Paul Spencer, a Congressional candidate in Little Rock, Arkansas, has never worked at a tech company. He doesn’t represent tech industry issues. He doesn’t even own a laptop or smartphone. He typically dictates the tweets on his campaign’s official Twitter account; occasionally he’ll type them out on a campaign staffer’s computer. Sometime last year, he was tagged in a tweet with someone going by the handle of @Pinboard, who was telling Spencer that he could raise money for him.
“I don’t know who this @Pinboard guy is,” he said to his staffers. The campaign ignored the tweet for a couple of days before someone decided they might as well send the guy a message. “We like to say it’s the most lucrative DM we’ve ever sent,” Reed Brewer, a spokesperson for the Spencer campaign, told me.
Spencer was being invited to be a beneficiary of the Great Slate, a fundraising campaign that raised nearly a million dollars in 2017, mostly through Twitter, for eight seemingly random congressional candidates from across the country. The Great Slate has no splashy slogans, no slick logos: just a bare-bones website, a donate button, and a lot of jokes on Twitter. It isn’t being run by the candidates, a PAC, or the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). The fundraising is almost entirely driven by rank-and-file tech workers — some working for big companies like Google — living in the San Francisco Bay Area.