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 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:
- 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. This means that additional support for the campaign could be pretty counterfactual (as opposed to elections where Carrick is either very likely to win or lose).
- The deadline to submit ballots is a week, so interventions to help the campaign (e.g. TV ads, which donations would facilitate, or good conversations from phonebanking and door-knocking), are more likely to translate into actual voting, rather than holding off on deciding.
- My impression is that many community members assume that many others are phonebanking, donating, and taking other actions to support the campaign. The actual numbers seem to be much lower than I and people I’ve talked to would have expected, so there might be some bystander effect dynamics going on.
If you’re interested in helping out the campaign in its last week, here are some concrete suggestions:
- Donate if you’re able to do so (U.S. citizen or permanent resident who hasn’t maxed out their donations). Donations are especially valuable in the next 1-3 days, since they translate into positive airtime/TV coverage, which is especially effective right before elections. (Donations right before the deadline can’t turn into TV ads).
- Encourage your friends, family, colleagues, and other networks to donate, especially if they care about future-oriented policy and pandemic preparedness.
- Phonebanking yourself, and organizing phonebanking events with friends (phonebanking can be quite fun to do with other friends). Please fill out this form if you’d be interested in phonebanking, and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
- Traveling to Oregon and doing doorknocking.
- A group of us are going to go up and help, so please reach out to me (on FB messenger or email - email@example.com) if you are interested in volunteering in person!
Feel free to email/message me if you have any questions, and hope you have an impactful week!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
(Note that this has to include non-US mortality as well in the metric).
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 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).
Thanks for posting, I think this is a more than fair and very thoughtful challenge.
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/
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.]
Hey, interesting to hear your reaction, thanks.
I can't respond to all of it now, but do want to point out one thing.
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.
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.)
Thanks for pointing this out, wasn't aware of that, sorry for the mistake. I have retracted my comment.
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.
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.
Thanks for pointing this out, wasn't aware of that, sorry for the mistake. I have retracted my comment.
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.
Amazing, thank you Everett! I'd love to hang out together. :)
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.)
Why are you volunteering for the campaign?
I’m a volunteer for the campaign because
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"
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?
Maybe these are obvious considerations, but seeing those reddit comments makes me wonder:
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.
Lots of useful insights. At this point, I'm more on the side of doing this, 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."
Here's an ITN-style analysis from an anonymous friend and me.
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).
How quickly can campaigns spend money? Can they reasonably make use of new donations within less than 8 days?
These days campaigns can use late money thanks to digital ad opportunities
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.
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.
Does anyone have an estimate of how many dollars donated to the campaign are about equal in value to one hour spent phonebanking? Thanks!
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."
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!
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")
Donated because of this post. Thanks for sharing and good luck to Carrick.
In retrospect I regret this donation. The original pitch was convincing, framing Carrick as a poor kid from Oregon who went on to graduate from Yale Law and wanted to work on biosecurity policy. But after the election, several post-mortems of the campaign made clear that the Flynn campaign spent millions of FTX dollars on advertising, several times more than any of its competitors. Based on local media coverage, the additional marginal advertising my donation might have purchased could plausible have been net-negative for the campaign, generating more animosity among people who'd already seen far too many Flynn commercials.
I'm interested in EAs running for political office, but would not again support a candidate when my dollars could be easily replaced by FTX or another megadonor. IMO global poverty and other shovel-ready causes are a better use of marginal funds than the already-crowded longtermist space. The full cost-benefit analysis is difficult and debatable, but at a minimum I wish I was better informed about the level of spending by the Flynn campaign at the time I donated.
Note that your dollars were not replaced by FTX: you donated to Carrick's campaign, whereas FTX's donations went to a super PAC that did not coordinate with or made contributions to that campaign (it was this super PAC that spent millions in advertising). Of course, you may still be right that your donations were ineffective or even net negative, especially if your contribution resulted in increased ad spending by the campaign.
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.
The phone banking form doesn't have dates so I don't know which Monday it's asking about?
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!
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 :)
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
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.)
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:
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"?
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: