A campaign funding request from U.S. Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) yielded thousands of dollars of unexpected donations for Chicago-based Feeding America.
McSally is running behind Democratic challenger Mark Kelly in both polling and fundraising. As of July 15, McSally had raised $30 million for her campaign, compared with $45.7 million by Kelly. McSally had just less than $11 million cash on hand while Kelly reported $21.2 million, according to The Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C.
On Aug. 21, AZFamily.com released audio of McSally saying: “We’re doing our part to catch up, you know, to get our message out. But it takes resources. So, if anybody can give, I’m not ashamed to ask… If you can give one dollar, five dollars, if you can fast a meal and give what that would be.”
The suggestion, which comes during a time of higher-than-normal unemployment and greater food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was met with a mixture of amusement and derision. Some social media users posted photographs of elaborate meals they were consuming, instead of making a donation to McSally. Others announced their intention to send the cost of their meal to her opponent Kelly, or in some cases $20.20, reflecting the election year.
Still others announced their intentions to send money to either local food banks, or to Feeding America, which funds and offers services to a national network of food banks.
These were not idle statements, at least as far as Feeding America was concerned. As of Monday, Feeding America had received “less than $10,000,” according to Catherine Davis, chief marketing and communications officer at Feeding America. A little more than $4,000 of that was in $20.20 donations, meaning at least 200 unsolicited consumers made donations.
Feeding America does not yet have a total number of new names added to its database, and it is not tracking whether donations were made in the name of McSally, Kelly or anyone else, according to Davis. Nor, given the political nature of the impetus, is it encouraging, or even referencing, the incident.
“Although we appreciate the support, we are not engaging with this as we want to safeguard our 501(c)(3) status and do not want to seem like we are endorsing one candidate over another,” Davis said.
The McSally campaign has come under fire for what came across as a request more appropriate for a charity. In response, it sent a local Arizona television news program a comment saying, in part, “This is a dumb non-story about a candidate making a joke on the stump.”