# The best $5,800 I’ve ever donated (to pandemic prevention). Disclaimer: I lead grantmaking for biosecurity and pandemic preparedness at Open Philanthropy, but this endorsement is written in a purely personal capacity. Carrick Flynn is running for congress in Oregon’s 6th district as a Democrat. He is also the first person to ever run for US congress on a platform of preventing future pandemics. This campaign provides a rare opportunity for smaller donors to make a large impact, since political contributions are capped at$5,800 per person ($2,900 for the primary and$2,900 for the general, but you can donate both up front).

His campaign website is here, launch video here, and donation link is here. Only US citizens and permanent residents can donate. The campaign also needs volunteers and staff (more details at the bottom of this post).

Carrick is a close personal friend and somebody I have enormous admiration for. I’ve worked with him since 2015, when he came to Oxford and subsequently set up the Centre for the Governance of AI. His wife Kathryn Mecrow-Flynn is also amazing, being the founder and CEO of Magnify Mentoring (formerly WANBAM).

Carrick embodies a number of virtues that I want to briefly highlight, and his story is remarkable. He grew up in poverty in rural Oregon, in an abusive household. A flood left him homeless as a child, and he shared a mattress on the floor with his brother until he was 17.

These experiences drove him to help others in poverty. After graduating from the top law school (Yale), he disregarded lucrative career opportunities to work in international development. In India, he saved potentially thousands of lives by clearing a roadblock to a nationwide vaccination program. He also secured a court decision that reallocated over $1 billion to high impact health programs by manually going through over 1,000 pages of accounting documentation. This is just one instance of Carrick’s determination and work ethic. At Oxford he worked harder than almost anybody else I knew—in fact, out of everybody I’ve worked with in the past decade, my time in Oxford with Carrick would put him in the top 5 people I’ve seen in terms of raw work ethic. He’s also brilliant. I’ll skip shallow measures of this[1] and just say that I saw Carrick’s intellect firsthand when he pivoted to thinking about pandemic preparedness during COVID. There he would rapidly digest information and connect it to what needed to be done. He’s likely the only person running for congress who has nuanced opinions on pathogen sequencing, platform vaccine tech, and what should go into the strategic national stockpile. Finally, many people who are as brilliant and driven as Carrick are assholes, and Carrick is emphatically not. He is one of the most warm, caring, and supportive people I know. He cares for animals too, and he and his wife are vegan (and not in an asshole-like way). I also know that Carrick is fiercely loyal. If he wins, his constituents in Oregon will have a representative that takes this duty seriously and puts their interests above his own. ### The importance of a champion in Congress After 9/​11, the U.S. government spent over$1 trillion on counterterrorism to ensure something similar wouldn’t happen again. After losing almost 900,000 lives and $7.6 trillion in economic damage to COVID, what do you think Congress is doing to prevent the next pandemic? The Biden administration released a fantastic$65 billion plan that aims to prevent future pandemics. Congress has funded practically none of it. Part of the problem is that nobody in congress has made pandemic preparedness a ‘core issue.’ Congressional members don’t oppose the president’s plan, and there are some standout champions, but none of them are trying to get it passed with the desperation that I think the issue warrants.

Carrick will make this a priority, and has committed to devoting a full time staff member to focus on pandemic preparedness issues. Realistically he won’t be able to change much overnight as a junior member, and the majority of his impact would only come years in the future. Still, even if this results in only a 1-in-500 counterfactual chance of eventually getting something as impactful as the $65 billion through, that’s still over$100 million of pandemic preparedness spending in expectation[2] (which I believe is substantially more well-spent than typical government spending).

### What a donation of $2,900 means I was recently told that congressional candidates typically spend more than half of their campaign time on the phone calling people and asking for money. This strikes me as insane and sad, and I would much rather Carrick spend his time listening to voters and developing smart policy. The campaign has an informal target of raising$1 million for the primary, which is the level of funding required for them to stop thinking about money (they’ve already raised over $200,000 before launching). The maximum primary donation is$2,900, so the campaign needs to reach only 300 more people to donate the maximum amount. If you are a US citizen or permanent resident and privileged enough to be able to donate this much, you could be one of these 300!

(I know smaller donations are also sincerely appreciated!)

What does the donation do? As a conservative lower bound, I think instantly hitting the fundraising target would free up over 250 hours of work from Carrick, and I think those 250 hours would increase the chances of him winning the election by more than 2% (I’m assuming a counterfactual in which they still raise the money but it takes more time and effort). Taking these numbers ($1 million for an additional 2% chance of winning) means that roughly speaking you should donate if you think Carrick winning the election would produce more good things in the world than$50 million worth of donations. Given what I know about Carrick and the fact that Congress spent almost $5 trillion last year, I feel like this should be an easy bar to clear (a factor of 100,000 over the$50 million mark).

