WASHINGTON -- Sharon Caliendo of Norman, Okla., worked for home state Republican Sens. Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe. She worked for Republican Gov. Mary Fallin. She worked for Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) last Senate campaign.
But ever since the tea party gained a dominant hold on the GOP agenda, Caliendo has taken both her vote and her small campaign contributions to the Democrats.
"They've gone so hard right," Caliendo, who calls herself a Colin Powell Republican, said. "They have no common sense left."
In 2012, Caliendo began making small donations to the reelection campaign of President Barack Obama. After the election, she gave to the chief political arm of congressional Democrats, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. She has now made more than 13 contributions totaling $376.
In the first 10 months of 2013, the DCCC dominated its Republican counterpart in fundraising. It did so in no small part by attracting new donors like Caliendo, frustrated with the Republican-led House of Representatives.
"The tea party, more than anything, and their growing influence in Congress," said Mike Snider, who works on a Navy base in southern Maryland, when asked why he has made at least 17 contributions to the DCCC totaling $513 this year.
That may not seem like much when the most expensive 2014 House race has already topped $9 million in fundraising. But Democrats have been remarkably successful at tapping huge numbers of small donors like Snider and Caliendo, who give over and over. That success may translate beyond money in next year's elections. As Caliendo noted, "Smaller donors are where the votes are at."
More than 15 percent of the DCCC's $65.2 million in fundraising through October -- or $10.1 million -- came from more than 11,700 donors who did not make a contribution in the 2012 election cycle, according to a review of Federal Election Commission records by The Huffington Post.
The National Republican Congressional Committee raised $5.7 million from more than 4,200 donors who did not give in 2012. Through October, the NRCC had raised $52.4 million.
More than half of the new DCCC donors made more than one contribution. Nearly 700 individuals made 10 or more donations. These repeat donors accounted for $3.4 million of the new donor money raised by the committee. That may only be one-third of the total raised from new donors, but these repeat donors are far more likely to keep giving through Election Day 2014.
While the DCCC is successfully getting new donors to pony up multiple times, the NRCC is struggling. Just 28 percent of new NRCC donors made more than one contribution. Only 19 individual donors made more than 10 contributions.
The NRCC, heavily reliant on big donors, received more than half of its new money from donors giving $10,000 or more. Donors giving $1,000 or more accounted for 90 percent of all new contributions to the Republican committee.
The NRCC did not respond to a request for comment.
Big donors also played a huge role for the DCCC, with 47 percent of its new donor funds coming from those giving $10,000 or more. Two-thirds of the new money came from donors making a contribution of $1,000 or more.
But donors giving less than $1,000 accounted for one-third of the new DCCC money. The NRCC raised 10 percent from that category of donors. These donors do not include those giving less than $200, the threshold for public disclosure of a donor's name and amount they gave.
Controversy has aided the Democrats' fundraising successes. The committee's two best fundraising months, among both overall and new donors, came during the 16-day government shutdown in October and the political standoff that led up to it.
"Mainly my giving works when [Republicans have] done something really stupid, made a really stupid remark, and the [DCCC] comes out with their thing saying can you give $5," Caliendo explained. "In one week I think I gave like $250 because I was so mad. That was leading into the shutdown."
The elevation of Democrats' enemies, like the austerity-promoting House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), also helped rake in money. The DCCC's third-best fundraising month came in March, after the House passed Ryan's budget, which would have cut Social Security and Medicare benefits.
“Every time House Republicans denigrate women, double down on millionaires over the middle class or push their agenda to hurt seniors, our grassroots supporters step up -- and, needless to say, it’s happened a lot this year," DCCC digital director Brandon English said.
These strategies are at the heart of the DCCC's successful digital fundraising program. The committee has carefully tailored its appeals to Democratic partisans, angry at the tea party and the Koch brothers. This is done through a stream of emails to the DCCC's massive list of supporters.
"Once you've given once, if you give them your email, you get lots of emails," Snider said.
Some help the DCCC raise more money.
Randall Redmon, a bagger and janitor at a Kroger supermarket in Versailles, Ky., has made more than 56 contributions totaling $370. He posts every fundraising email he gets from the DCCC to Facebook and Twitter to try to help raise more money than he can give himself.
"If they say that Republicans are trying to steal something or take away something, I'm trying to get as many people as I can to help stop them," Redmon said. "That's what I do. I spread the word."
Supporters can set up a recurring donation to keep their support flowing, as Caliendo, Snider and Redmon, among many others, have done.
The DCCC also raises money through an online store, a tactic pioneered by the 2008 Obama presidential campaign.
"Sometimes I buy stuff from their store and that's like a contribution, too," Redmon said. "Sweaters and stuff, and shirts."
These new Democratic donors will likely continue to pile on contributions whenever the DCCC amplifies the actions of House Republicans. But there are always some important factors that could lead some to cut off their giving.
"It depends on how things are going with polls and my finances and my job," Snider said.
Aaron Bycoffe contributed reporting. This story has been updated to include comment from the DCCC.
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