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Hello all, My name is Sydney I’m one of the editors and writers of Reality Check (www.RealityCheck08.org) a website that tracks US presidential candidates consistency. Justin likes our site (and we like his!) so he asked if I’d be willing to write or cross-post on Donklephant. I blog about the Presidential election, but my background is in international relations and security studies, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, so, I may write about that or I may write about ’08. I’m new to this site, so please excuse any first day blunders.

What I really want to talk about however is a new phenomenon in campaign fundraising this cycle of giving gifts to donors. This quid pro quo offers donors an added incentive when considering giving to candidates. A potential donor might ask themselves, “do I want to spend $75 on a John McCain mousepad or $18 on the Hillary Clinton “kid pack” including ruler, pink piggybank and “Hillary cares about me” kid t-shirt? Sure, I’ll get more use out of the mousepad, but the piggybank is just so cute!”

If you give $50 to the John Edwards campaign you can get a country-bluegrass CD featuring Bruce Hornsby and Emmylou Harris. The CD, which is about the plight of America’s rural poor, seems to echo the themes of Edwards’ largely populist campaign, and the “kid pack” for Clinton’s campaign seems also to echo her emphasis on children (does anyone remember her first book?), what then does the John McCain mousepad say about him?

The trend is of course a reflection of the election more than of the candidates. Potential ’08 candidates are going to have to raise money in the $100 million range in order to stay afloat and will need to tap a whole new population of donors who may be swayed by having your spinning class meet with Bill Clinton (a Hillary Clinton incentive for the legal limit of $2,300/person) or winning a video ipod (the incentive for the top college student fundraiser for the Mitt Romney campaign). I swear, when I found out I could get a red, white, and blue peace t-shirt for giving only $20 to the Kucinich campaign, I nearly wrote a check, of course, if I save my money maybe I can go spinning with Bill Clinton.

Sydney is co-editor of www.RealityCheck08.org.