I’m posting this in a community of people that take charitable giving seriously. Recently, large funders like Open Phil have made it harder for smaller donors to find outstanding opportunities to contribute. My personal giving pledge has sometimes felt like an afterthought since joining Open Phil, so I was proud to be able to finally donate in a situation where my donation wasn’t replaceable. It may have been the most impactful $5,800 I will ever spend on preventing pandemics! ### Or… volunteer for the campaign! The campaign also needs volunteers and staff. If you’re interested in helping out, email reachout@carrickflynnfororegon.com and let them know. I think they are most interested in volunteers who can call voters and spend time in Oregon, anybody with campaign experience, and people who can organize fundraisers (although my hope is that the fundraisers will be out of a job quickly, thanks to you!). 1. But if you happen to care about stuff like this, Carrick got a 99.6th percentile LSAT score. ↩︎ 2. Due to diminishing returns, this isn’t the same as being worth$100 million of biosecurity spending. But it doesn’t feel like more than a factor of 10 reduction, e.g. I would prefer a 1-in-500 chance of getting $65 billion rather than a sure chance of getting an additional$10 million. ↩︎

• This is probably as good a place as any to mention that whatever people say about this race could very easily get picked up by local media and affect it. As a general principle, if you have an unintuitive idea for how to help Carrick’s candidacy, it might be an occasion to keep it to yourself, or discuss it privately. Generally, here, on Twitter, and everywhere, thinking twice before posting about this topic would be a reasonable policy.

• I don’t know Carrick very well, but I will be pretty straightforward that this post, in particular in the combination with the top comment by Ryan Carey gives me a really quite bad vibe. It seems obvious to me that anyone saying anything bad right now about Carrick would be pretty severely socially punished by various community leaders, and I expected the community leadership to avoid saying so many effusively positive things in a context where it’s really hard for people to provide counterevidence, especially when it comes with an ask for substantial career shifts and funding.

I’ve seen many people receive genuine references in the EA community, many of them quite positive, but they usually are expressed substantially more measured and careful than this post. This post reads to me like a marketing piece that I do not trust, and that I expect to exaggerate at many points (like, did Carrick really potentially save “thousands of lives”? An assertion thrown around widely in the world, but one that is very rarely true, and one that I also doubt is true in this case, by the usual EA standards of evidence).

I don’t know Carrick, and the little that I’ve seen seemed positive and reasonable, and I think he is very likely going to be a vastly better congress person than people currently elected from the perspective of my values and principles, but I still feel like that isn’t sufficient reason to break many norms we have about exaggerating and being honest in our assessments of others, and being grounded and measured in the references and endorsements we give to others (in particular in combination with threats of negative consequences to anyone who provides counterevidence).

I understand that posts like this, and their surrounding social dynamics, are a norm in political races, and that I expect people participating in these races to feel like they are necessary. I haven’t thought through the tradeoffs here in much detail, but I am pretty confident posts like this have a cost on the quality of the discourse in EA and the forum. That cost might be worth it, though I do think it is a substantial cost and a major reason for why I am quite hesitant for many people in the EA community to get too involved with politics (though my real expectation is that we probably could just be honest and straightforward, and this wouldn’t actually hurt candidates, and we could just get the best of both worlds, but I do know that many people disagree with me on this).

Edit: Trying to operationalize what I would like to see instead of posts like this, I feel like I would like to have discourse about political candidates that allows readers of the forum to straightforwardly distinguish between four different cases for a potential candidate:

• This candidate is really good and competent, by both the the lights of the EA community, and by the lights of the broader world, as measured by their own standards

• This candidate is good and competent by the lights of the EA community, but it’s not clear whether they are particularly good by the lights of the rest of the world

• This candidate seems good and competent by the lights of the general political world, but is not a good candidate from an EA perspective

• This candidate is not a good fit for office, either from the perspective of the EA community, or by the lights of the rest of the world

I feel like this post kind of doesn’t really provide me with evidence to distinguish between these four cases. Like, I am not sure whether I would actually see evidence that looks very different from this for a candidate that isn’t actually a very good fit for political office at all. Or I would see evidence that’s different if a candidate looks good from an EA perspective, but not good from a broader lights perspective.

To be clear, I do think there is value in clear and unambiguous endorsements, and there is real evidence communicated here from ASB. But I feel like the way the evidence is communicated actually makes each individual piece less trustworthy, and I can’t shake this deep underlying current of the piece trying to persuade me instead of trying to inform me. A core part of this is definitely that I expect negative evidence about Carrick to be quite systematically filtered out, but another component is that a number of considerations that seem relatively irrelevant from an EA perspective (like Carrick’s childhood background) are given at the same time as pretty relevant statements (like the positive working experience that ASB had), in a way that makes me think I should treat both of them as the same.

Like, as an example, I feel like Carrick’s childhood background in this primarily serves the purpose of making Carrick emotionally sympathetic, without actually being any real bayesian evidence on whether he is a good or a bad fit for political office. I do think in an important sense, his background matters, but not because it should be compelling directly to me, but because I should expect others to find it compelling, and so assign higher chances to his political success, but signposting that kind of distinction feels very important to me when discussing political candidates.

• I think there’s a bit of a misunderstanding—I’m not asking people to narrowly conform to some message. For example, if you want to disagree with Andrew’s estimate of the number of lives that Carrick has saved, go ahead. I’m saying exhibit a basic level of cultural and political sensitivity. One of the strengths of the effective altruism community is that it’s been able to incorporate people to whom that doesn’t always come naturally, but this seems like a moment when it’s required anyway.

• Yeah, my reading of your comment was in some ways the opposite of Habryka’s original take, since I was reading it as primarily directed at people who might support Carrick in weird/​antisocial ways, rather than people who might dissent from supporting him.

• That’s...a lot of karma.

• Yeah, I had a chat with Ryan via PM as well, and it does seem like I interpreted him as saying something more strong than he had intended to say. So for anyone else who might have had a similar feeling, hopefully this thread is a useful clarification.

• in particular in the combination with the top comment by Ryan Carey gives me a really quite bad vibe.

I think you are interpreting RyanCarey’s comment as silencing of dissent. This seems unfair to me.

I thought RyanCarey’s comment was sort of specifically wincing about people saying specific weird things, like speculating about certain kinds of coordination or suggesting certain faculty with politics.

Given how snippets can be used unfairly (see /​r/​sneerclub) and also considering whatever is going on in American politics, this concern seems valid.

The comment seems orthogonal to frowning on dissent about the candidate or supporting elections in general.

I think writing a caution can be difficult. You don’t want to be get specific, and sounding overly worried is counterproductive.

• Dropping a quick comment to say I’ve upvoted this and might respond with more later. I do concede the claim about thousands of lives was not throughly scrutinized and I’m getting more info on that now (and will remove if it doesn’t check out). I otherwise stand by what I’ve written and also think Oli has worthwhile points.

• Update: after discussing and looking at some background documentation with Oli, we think the claim about ‘potentially thousands of lives’ is sufficiently supported.

• though my real expectation is that we probably could just be honest and straightforward, and this wouldn’t actually hurt candidates

Endorsed.

Lately I’ve had two minor unrelated experiences where I have been recommended to not say what I believe straight up out of fear of being misunderstood by people outside the community.

I think on the margin the community is too concerned with reacting to “what people might think” instead of their actual reactions.

• I think on the margin the community is too concerned with reacting to “what people might think” instead of their actual reactions.

I see where you’re coming from with this general heuristic, but I’m less sure how applicable the heuristic is to this context. In most cases, it seems right to ask, “How will a random person react if they hear X, if they randomly stumble across it?” But given the adversarial nature of politics, the more relevant question here might be, “How will a random person react if they hear X, if it’s presented however an adversary wants to present it?” And my intuition is that the latter question, when it’s very relevant, warrants lots more caution in public communications (while high openness is still great in certain private communications).

• [disclaimer: acting director of CSER, but writing in personal capacity]. I’d also like to add my strongest endorsement of Carrick—as ASB says, a rare and remarkable combination of intellectual brilliance, drive, and tremendous compassion. It was a privilege to work with him at Oxford for a few years. It would be wonderful to see more people like Carrick succeeding in politics; I believe it would make for a better world.

• What are the issues in Oregon that you believe Carrick would be best suited to address?

• I donated $5800. • I appreciate your spreading the word about this campaign, but I’m not comfortable with the EA Forum being heavily used for political campaigning. Per this policy, “posts advocating for or against a specific political candidate” should be in the Personal Blog category. • I donated$5800 and recommend this highly to people looking for impactful individual donations.

I had hoped that someone with Carrick’s background in biosecurity would eventually make it to national office, but I hadn’t expected there to be a serious chance of it this year!

• I don’t know him, but I really want Carrick in Congress. I think donating to his campaign is a not-unreasonable thing to do as a hits-based-giving-opportunity, since it would be great for him to be in the House...

...but I don’t think most readers of this post would appreciate how unlikely he is to win. People who would be great politicians often aren’t great candidates. Unless there’s relevant private information (e.g., he’s expecting endorsements from major Democrats), it’s quite unlikely that Carrick—whose name isn’t known in the district and who doesn’t have government experience—will get more votes in the Democratic primary than the candidates with name recognition, state government experience, and endorsements from many state government officials. (And if he doesn’t win, marginal performance in a failed House primary isn’t very helpful to future pursuits.) I wish I knew how Carrick plans to win: I wish we lived in the world where you could win elections just by dazzling voters with your policy chops, but we don’t.

I’m an elections junkie. I wish I could vote for Carrick, and I really hope he wins. But I would not feel comfortable recommending others donate or volunteer until his campaign gives us reason to believe that he has a real chance.

Edit, 2.5 days later. I still think Carrick’s chances are pretty low and that some people in these comments are excessively optimistic due to misweighting the relevant factors (which is ok—not everyone needs to be knowledgeable about elections—but skews the sentiment in these comments). And I still have meta-level concerns about how we decide to pursue certain interventions (which I plan to share after the primary). But I now think that donating is a highly effective thing to do in expectation (although on balance I would rather give to the Long-Term Future Fund), because it seems quite high-value for Carrick to win.

• I think Carrick has a decent shot, since he is running for a new seat (no incumbent), grew up in the district, has a compelling personal narrative (escaping poverty and then choosing a life of service), and doesn’t seem to be facing any extremely strong competitors. But, because he’s new to Oregon politics, he does need to raise a lot of money to attract the attention and support of local stakeholders and supporters.

• We should probably quantify “decent”. >10%? >50?

• Thanks for the question, JP, it’s always good to define those probabilities. I personally estimate his chance of winning to at least 30% (and going to 50%) due to Carrick’s fit, the unusually good fundraising, and the excellent campaign team. This is probably not one for people who want a definite win—it’s so much at play. However, I am very enthusiastic about Carrick’s potential for a very large impact and think it’s worth the shot.

• By all accounts, Carrick is also tall, attractive, and charismatic, as well as US-born and other relevant demographic factors. I’d personally be substantially lower on his probability of winning otherwise.

• Disclosure: my partner is working on Carrick’s campaign. But I also chose to donate $2900 before she was involved with the campaign. I was persuaded by the fact that small dollar donations are particularly useful in elections, which have individual donation caps. Also, if you’re primarily interested in funding longtermist projects, I don’t think there’s much need for small dollar donors in other domains given how much big donors are focusing on LT. I think Carrick has at least a 20% chance based on conversations with relevant domain experts. He’s leading in fundraising, which I expect to continue. Fundraising is more important to electoral success the more obscure the race is, and house primaries are the most obscure federal elections there are. He also got ~10k Twitter followers in a few days and has 10x more than Salinas (his top competitor IMO). I know Twitter isn’t real life, but it speaks to a strong network and savvy comms, which matter a lot in campaigning. Salinas was appointed to her state rep position and has never won a competitive election. She has strong endorsements, and I think is still probably the candidate most likely to win based on name recognition, endorsements, and political experience. FWIW, I worked for a successful state house campaign and have volunteered on a few other campaigns. • Here is a synopsis from Primary School, a newsletter focused on democratic primaries. It’s kind of annoying to dig through their posts for the hard to see “see full post” button so I’m copy and pasting them. EDIT FEC Update 2/​5/​2022 Carrick Flynn says he raised$430,000 in the first 10 days. Salinas only raised $174,000 in two months. Money isn’t everything in campaigns but that is kind of low for Salinas. -- Tl;dr: Salinas seems like a strong candidate and solid progressive who is supported by the local party. I’d be interested in seeing her first fundraising numbers when they are out. 1/​27/​2022 OR-06 Oregon Medical Board member Kathleen Harder raised$129,000 in the two months since she announced her campaign, which means she’s going to be a real part of this ever-widening field of candidates. In addition to her, state Rep. Andrea Salinas, former Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith, and dueling pro-cryptocurrency self-funders Matt West and Cody Reynolds, a new candidate has entered: State Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon. Leon, who is in her second term in the state house, was mentioned as a potential candidate for this seat when it was first drawn, but stayed quiet about any plans until people just assumed she wasn’t interested. That likely includes the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, who endorsed Salinas last month. Leon, an immigrant herself, has been fantastic on immigrant rights issues, and has fought to include the undocumented in Oregon’s Medicaid program. But her launch and campaign website have so far been light on the policy details, and she hasn’t taken any stances in inter-party fights that would make her allegiances more clear.

Leon may not even be the only candidate entering—AI researcher Carrick Flynn has filed to run. While assorted professors and researchers run for Congress all the time without anyone noticing, Flynn spent years as a relatively public-facing part of a well endowed AI-related public policy program, so he probably knows more than a few rich people.”

Originally I read this last sentence as him being more knowledgeable than rich people about AI, but now I’ve realized they probably meant he likely knows a bunch of deep pocketed individuals.

1/​18/​2022
″...FEC records that say that Matt West’s the one who self-funded $437,000 and raised$182,000, while Reynolds self-funded $2,000,000 and only raised$10 elsewhere.”

10/​13/​2021
″State Rep. Andrea Salinas is considering running for the new OR-06, a safely Democratic district containing the cities of Salem and Corvallis, as well as a significant chunk of the Portland suburbs. Salinas, first appointed to her suburban house seat in 2017, made it to House leadership just a couple years later, and has spent her time in office functioning as a solid progressive: She’s supported efforts to create a public option for Oregon (because “getting to some kind of single payer system is the best thing we could do..for all people in the US”), allow prisoners to vote, and give agricultural workers overtime pay. The local Democratic establishment clearly likes her if they appointed her to office, and to leadership not long after, so she’ll be a considerable force in the primary should she run. She also helped draw the new district, so the odds of it being at least somewhat optimized for her are pretty high.”

• I won’t comment on their endorsements or strategy, but I will say that even if Carrick is a longshot it doesn’t necessarily follow that it’s a bad use of marginal dollars.

• Would you like to place numbers here? I’m at a pretty high probability personally, maybe more like 40% than your implied 5%.

• Conditional on the campaign not having major relevant private information (e.g., expecting major endorsements), my instinct is about 5% (and my off-the-cuff low-research median estimate of his vote share is 10%). However, there’s so little public information so far that (in a prediction market, very roughly) I probably wouldn’t buy above 1% or sell below 20%.

(How did I imply 5%?)

• He has several times more funding and twitter followers then his next nearest rival. There’s more compelling media on his website and social media, including his video. His campaign team is unusually strong. Good credentials for congress (Yale Law, experience designing policy, grew up near the district) and a compelling life story. Also, good policies on pandemics and otherwise. So he’s got better than one in five.

• See Peter Gebauer’s comment above — do you think Carrick has a better chance than these competitors? Two crypto millionaires, two state reps, and a county commissioner. The three candidates with publicly available fundraising info now have $129K,$600K, and $2M (see above for which is which). Seems like a tough field where Carrick would not be the favorite, but I don’t know much about the base rates here. Does anybody know more about the outcomes of similar races, preferably for Congressional seats between state politicians and well-credentialed political outsiders? • I was looking at the finances here, rather than at the banks of the crypto self-funders, which are admittedly larger. Carrick’s ad is better than their ads. This one who has lent himself$2M has had like five previous failed runs, including runs with various minor parties—I don’t think he has a serious chance. Carrick’s funding position is much better than the two state reps. His story, team and social media presence is probably better than all opponents. He’s not some sort of dark horse candidate.

• Based on what people have said here, I think Carrick sounds like a great candidate who would make a wonderful representative. However, my impression from loosely following primaries from time to time is that local reputation matters a lot. Self funders tend not to do well because they tend not to have real local support. Does Carrick have a strong base of support or message to compete against the likes of a popular progressive state rep like Salinas (I don’t believe we have fundraising numbers from her yet)? If anyone knows of a race where a similar candidate won in similar circumstances, I’d love to hear about it.

The first similar race that comes to mind for me is when Cenk Uygur ran in California in 2020. Cenk moved to the district to run for an open seat and had large financial support from his fanbase built running a progressive independent media outlet known as The Young Turks. But he only got around 6% of the vote with $1.7 million spent. Granted, there are a couple of differences here: California has Top Two/​jungle primaries which means all candidates are on the same primary ballot; it was a special election which tends to have lower turnout; Cenk tends to be pretty abrasive; he never lived in the district before; the election was in a swing district; and Cenk had controversial misogynistic past blog posts from years ago when he identified as a conservative Republican and was hit hard in the media over it. He was running against a woman state rep with local party support who ultimately won the primary (although she ultimately lost the general election by a few hundred votes). I wasn’t able to find numbers for what she spent in the special election primary but she got over$5 million in all of 2020 so maybe less than half of that?

• I agree that Carrick loses to Salinas on some dimensions. He also beats her on some dimensions, like story, ads and social media. I think both have reasonably good chances.

• (How did I imply 5%?)

I was trying to quantify your verbal claims via my intuition of what people might mean when they say those words, and it turns out I did pretty well! ;)

• I am still finding myself on the fence about about this. It feels like a very exciting opportunity and worth the money, but there is a nagging part of me that says don’t trust that emotional reaction. What really matters is whether it’s better in expectation than saving a life or two. If anyone has done or is willing to do that calculation (or parts of it), I’d love to read it.

There are a lot of comments regarding his chances of winning, but less about what he could (or would be likely) to realistically accomplish if he were to gain office. This seems important.

I’d love to read an outside view take on what the range of accomplishments could be for a new representative without much political experience or party support.

• Strongly agree. Haven’t donated yet but could still be persuaded to. If there’s a particular date by which donations would be more impactful, that would be helpful as well.

• It looks like the primary date is May 17.

• Is there a place we can publicly track donations?

• I would also like to know this. If there were some way to donate, conditional on him not already having “enough” (whatever that means) funds, that would be useful.

• Some research on how foreign nationals can get involved (or not) in campaigns that will hopefully provide some clarity here:

1. A foreign national can volunteer as long as they are not part of the campaign’s decision-making apparatus. There are useful official sources. To start, there is the official Federal Election Commission guidance online. Here they outline that a foreign national can do anything as a volunteer as long as they are not part of the campaign’s decision-making apparatus. So for example, a foreign national can express their opinion online about who to vote and who to donate for. Like, I don’t have an arrangement with Carrick’s campaign. This is explicitly permitted. This is below:

Page 44:Foreign national as campaign volunteer Although foreign nationals may not make contributions or expenditures in connection with any federal, state, or local election (see Chapter 5, Section 1), an individual who is a foreign national may participate in campaign activities as an uncompensated volunteer. In doing so, the volunteer must be careful not to participate in the decision-making process of the campaign. The Act and Commission regulations specifically prohibit foreign nationals from participating in the decisions of any person involving electionrelated activity. 52 U.S.C. §30121; 110.20(i). See AO 2004-26 (Weller). For example, a foreign national volunteer may attend committee events and campaign strategy meetings but may not be involved in the management of the committee. 110.20(i); see AOs 2014-20 (Make Your Laws PAC), 2007-22 (Hurysz), 2004-26 (Weller) and 1987-25 (Otaola).

2. More specifically, foreign nationals can help with fundraising.

Also, from the Congressional Research Service’s write-up on the FEC and its advisory opinions:

Page 3: “FEC Advisory Opinions provide some guidance. Traditional volunteer activities, such as “lit drops, door to door canvassing, handing out literature at transit stations, telephone banking, and get out the vote activities” plainly fall within the exemption and may be provided by foreign nationals, who are similarly free to attend campaign rallies and events and give speeches endorsing their chosen candidate or cause. The FEC has also permitted foreign nationals to design a political committee’s website code, logos, and trademarks without compensation.… But a later Advisory Opinion specifically allowed foreign nationals to participate in fundraising activity, including in the direct solicitation of funds.… Thus, the volunteer exemption for foreign nationals.… what seems to matter is whether the foreign national participates in a political organization’s “decision-making process,” which includes “decisions concerning the making of contributions, donations, expenditures, or disbursements in connection with elections” as well as “decisions concerning the administration of a political committee.””

I’ve also looked all over the other statues and can’t find anything prohibiting speech supporting political candidates. It would be really weird if they prohibited this type of speech. America has a very strong free speech tradition that protects even most of the political speech illegal in Europe. Also, in First Amendment jurisprudence there is a hierarchy of protected speech, with political speech at the top. America not allowing people to express an opinion would be… well, really un-American. America’s protection is so strong (weird?) that it even protects the rights of corporations to donate money to campaigns as free speech (Citizens United).

3. However, donation swapping may be too much of a “substantial assistance”

“Furthermore, it is a violation of federal law to knowingly provide substantial assistance in the making, acceptance or receipt of contributions or donations in connection with federal, state or local elections, to a political party committee or for the purchase or construction of an office building by a state or local party committee.” (Source)

So I would personally hold off from donation swapping. But other forms of speech are accepted.

