WASHINGTON, July 19 (Reuters) – U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has emerged as one of America’s foremost progressive Democrats with calls to tax the rich and spend heavily to fight climate change.
Now, she invests heavily in her online store, selling t-shirts, sweatshirts and other merchandise with her name, “AOC” initials or slogans such as “Tax the Rich” and “Fight for our. Future, “efforts to both fundraise and build the profile of the second-term lawmaker nationwide.
His campaign paid political products company Financial Innovations, which operates its online store and supplies merchandise, more than $ 1.4 million in the first six months of 2021, according to campaign disclosures to the Commission. federal election at the end of last week.
That’s more than many lawmakers spent in all of their re-election efforts during the period, and nearly double their payments made in the previous two years to Financial Innovations, a Cranston firm, Rhode Island, specializing in political products for Democrats.
Political t-shirts and promotional items were once a rarity on American streets, a sign of a campaign volunteer or a political addict. That has changed dramatically over the past six years when supporters of Donald Trump adopted his red “Make America Great Again” cap.
As well as raising a candidate’s profile – and posing as an identity badge in an increasingly polarized nation – political products are a small but important fundraising tool.
Ocasio-Cortez’s push into merchandise shows she is polishing an already formidable fundraising operation and building her brand within the Democratic Party.
“It’s a sign that she is nurturing her massive influence,” said Andrew Frawley, who managed the merchandise operation for Andrew Yang’s 2020 presidential campaign, including his “Math” t-shirts.
Although she has no official leadership role, Ocasio-Cortez has star power rarely seen in the US Congress. She has over 8 million Instagram followers and last year shot a video for Vogue detailing her personal skincare routine. Its online store capitalizes on its fame, according to experts.
“There is the fundraising aspect of the campaign and, for lack of a better term, there is the cult aspect of personality,” said Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, who studies political branding at the Stetson University.
Since defeating the Democratic House caucus chair in a 2018 primary and easily winning her seat to represent part of New York City, Ocasio-Cortez has become the face of the pressure from progressive democrats for a “Green New Deal”, a set of climate goals.
She is unlikely to lose her seat in a heavily liberal constituency when U.S. voters next year determine which party will control Congress for the second half of President Joe Biden’s term.
‘TAX THE RICH’
Kiley Bolton, 22, a student in Leander, Texas, said she got both compliments and rolled eyes when she wore her “Tax The Rich” sweatshirt she bought during the campaign of Ocasio-Cortez.
“I love what it represents and I love the AOC,” Bolton said.
Merchandise sales count as campaign contributions, but it’s unclear how many t-shirts and hoodies bring to Ocasio-Cortez’s chests. Campaign disclosures rarely specify whether a donation involved merchandise.
Frawley said the Ocasio-Cortez campaign could generate a profit of 50% or more on a large portion of its sales.
Selling hats and shirts is a good fundraising tool at the start of a campaign cycle when supporters may view political battles as more urgent than a distant election day, said Michael Duncan, a consultant. Republican who has set up online stores, including for the campaign of Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell. .
Buyers also typically give campaigns their best contact information, which is useful for future fundraising and recruiting volunteers.
“It’s of tremendous value for political campaigns,” Duncan said.
In an emailed statement, the Ocasio-Cortez campaign said its online store is focused on “elevating independent artists of color whose work tells a story of community and envisions a fairer world for all. “.
Using merchandise sales to increase his fundraising could help him wield more influence within the Democratic Party, enabling him to support candidates who share his goals, said Bruce Newman, a political scientist who edits the Journal of Political Marketing.
Already, his fundraisers are more like what is raised by party leaders or senators.
His campaign has raised about $ 6.9 million since the November election, compared to $ 10.8 million by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and $ 23.9 million by Senate Majority Leader Chuck. Schumer, who is re-eligible in 2022 and considered a potential primary target for Ocasio-Cortez.
“You would assume that she has ambitions for a higher position. Having a large bank account certainly helps for that,” said Erika Franklin Fowler, a political scientist affiliated with the Delta Lab research group at the Wesleyan Media Project, who calculated that the share of Ocasio-Cortez’s Facebook ads offering merchandise at the end of last year was more than double that of other House candidates.
Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell
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