WASHINGTON — Grassroots conservative activists were outraged Friday when the Republican National Committee blasted out an email to its fundraising list asking recipients by name if they had "abandoned the GOP" because they had not donated any money in a while.
Especially egregious, say the activists, is that the email went out to a list for party volunteers, many of whom have invested hundreds of hours into the party during this year's election.
"Myself and hundreds of activists like me have worked countless hours for our local Republican units and our state Republican parties. They know this, but they don't take the time needed to modify their e-mail system to reflect the priority of grassroots activists," said John Scott, head of the Young Republicans in Virginia. "To those who don't know how the RNC works, however, it's just damn offensive. Folks bust their tails for the party, and they wake up to the party asking if they have abandoned it."
Scott's comments were just some of a torrent of complaints about the email that popped up across the conservative blogosphere in the hours after the email went out. Nathan Smith, a conservative blogger in Georgia, wrote the email was offensive to volunteers and state party donors and said it could harm the party's prospects.
"Imagine what goes through the mind of swing Republican voters," he wrote.
The RNC email is stronger than many, but it fits into a trend of direct cajoling and even shaming for donations common in political solicitations in the modern era.
"John," Scott's version of the email began, "Did you abandon the Republican Party?"
Chairman Priebus has written to you already this year asking you to contribute to the RNC and renew your membership. But we haven't received your financial support yet this year.
Your past support has shown us that you believe in the Republican Party and the conservative principles we stand for. That's why we still believe you haven't given up on the Republican Party yet.
So we are giving you one more chance to renew your membership with the Republican National Committee.
The Obama reelection campaign used shame — notifying voters who in their neighborhood had voted or who among their Facebook friends had actively participated with the campaign — to great effect in 2012.
But conservatives do not seem to appreciate that approach.
"Normally it has been the Obama campaign that has sent out pushy, obnoxious emails effectively demanding you pledge your loyalty to the cause, else you be considered a traitor to your values," wrote Justin Higgins, a young conservative operative in Virginia. "Today, however, the RNC gave the Obama campaign a run for their money when it comes to terrible tone."
Some took the email as a final kiss off from the establishment Republican Party.
"I don't consider myself a Tea Partier — by far — but I've had different problems with the Republican Party, generally. The way they treat women as a group they have to pander to with simplistic messages, the way they've abandoned anyone in my age range, the way they've failed to communicate any positive policy positions, not simply opposition to the current administration," said Emily Zanotti, a former FreedomWorks staffer and editor at NakedDC. "I can help candidates on a local level in more effective ways than give money to the RNC and now we've officially broken up."
The RNC declined to go into specifics on its fundraising strategy, but noted that the tone was common to fundraising emails on both sides.
"We are always searching for the most effective digital techniques to engage our grassroots and ensure we have the funds necessary to win the midterm elections," said RNC spokesperson Kirsten Kukowski. "The Democrats have used this tactic regularly – the DCCC did a 48 hour thing like this a couple weeks ago."
Evan McMorris-Santoro is the White House correspondent for BuzzFeed News.
Contact Evan McMorris-Santoro at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.