is that someone could use attention to create a virtuous cycle of actual policy discussion (as opposed to too much discussion about owls or gotchas).

A real convincing thread here about improving policy in pandemics that satisfies the EA would very possibly unlock principled political funding that protects Americans.

If you really had the knowledge, many people would navigate you through the silly EA terminology and habits.

comment by Mathieu Putz · 2022-05-11T06:30:55.030Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hey, interesting to hear your reaction, thanks.

I can't respond to all of it now, but do want to point out one thing.

And, of course, if elected he will very visibly owe his win to a single ultra-wealthy individual who is almost guaranteed to have business before the next congress in financial and crypto regulation.

I think this isn't accurate.

Donations from individuals are capped at $5,800, so whatever money Carrick is getting is not one giant gift from Sam Bankman-Fried, but rather many small ones from individual Americans. Some of them may work for organizations that get a lot of funding from big EA donors, but it's still their own salary which they are free to spend however they like. As an aside, probably in most cases the funding of these orgs will currently still come from OpenPhil (who give away Dustin Moskovitz's and Cari Tuna's wealth), rather than FTX Future Fund (who give away SBF's wealth among others).

I think it's important that for the most part, this is money that not-crazy-rich Americans could have spent on themselves, but chose to donate to this campaign instead.

Replies from: sawyer, Joel Burget
comment by sawyer · 2022-05-11T18:18:10.036Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

SBF's Protect Our Future PAC has put more than $7M towards Flynn's campaign. I think this is what _pk  and others are concerned about, not  direct donations. And this is what most people concerned with "buying elections" are concerned about. (This is what the Citizens United controversy is about.)

Replies from: _pk, Mathieu Putz
comment by _pk · 2022-05-11T19:56:10.616Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for the replies. This is exactly what I meant: Flynn likely wouldn’t be within striking distance without the firehose of ads provided by SBF’s super pacs. A really large % of the spending in the race is being provided by a single individual.

comment by Mathieu Putz · 2022-05-11T19:37:39.712Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for pointing this out, wasn't aware of that, sorry for the mistake. I have retracted my comment.

comment by Joel Burget · 2022-05-11T18:32:04.958Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Donations from individuals are capped at $5,800, so whatever money Carrick is getting is not one giant gift from Sam Bankman-Fried, but rather many small ones from individual Americans.


There's a really easy way around the $5800 limitation, called a super PAC (Political Action Committee). Super PACs don't give to campaigns directly, but try to influence races via ads, etc. There are no restrictions on super PAC funds.


In this case the Protect Our Future (super) PAC (https://www.politico.com/news/2022/04/19/crypto-super-pac-campaign-finance-00026146). I'm not clear exactly how much POF spent on the Flynn campaign, but SBF donated $13M to POF.

Replies from: Mathieu Putz
comment by Mathieu Putz · 2022-05-11T19:37:21.455Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for pointing this out, wasn't aware of that, sorry for the mistake. I have retracted my comment.

comment by EverettSmith · 2022-05-09T23:33:39.927Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Oh man, I really love this. I used to do door knocking / phone banking in high school and they were quite fun. What wasn't fun was I struggled to find candidates who I really believed in. But everything I've read about Carrick, and also meeting him,  I think this is a really special opportunity to be part of something awesome. Count me in.

Replies from: kuhanj
comment by kuhanj · 2022-05-09T23:39:08.809Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Amazing, thank you Everett! I'd love to hang out together. :)

comment by Jackson Wagner · 2022-05-10T05:10:57.705Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

This really is a tight race!! Prediction markets at PredictIt and Metaculus are showing Carrick Flynn with just about a 50% chance to win. Political races don't get much more counterfactual than that! https://metaforecast.org/?query=flynn

(In addition to giving him a 47% chance in the primary, Metaculus gives him 40% odds to ultimately win both the primary the general and become a Representative. This implies that if he can make it through the primary, he has an 85% chance (40/47) of winning in November. So, most of the battle is happening this week.)

comment by CarolineJ · 2022-05-10T12:13:20.100Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Why are you volunteering for the campaign?

I’m a volunteer for the campaign because

  • I am convinced that Carrick is an exceptional candidate because of his track record of making big, impactful things happen. Examples: co-founding GovAI and CSET -- which are top references in AI governance --, saving potentially thousands of lives by clearing a roadblock to a nationwide vaccination program [EA(p) · GW(p)], and securing a court decision that reallocated over $1 billion to high impact health programs by manually going through over 1,000 pages of accounting documentation.
  • Also, by all accounts from his friends and colleagues, is very honest and generally a good and kind person.
  • would have a huge direct impact by being a champion to neglected and very important cause areas, like pandemic preparedness.
  • would give a lot of information to future candidates interested in preserving future generations
  • would gain a lot by being in Congress ASAP so that he can build experience and become even more impactful in the next few years. By being an elected official, Carrick enters a new "reference class" that puts him in a better position to have very impactful roles later. I think Carrick has a substantial chance of becoming one day in charge of the US national response to extreme risks, such as a pandemic or a technological disaster. 19 out of 45 US Presidents served in Congress and 5 out of 45 US Presidents went to Yale Law School, as he did.  So maybe Carrick would have a 1 in 1000 or 10,000 chance of becoming a US president, and an even higher chance of becoming "simply" extremely influential in US policy.
Replies from: John_Maxwell_IV
comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2022-05-13T06:17:31.394Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Have you thought about crossposting this to some local subreddits? I searched for Carrick's name on reddit and he seems to be very unpopular there. People are tired of his ads and think he's gonna be a shill for the crypto industry. Maybe could make a post like "Why all of the Flynn ads? An explanation from a campaign volunteer"

Replies from: CarolineJ
comment by CarolineJ · 2022-05-13T21:38:10.755Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for the suggestion, I'm going to definitely consider that.  I'm a  bit worried about feeding the troll... Maybe something more focused on why I think he's really a good candidate, and more detailed?

Replies from: NotOtherwiseSpecified, John_Maxwell_IV
comment by NotOtherwiseSpecified · 2022-05-14T01:38:30.544Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Maybe these are obvious considerations, but seeing those reddit comments makes me wonder:

  • At what point does further ad spending become actively counterproductive by provoking people into voting for the competition, or into persuading others to?
  • Is it worth it for someone like Flynn or Bankman-Fried to communicate directly to the voting public explicitly acknowledging how many ads there are from outside funders, and explaining why that seemed like a legitimate thing to do given what these outside funders felt to be the stakes? (At least I don't think I've seen such communication so far.) That might give people an alternative to the adversarial frame that they might otherwise default to.
comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2022-05-14T00:12:50.151Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I think there is no harm in setting up an alert in case there are more threads about him. The earlier you arrive in a thread, the greater the opportunity to influence the discussion. If people are going to be reading a negative comment anyways, I don't think there is much harm in replying, at least on reddit -- I don't think reddit tends to generate more views for a thread with more activity, the way twitter can. In fact, replying to the older threads on reddit could be a good way to test out messaging, since almost no one is reading at this point, but you might get replies from people who left negative comments and learn how to change their mind. I've had success arguing for minority positions on my local subreddit by being friendly, respectful, and factual.

Beyond that I'm really not sure, creating new threads could be a high-risk/high-reward strategy to use if he's falling in the polls. Maybe get him to do an AMA?

My local subreddit's subscriber count is about 20% of the population of the city, and I've never seen a political candidate post there, even though there is lots of politics discussion. I think making an AMA saying what you've learned from talking to voters, and asking users what issues are most important to them, early in a campaign could be a really powerful strategy (edit: esp. if prearranged w/ subreddit moderators). I don't know if there is a comparable subreddit for District 6 though, e.g. this subreddit only has about 1% of the city population according to Wikipedia, and it's mostly pretty pictures right now so they might not like it if you started talking about politics.

Replies from: CarolineJ
comment by CarolineJ · 2022-05-14T20:37:25.891Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Lots of useful insights. At this point, I'm more on the side of doing this [EA · GW], which is not fanning the flames.

" How should I respond to takes on EA that I disagree with?

Maybe not at all — it may not be worth fanning the flames. 

If you do respond, it helps to link to a source for the counter-point you want to make. That way, curious people who see your interaction can follow the source to learn more."

comment by ChanaMessinger · 2022-05-10T15:46:45.492Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Intended to donate in December and then again in January and had too many credit card issues, just maxed out my donation right now because of this post. Thanks!

comment by mic (michaelchen) · 2022-05-20T17:25:47.705Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Before the election was decided, I agreed with the overall point that donating, phone banking, or door-knocking for the campaign seemed quite valuable. At the same time, I want to mention a couple critiques I have (copied from my comment on "Some potential lessons from Carrick’s Congressional bid" [EA(p) · GW(p)])

