For local elections, maybe. For federal or state elections, not likely.
There are some real DUMB stuff funded through Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites. Everything from a potato salad to pirate pancakes to even a squirrel census has been crowdfunded. Now a Washington, DC startup is asking the obvious question; why can’t political campaigns be crowdfunded too?
The new company Crowdpac aims to do just that; give cash strapped candidates a venue to raise money through crowdfunding. Its goal of eliminating the monetary barrier when running for public office is an interesting one. Crowdpac’s co-founder and CEO Steve Hilton told the Washington Post, “One of the biggest barriers we’ve seen of people running for office is actually raising the money. First, the difficulty of asking your friends or family for money. People find that to be a real barrier.”
The idea around Crowdpac is simple. People who want to run for public office create a funding page with all their info and a short video about themselves. Then like any other crowdfunding venture, they hope people will be interested enough in their campaign to donate. Think Kickstarter, but instead of smart watches and large charging docks, people are funding political campaigns. It’s so much like Kickstarter in fact that donations aren’t official until the candidate officially files the paperwork to run for public office (ie their safeguard against someone taking the money and disappearing).
The hope that something like brings is that it disrupts the notion that only the well-connected can run for public office. