This brief post gives some background on Guarding Against Pandemics (GAP), which does non-partisan political advocacy for biosecurity work in the U.S. and has unique potential for impact and fundraising needs. Specifically, it makes the case for donating to GAP’s Political Action Committee (PAC). While GAP’s lobbying work (e.g. talking to members of Congress) is already well-funded by Sam Bankman-Fried and others, another important part of GAP’s work is supporting elected officials from both parties who will advocate for biosecurity and pandemic preparedness. U.S. campaign contribution limits require that this work be supported by many small-to-medium-dollar donors. Even though many projects within the EA space are typically not funding constrained, the significant upside of political contributions combined with U.S. campaign contribution laws make the PAC a uniquely good opportunity for small-dollar donors interested in reducing global catastrophic biological risk.
You can contribute to the PAC following this link. Due to federal election law, only U.S. citizens are allowed to donate, each individual’s giving is limited to $5,000 per year, and donations are not tax-deductible.
To expand on both this post and the PAC, GAP will be hosting an online Q&A with its founder and director Gabe Bankman-Fried on Tuesday, October 12 at 7pm ET. Registration for this online event is here.
This post outlines:
- What GAP is;
- Why GAP’s work is important/neglected/tractable;
- What donations pay for and why they matter; and
- Details about how to donate and/or contribute in other ways.
What is GAP?
Guarding Against Pandemics (GAP) advocates for public investments to prevent the next pandemic. GAP was formed during the COVID-19 pandemic by Gabe Bankman-Fried and others committed to mitigating global catastrophic biological risks (GCBRs).
While there has been massive public investment in responding to COVID-19, there has been almost no public investment targeted at protecting us from the next global health crisis or to even more catastrophic pandemic risks. Doing so will require engagement at all levels of government. That’s why GAP is pushing Congress to include a significant initial payment towards the Biden administration’s $65 billion pandemic preparedness plan in Democrats’ upcoming budget reconciliation bill to prepare for the next pandemic, as well as funding a pandemic research ballot initiative in Denver.
GAP has already garnered significant attention from politicians and the national media, including NBC, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Atlantic, Huffington Post, and The Hill. GAP purchased a 6-figure media buy to advocate for including $30 billion of pandemic funding in the reconciliation bill, which was featured in Punchbowl News. GAP also purchased another 6-figure buy during the congressional recess in key states which was featured in McClatchy, and hired lobbying firm Van Scoyoc which was featured in Politico.
Why is GAP’s work important/neglected/tractable?
GAP’s strategy to reduce global catastrophic biological risks is to leverage political relationships, lobbying, and direct campaign contributions in order to encourage public investment in pandemic preparedness.
This work is important: driving public investment in pandemic preparedness has an enormous upside given the magnitude of the potential threats. The scale of resources that governments can deploy to combat biological risks is simply massive and easily and dramatically dominates the amount that could plausibly be raised from private individuals and/or institutions.
It is neglected: there has been no systematic effort to drive political attention towards the threat of catastrophic pandemics through U.S. lobbying and political donations. These tactics have largely not yet been tried by people who take pandemic risks seriously.
It is tractable: because of the significant public appetite for the government to expand its work on pandemic preparedness in the wake of COVID-19, there is a real chance to help shape the details and scope of the government’s commitment to pandemic preparedness before this political window of opportunity closes. We do not intend to provide an exhaustive literature review of the effectiveness of lobbying and campaign contributions — it may even be the case that there is no useful way to measure it. However, there is good reason to believe that if our community is able to drive political attention towards more, better, and upstream pandemic preparedness investment in the wake of COVID-19, then we could see a commensurate increase in funding, activity, and concern from all levels of government.
What would my donation pay for and why does that matter?
Donations to the PAC would go towards supporting candidates who are champions for pandemic preparedness in Congress and in state and local offices.
Unlike many EA priorities, because of campaign finance limits of $5,000 per person in donations, political giving is bottlenecked by the number of donors in addition to the total dollar amount available. This means the impact of small-dollar donations is disproportionately high in this area. While GAP has the ability to fundraise for other types of expenditures (e.g., lobbying, advertising, etc.), it will not be able to provide direct contributions to pandemic preparedness champions without a sizable base of individual supporters.
Direct support is arguably the most effective/efficient way of building ongoing relationships with decision-makers in order to drive sustained attention towards and investment in pandemic preparedness.
How to donate/contribute
Given the importance of this issue, neglectedness of these tactics, and the high-leverage moment we are currently in, we are requesting that individuals contribute as much as they are able up to the federal limit. If you are interested in contributing to the PAC, you can use this link. Reminder: due to federal election law, only U.S. citizens are allowed to donate, each individual’s giving is limited to $5,000 per year, and donations are not tax-deductible.
If you are not an American citizen and/or would like to help in other ways aside from donating, please consider sharing this post with your networks and signing up for and sharing the mailing list here to stay up to date about GAP’s work and future opportunities.
As mentioned above, GAP will also host a Q&A with founder and director Gabe Bankman-Fried to answer any questions that people interested in contributing to the PAC may have. Sign up here.
If you have any questions about this post, our work, our strategy, or your donation/support, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guidance to CEA-funded EA Group Organizers
Because Centre for Effective Altruism (CEA)-funded EA group organizers are not allowed to engage in political activity, it is important that they do not share the above donation link or actively encourage members to donate, unless outside of working hours and not through EA-related email accounts. However, they may do the following:
- Share this post and/or the Q&A session sign-up information via EA mailing lists or EA social media accounts as something that their members might be interested in checking out
- Have a discussion group about the effectiveness of lobbying or political activity, at which point GAP may be discussed as a case study and this Forum post may be shared as reading material
- Make a contribution to the PAC
- Discuss contributing to the PAC with other members of the EA community privately
- Share the PAC donation link privately outside of CEA-funded working hours