• I came in with a negative predisposition because I really don’t like politics and particularly US politics as a cause area. But nothing you are saying seems crazy, particularly given your endorsement and personal experience.

Historically, there have been ~24 Republicans vs ~19 Democrats as senators (and 1 independent) from Oregon, so partisan affiliation doesn’t seem that important. “$1 million for an additional 2% chance of winning” seems a bit high on the probability side, but I’m not actually familiar with the money flows of US elections. Checking the money spent in past Oregon elections, it seems plausible. The upside of a few billions/​tens of billions spent more effectively also seems about right, but the long tail could also be very positive. My guess is that it seems very likely he will lose, but it seems worth it anyways; of 10-20 bets like this I sort of expect that a few will succeed. Recommendation: Defer to the author, donate. Optionally, I would also like to see a very liquid prediction market on his chances of success, and I estimate that would cost$5-$10k. • Historically, there have been ~24 Republicans vs ~19 Democrats as senators (and 1 independent) from Oregon, so partisan affiliation doesn’t seem that important. A better way of looking at this is the partisan lean of his particular district. The answer is D+7, meaning that in a neutral environment (i.e. an equal number of Democratic and Republican votes nationally), a Democrat would be expected to win this district by 7 percentage points. This year is likely to be a Republican “wave” year, i.e. Republicans are likely to outperform Democrats (the party out of power almost always overperforms in midterm elections); however, D+7 is a substantial lean that’s hard to overcome. I’d give Carrick a 75% chance of winning the general election conditional on winning the primary. His biggest challenge is winning the primary election. • In addition to the fact that representatives aren’t senators, looking to the distant past and other districts (not to mention total number of officials rather than number of elections won) is a bad way to predict elections. Based on recent elections, good election handicappers rate this seat Likely Democratic; if Carrick wins the primary, he will likely win the general election. • I’m wasn’t aiming for a 5-star probability, only a rough estimate. For the record, I corrected that before you made your comment. • In lieu of a liquid real-money market, I started a pair of Manifold markets for: • Whoops, senator != representative. For the house of representatives, it’s ~34 republicans vs ~31 democrats • This is a really interesting effort and I’m excited to see where it goes. However, as Zach wrote, this seems like a fairly long shot effort. It’s a crowded primary field and the other candidates have money and experience in Oregon state politics. I’d be very interested in reading a more detailed writeup on the state of the race, the strengths and weaknesses of the other candidates, and Flynn’s plan for a path to victory. I’m not currently convinced that donating is a worthwhile use of money, but a good enough plan might change my mind. • Coverage of this post from The Hill on April 24th: Many of Flynn’s donors are involved in an online forum called Effective Altruism, a group that analyzes how best to spend money on philanthropic efforts. Their conclusion, according to some of the posts backing Flynn, has been that spending a few million on a congressional race could result in billions in spending on pandemic preparedness by the federal government. Flynn is “the first person to ever run for US congress on a platform of preventing future pandemics,” wrote one user, Andrew Snyder-Beattie, who called his donation to Flynn “the best$5,800 I’ve ever donated (to pandemic prevention).”

“Nobody in congress has made pandemic preparedness a ‘core issue,’” wrote Snyder-Beattie, whose online profiles say he leads Open Philanthropy’s work on biosecurity and pandemic preparedness. “Carrick will make this a priority, and has committed to devoting a full time staff member to focus on pandemic preparedness issues.”

Sounds like good coverage! Though some of the local media is strongly against Carrick (1, 2, 3).

Separately, Oregon Guy deserves better from us. He’s clearly an Oregon voter who is surprised to see millions of dollars pouring in to support a candidate he’s never heard of. Downvoting him to hell will not open his ears to the virtues of our preferred candidate. It would be great if someone had the time and expertise to give Oregon Guy a warm welcome and a sincere recommendation for Carrick.

• Is this only available to US citizens?

• Yes (citizens and green card holders).

• Awesome, are there any US citizens who would be happy donation swapping with me?

• I’m a fan of donation swapping, but I don’t think this is legal under US campaign finance law. (If someone else knows for sure, please tell us. Edit: Peter says it’s not legal. Edit: Peter now only says it’s illegal for non-Americans, but I also think it’s illegal for Americans as a way to get around the individual contribution limit.)

Edit, meta: several people have downvoted Caleb’s comment after he no longer endorsed it, and some have downvoted his reply too (both to below zero). This isn’t right, epistemically or in terms of desert. Downvoting a retracted idea doesn’t improve the conversation, and Caleb’s comments are clearly good- and truth-seeking. If you want to punish the author for saying something that turned out to be unpopular, you should consider the effects of that policy (here and more generally) on the community’s epistemic culture. See also Oliver’s comment.

Edit: Caleb’s comments are safely back in nonnegative territory, for now, but I’ll leave the above note since it’s still worth saying.

• It’s not legal to receive donations directly or indirectly from foreign nationals for any US race, but volunteering and asking people to donate is okay.

• The legality of donation swapping seems pretty unclear to me. My limited and insufficient understanding is there’s no actually exchange of goods, and you can’t verify whether someone will actually carry through with the match.

On reflection it’s not obvious to me that the small chance of a public comment being picked up and casting negative light on a campaign (particularly if I am wrong and donation swapping in this case is not legal) wouldn’t offset a fairly small donation to a campaign making the activity negative in expectation. I’ll retract my previous comment.

• “A foreign national may not direct, dictate, control or directly or indirectly participate in the decision-making process of any person (such as a corporation, labor organization, political committee or political organization) with regard to the person’s federal or nonfederal election-related activities. This includes decisions concerning the making of contributions, donations, expenditures or disbursements in connection with any federal state or local election or decisions concerning the administration of a political committee.”

https://​​www.fec.gov/​​help-candidates-and-committees/​​foreign-nationals/​​

I think it would be pretty hard to argue that a donation swap didn’t at least involve indirectly participating in someone’s decision to donate.

• [ ]
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• I commented separately before I noticed the meta edit to this comment. I was going to write another comment admonishing people downvoting Caleb’s reply here, but instead I’ll just say that I strongly agree with Zach’s take here, and that I have pretty bad feelings right now toward the people who downvoted Caleb’s comment (post-unendorsement) and reply.

This is speculating about hidden motives in a way I feel uncomfortable about, but I have a bad feeling there might be some political downvoting here, where people are downvoting the comments because they want people outside the community who this post to see that those comments had negative karma. I hope I’m wrong about that; but it matches a pattern I’ve seen on other Forum posts connecting to external partisan politics. If I’m not wrong about it, I very strongly condemn it.

• I think this comment has significantly more negative karma than it did when I last saw it, by which point it was already unendorsed.

I think downvoting a comment once it’s been unendorsed is very bad form, and creates bad incentives that work directly against what the unendorse feature is supposed to achieve. If I’m right that people have been doing this, I think they should stop, and preferably undo their votes.

(If people have been downvoting a comment after it was already unendorsed because they wanted it to get hidden-by-default, I think that’s even worse.)

I’d endorse a feature where unendorsing a comment prevented further karma changes, or reverted karma to 0, or something. Probably there are important wrinkles here. But I’m in favour of the general class of thing I’m waving at.

• Can we not perpetuate the idea that some vegans are ‘asshole-like’ just by avoiding eating animals/​animal-products? I understand some vegans are less open to discussing their beliefs but I hate the idea that vegans are by default assholes as opposed to omnivores. A substantial amount of EAs are vegans and this phrasing really concerns me

• I made an Elicit question about whether Carrick Flynn would win the primary. I’d like to get a better sense of how likely this is before donating.

Edit: I decided to donate $2,900. Related: • I’m not sure how to say this, but if the Times calls me again, I’m going to say I don’t know you guys Update: Wait, actually this thing is pretty good: • It opens with an approachable domestic vignette. • It voices a lot of complaints about money from Flynn’s opponents—but this is undermined when there’s two paragraphs explaining how this frustrated one millionaire’s use of crypto funds • When Flynn is mentioned, he often appears competent, compassionate and resolute, while naturally uncomfortable with the politics he is forced to navigate • It mentions Effective Altruism with links to effectivealtruism.org and a pretty sweet Bloomberg piece on SBF[1] • The description of Effective Altruism is literally better than EA copy: “effective altruism,” maximizing the benefits of philanthropy through careful analysis and directed donations • It actually raises the topic of pandemic preparedness and mentions Flynn’s work for the Biden administration • It also mentions this EA forum post, because obviously the forum sets the agenda for the WaPo. This piece seems like a net positive and is sort of promising. This balanced, factual piece is as good as you can expect. This is from a big paper and might help set the tone in future press. I guess this is one of many situations in the near future where 10,000+ people are going to read about Effective Altruism for the first time. After reading this piece, if I was a talented, ambitious person, who cared about others, I think I might check out this effective altruism thing. The problem with negative press on Flynn is that there’s just no getting around the fact Flynn actually was raised in poverty in Oregon, got into Yale on merit, then used all his new opportunities to work to help others. 1. ^ People who start off as students, join effective altruism, then become billionaires, and then donate approximately 100% of their wealth to altruistic causes what they believe in, while wearing shorts and driving Corollas, probably impress people. • This post is as good a place for a Carrick open thread as any, so: Carrick recently got$1.37M in ad support from Protect Our Future, Sam Bankman-Fried’s PAC (source). This seems good; Carrick’s campaign has relatively high marginal expected value per dollar.

(But money can’t really buy US House elections, and crypto-billionaire-PACs come off as icky no matter how friendly SBF is (and earned media matters a lot more than ads, and it’s possible that voters just hear the crypto-billionaire-PAC part), and I hope this wasn’t a big part of Carrick’s plan: I commented to a friend a while ago that I don’t see how Carrick can win, but he apparently thinks he can win, so he likely has information I don’t, but I really hope it’s not just expecting money from SBF’s PAC since money doesn’t do a ton in House elections.)

My expectation is still heavily for (rival candidate) Salinas, unfortunately.

• Here’s another article:

https://​​www.wweek.com/​​news/​​2022/​​04/​​22/​​piecing-through-carrick-flynns-few-oregon-contributions/​​

Notes:

1. The article literally discusses this forum post

2. The EA forum moderator has been using a secret alias in place of their first name, this is super shady

3. Oregonians love their pastries, are unable to spell words close in edit distance

4. That is one happy puppy

Note, April 25: Comment edited to stem loss of forum karma

1. The EA forum moderator has been using a secret alias in place of their first name, this is super shady

Bad take; Lizka goes by Lizka in real life; using the username Lizka is not shady (and it’s not like using an alias is bad anyway unless it’s somehow deceiving readers). On the meta-level, I encourage you to exercise more caution before accusing people of shady behavior in the future.

Regardless, I would have linked this as real news in the race.

Edit: but there’s no need to downvote the parent comment now that it’s edited...

• I can confirm that Lizka goes by Lizka in real life (I was her manager before she joined CEA). Also, it’s very common for Elizabeth to be shortened to a nickname (cf Eliza Hamilton), and even more so for people of Russian ancestry.

”Linch” is not my legal name either.

• Intense and wild copium/​rationalization for my parent comment:

I think that some parts of Oregon (i.e. Portland millennials) has a sense of humor that is basically unique in the US.

This sense of humor is dry, with this surreal, situational quality, that is both clunky and self-deprecating, even to the point of being self-defeating. It’s a weird sense of humor, even among people familiar with a loose and relaxed west coast culture.

So, I’m claiming that my top comment was an attempt to make humor along these lines. Maybe I’ve spent too much time with, or I’m over indexing on one particular person from Oregon but if that person was an EA, I am 100% calibrated that they would appreciate the situation of spinning up subthreads about first names after randomly seeing someone’s name in a newspaper[1].

Anyways, if none of the above made any sense to you, the TLDR; I’m saying that my comment involved a type of humor native to OR. To try to show you I haven’t just gone insane, see some skits from Portlandia: https://​​www.youtube.com/​​watch?v=hN3yksU4RBg

1. ^

(My “Portland friend” would definitely appreciate the situation of writing a rationalization of Portland humor to explain a bad/​downvoted joke to people with an EA culture).

• Alright, so even if you buy the above, it’s not clear why you shouldn’t just delete me for this.

So, now, reaching wildly with this comment:

I’m guessing that the oppo research in OR-6 isn’t going to pick up on a EA forum moderator using different given name than their legal name. That would be a dubious meme even for US politics, I hope.

On the other hand, in some sense, there might be some value to expressing some sense of humor? To be clear, even if perfectly executed, I doubt that my joke had any direct value—no one from Salem or the Portland suburbs (OR-6) is going to think, “Wow these people get it, EA for prez!”.

But yeah, if executed well, it’s sort of in the right direction, or something. To explain this, and getting more serious in tone:

The context for this belief is that yes, there’s a bunch of sensitivities for EA in politics. But one hazard that people haven’t expressed is sort of esoteric and hard to prevent:

It’s that it can be unsettling to people to seeing this uTiLiTaRiAn thing actually start working. The very act of being or appearing competent, even effective, might come across as scary and offputting to some people[1].

EA doesn’t have a good response to this, PR-wise right now. Maybe some key to this is some kind of humor, or some other kind of awareness/​messaging/​competency, that is orthogonal from setting up equations or long research papers.

1. ^

Maybe one aspect of this concern is less that “being good” is bad, it’s that “being good” involves a lot of actions, progress, and realized decisions. This has implications people generally don’t like. For example, other candidates aren’t going to win, or other instances of projects or ideas are going to look less good in comparison.

• Summary: I am aware there are grassroots efforts from groups of individuals in effective altruism to support Carrick Flynn that exist independently of his campaign, or at least not officially affiliated with it. It’s not evident in what way(s) this post may or may not be affiliated with Flynn’s campaign. Yet I became aware of concerns among others in EA about how communications from active campaign supporters seem hasty and ambiguous. I present my similar experience below to inform further discussion.

I noticed this post when it was initially published a couple months ago. I didn’t comment at the time because I was already aware of Carrick Flynn’s campaign and the rationale for why others in effective altruism favoured supporting the campaign, financially and otherwise. I am only commenting now as I became aware from another post some concerns from some in effective altruism about the public communication of others supporting the campaign. I will present an experience I had with one of Flynn’s supporters in EA who contacted me as it may be relevant.

I received an invitation to participate in an effort of generating internet memes in support of Flynn’s campaign (as I am someone known to be willing to make popular memes in support of various efforts in effective altruism). I am not aware that this or other individuals they’re working with in support of Flynn’s campaign are officially involved. I suspect not. Rather, I’m aware efforts like this are independent and grassroots from a genuine support for Flynn’s campaign in EA.

I sent a message to the one who invited me (I will not disclose their name at this time) and said I’m not comfortable making memes until I could vet Flynn as a candidate and the policies he is running on. They assured me Flynn was running on solid policies but I said I’d check anyway. I agreed after I checked the campaign website.

The encounter was strange because there was encouragement and enthusiasm to support the campaign without information provided other than random personal testimony lacking in details. This may be one example (among others) for discussion of how those in support of a political candidate can communicate with others in EA better in the future.

• He cares for animals too, and he and his wife are vegan (and not in an asshole-like way).

:-\

• I recognize this comment may not be received well here, but I think things like this are quite bad for EA to support—there are very substantial political skew issues in the movement already, and running political candidates as a EA intervention seems like another step down a road I think the movement needs to quickly depart.

• Oregon news media are reporting that far from limiting contributions, Carrick Flynn is raking in dough from SBF of FTX, whom Flynn claims to not know. Also it appears that Flynn has no experience as an elected office holder, which did not work out well with the previous U.S. President. I predict that Oregonians will not take kindly to campaign contributions originating from a site whose commentors don’t know whether or not the political office sought is in the United States.