  • The post claims "The race seems to be quite tight. According to this poll, Carrick is in second place among likely Democratic voters by 4% (14% of voters favor Flynn, 18% favor Salinas), with a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points." However, it declines to mention that the same poll found that "26 percent of the district’s voters [hold] an unfavorable opinion of him, compared to only 7 percent for Salinas" (The Hill).
  • At the time the post was written, a significant fraction of voters already had already voted. The claim "the campaign is especially impactful right now" seems misleading when it would have been better to help earlier on.
  • The campaign already has plenty of TV ads from the Protect the Future PAC, and there are lots of internet comments complaining about receiving mailers every other day and seeing Carrick ads all the time. (Though later I learned that PAC ads aren't able to show Carrick speaking, and I've read a few internet comments complaining about how they've never heard Carrick speak despite seeing all those ads. So campaign donations could be valuable for ads which do show him speaking.)
  • Having a lot of people coming out-of-state to volunteer could further the impression among voters that Carrick doesn't have much support from Oregonians.
  • If you can speak enthusiastically and knowledgeably about the campaign, you can do a better job of phone banking or door-knocking than the average person. However, the campaign already spent $847,000 for door-knockers. While volunteering for the campaign might have been high in expected value, the fact that other people could do door-knocking raises questions about whether it's in out-of-state EAs' comparative advantage to do so.
comment by aogara (Aidan O'Gara) · 2022-05-10T08:56:13.032Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Donated because of this post. Thanks for sharing and good luck to Carrick.

comment by Eric Neyman (UnexpectedValues) · 2022-05-10T21:21:06.304Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Does anyone have an estimate of how many dollars donated to the campaign are about equal in value to one hour spent phonebanking? Thanks!

Replies from: CarolineJ
comment by CarolineJ · 2022-05-14T19:54:47.240Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

It's quite hard to know and I don't know what the Team Campaign thinks about it.

There is a good article on Vox about the evidence base for those things  "Gerber and Green’s rough estimate is that canvassing can garner campaigns a vote for about $33, while volunteer phone-banking can garner a vote for $36 — not too different, especially when you consider how imprecise these estimates necessarily are." Not exactly what you answered but can give you a sense of direction."

comment by CarolineJ · 2022-05-10T18:42:42.383Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Here's an ITN-style analysis from an anonymous friend and me.

  1. Neglectedness. Very few candidates put pandemic preparedness and preserving future generations as their top priorities. Also, given how important it is to have flexible spending from small donors compared to big donors, we could say that $3k increases his effective level of funding by 0.1%.
  2. Tractability. A doubling in funding could increase probability of the campaign winning by 10% (i.e. 30->40%).
  3. Importance. The value of a win is worth $N
  4. The calculation. Then the value of a $3k donation is $N * 0.1% * 10%.

N has to be greater than ~$30M for it to be worth donating. Seems highly likely given Carrick's expertise in, and interest in pandemic prevention and other issues that are important from a longterm standpoint. Another (related) way to look at it is that if you think that large donors who contributed to the campaign are making the right choice, then small donors donating to the campaign itself are having a severalfold bigger impact per dollar (because their spending is less restricted). 

comment by MichaelDickens · 2022-05-10T00:16:00.940Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

How quickly can campaigns spend money? Can they reasonably make use of new donations within less than 8 days?

Replies from: Matthew Yglesias, kuhanj
comment by Matthew Yglesias · 2022-05-10T00:43:32.972Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

These days campaigns can use late money thanks to digital ad opportunities

comment by kuhanj · 2022-05-10T00:26:21.343Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I think donations in the next 2-3 days would be very useful (probably even more useful than door-knocking and phone-banking if one had to pick) for TV ads, but after that the benefits diminish somewhat steeply over the remaining days.

Replies from: CarolineJ
comment by CarolineJ · 2022-05-13T22:48:28.349Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Kuhan is probably right. However, after speaking to someone on Team Carrick today, it seems like there is still room for funding for the campaign's ads, which are different from the PAC's ads and show more Carrick talking directly to people. So giving now still makes sense (for the next 48 hours) even though the effects are smaller than a few days ago. 

comment by CarolineJ · 2022-05-13T21:29:12.694Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

It is still useful to donate until Sunday!

I just talked with someone in Carrick's campaign and they said that there are still two more days for ads to be useful. The PAC has its own ads but they don't show Carrick's speaking. The campaign has better, more personable ads that people like better but the campaign can't use the PAC's funding for those better ads.

And we have another Fermi estimate of the ROI on a donation to Carrick’s campaign! 

'There are 435 members of the House of Representatives. Let’s assume that the House as a whole holds 1/4 of the total influence over the federal government’s spending, as one half of the legislative branch. Naïvely, Carrick’s influence would therefore be 1/(4*435), or 1/(1,740). 

If Carrick is elected, over two years the government will have $3.2T in discretionary spending. If Carrick can influence his share (1/1,740) of that, he’ll influence about $1.8 billion. 


