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TL;DR There are still opportunities to support passing pandemic prevention policy, such as: supporting other candidates in open seats who prioritize it like Maxwell Frost, lobbying existing and new representatives, or supporting local and state candidates who care about it and may run for Congress in the future. 


With over 14 million in spending, Carrick Flynn is on track to receive about 19% of the vote, about 10,400 votes. That's over $1000 per vote for about half of what the leading candidate, Andrea Salinas, received for about 1/7th the spending backing her. Making the spending 14x less effective by comparison. Of course, PAC spending on behalf of campaigns is more limited than what campaigns can do themselves, so a direct donation early on was likely more valuable. Some possibilities for that disparity are that she was a well known state rep, backed by the local party and activist organizations, would be the first Latina to serve in Congress for Oregon, and the district's voters already being saturated with Carrick ads. 

Recap of Donation Rationale

Despite thinking this campaign was a longshot due to the presence of a local party backed state rep who already served many of the district's voters, I was and still am fairly sympathetic to donating to races like this because even with a small chance of success (<1%), the expected value of passing the White House's pandemic prevention plan is so huge - trillions of dollars and millions of lives saved. And if someone in Congress had that as their top priority, they might greatly increase the chances of it getting passed since there doesn't seem to be strong opposition to the plan. 

Just one data point?

This race is only one data point but it seems to fit with broader patterns regarding the importance of connections with the local community like party support and limits of what money can do in races with a well known candidate. I was uncertain of the effectiveness of spending money on this a few months ago because of Salinas' local support and compared it to when Cenk Uygur ran for congress in a new district he didn't live in or have much connection to. Despite out-raising his opponents, Cenk only received about 6.6% of the vote. And local party backed state rep Christy Smith easily defeated him. Though Cenk also had many controversies as well, which muddied the comparison somewhat. 

Other Possibilities for Passing Pandemic Prevention Policy

1. Set up a group dedicated to lobbying for pandemic prevention legislation. It's possible that there is already one or more members of Congress who would be sympathetic to this cause and willing to make it a serious priority if they heard more about why it's so important and doable. An investment similar to what was spent on this race can pay a few years salary for a dedicated team to figure out a) who is most likely to become a strong supporter of pandemic prevention b) how to move representatives from indifference to support. 

2. Invest in local candidates running for state/local races. Going straight to congress in your first election gets a lot of media attention, but a far more reliable path is work your way up from a local position like state, city, or county representative once you've built stronger connections with the communities who live there. And money can often go a lot farther in a smaller state-house race.

3. Help other congressional candidates running in open seats who make pandemic prevention a priority, like activist Maxwell Frost, who Protect Our Future is now supporting. 



  1. Money only goes so far. Eventually you saturate voters with ads and they lose effectiveness the closer you get to the election and more well known a candidate is. Donating earlier is more valuable than later.
  2. Local connections and reputation matter a lot.
  3. It might be a good idea to spend money on pandemic prevention lobbying to find champions among existing representatives or supporting pandemic prevention candidates earlier at lower levels of office to build the bench for future Congressional races. Or just other congressional candidates who prioritize pandemic prevention. 






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Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 12:55 AM

My view is that this is a bet we'd take again. Copied from my twitter:

Sam Bankman-Fried et al spent $13 million on a 30% chance for Carrick Flynn to win. Assuming an 80% chance to win in the national, that's $50 million for a house seat for someone who cares deeply about pandemic prevention + great record + all the information learned in the campaign.

Would we pay that much for every house seat? I don't know, probably? How many seats do you need to pass pandemic bills? Also the first person has much higher marginal value. This looks like a choice that those involved would make again.

Also, this has great signalling value. If I were in a tough race in the next 2 years, I'd be pushing for Pandemic Legislation and negotiating for some money. "If he's willing to blow $13 mill on a nobody, if I back this legislation, maybe he'll back me" 

correct me if I'm wrong

Yeah overall sounds right to me. Maybe be careful about using phrases like "pay for a house seat." I think something like "$50 million to raise awareness of Biden's Pandemic Prevention Plan until it becomes a top priority for a representative" gets the same point across more clearly, whether it's done by convincing voters to elect a champion of it or winning over existing reps.

Also I think 30% is probably too high for new candidates in races with party backed state reps who already represent most of the voters in the race.

His name is Carrick Flynn, not Flynn Carrick.

Ah I keep mixing it up. Thanks, edited the post. 

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