How much difference can your donation make? One regression I saw suggested that every 10x increase in a candidate’s funding predicted about 5 percentage points greater vote share. (To be fair, this was for Senate races, and just looking at correlations, but this is the best model I could find after some quick Googling.) 

So let’s say Carrick has about $1M raised so far. And since it’s a close race, let’s say if Carrick gains 5 percentage points of the vote, his probability of winning goes up 25 percentage points.

Multiplying that through, we get that for every dollar you donate to Carrick’s campaign, in expectation Carrick will influence $51 of federal spending:


Carrick’s “share” of federal discretionary budget if he wins * federal discretionary budget over 2 years * $1 as proportion of a log increase in funding * increased probability Carrick wins from a log increase in funding.

Let’s assume that Carrick is politically constrained and that only 10% of that “share” is directed towards projects that are competitive with a major longtermist funder’s last dollar. Even so, you would get that donating to Carrick has more than a 5x multiplier on your donations as compared to other opportunities.

But I actually think this is probably a big underestimate. For one thing, this does not account for the non-budgetary ways Carrick can create value, such as enhanced regulation, oversight, debate. Carrick winning would also make substantial investments in EAs’ political influence, such as in getting useful information for the next generation of candidates, socializing EA ideas, and making useful introductions.

But even the dollar calculation is probably low. Getting Carrick elected would significantly improve (maybe by 10 percentage points) the probability of a $30billion dollar pandemic preparedness bill being passed. This alone would surpass my Fermi estimate.

This is why I’ve maxed out to Carrick. I hope you will too.'


Thanks to my anonymous friend for this great estimate.

comment by Khorton · 2022-05-10T20:24:49.905Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

The phone banking form doesn't have dates so I don't know which Monday it's asking about?

Replies from: CarolineJ
comment by CarolineJ · 2022-05-13T22:49:32.239Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

It's about every Monday - the next one being in three days.

However, I recommend that you sign up even outside of these slots because there are still opportunities to do phone calls! 

comment by CarolineJ · 2022-05-10T12:14:27.700Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I'm genuinely curious: if you’re considering donating but haven’t yet, what are your key questions/cruxes?

Feel free to answer here and/or DM me. 

I'm organizing a small group discussion around this and your questions would help direct the conversation.  Also maybe some people can answer here!

If you're interested in chatting casually about this, please DM-me :)  

Replies from: akrolsmir
comment by Austin (akrolsmir) · 2022-05-10T22:22:16.899Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I have donated $2900, and I'm on the fence about donating another $2900. Primarily, I'm not sure what the impact of a marginal dollar to the campaign will accomplish -- is the campaign still cash-constrained?

My very vague outsider sense was that the Flynn campaign had already blanked the area with  TV ads, so that additional funding might not do that much, eg from local coverage from a somewhat hostile source

Replies from: Owen_Cotton-Barratt, CarolineJ, akrolsmir
comment by Owen Cotton-Barratt (Owen_Cotton-Barratt) · 2022-05-11T03:51:55.385Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I might well be wrong (in which case hopefully someone will correct me), but my understanding is that your second $2,900 would be restricted for use in the general election so couldn't be spent on the remainder of the primary. (Earlier in the campaign there were indirect benefits of total money raised, but it's probably a bit late in the day for those.)

comment by CarolineJ · 2022-05-13T22:56:29.085Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

The campaign can only use the first $2,900 in the primary campaign, but they can use the rest in the general election if they win the primary. If they don't win the primary, the options are either returning the remaining money to you or passing it along to another campaign. 

Additional funding right now would be financing better and more personal ads that still work in these final days.

As you've already given $2,900, I may recommend:

  • Directly going to Oregon and knocking on doors!
  • Phone banking
  • Talk to your Oregon friends living in District 6 or who have connections to it
  • Saying why you care about voting for Carrick on social media
comment by Austin (akrolsmir) · 2022-05-10T22:27:00.289Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I actually do think that getting Flynn elected would be quite good, and would be open to other ways to contribute. eg if phonebanking seems to be the bottleneck, could I pay for my friends to phonebank, or is there some rule about needing to be "volunteers"?

Replies from: CarolineJ
comment by CarolineJ · 2022-05-14T19:37:45.314Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I also think that helping Carrick would be super good!

Regarding phone banking, I wouldn't be that interested in paying for volunteers. The most important factor in the effectiveness of the calls is that the caller is genuinely enthusiastic about the candidate  - basically, if the caller is really interested, the person on the other end of the line has three times more chances of being convinced than if the caller is not really enthusiastic about the candidate.  (I don't have the specific paper this was in.) So it's great if you get your friends to call, but they need to be "in"! 

Other ways to contribute: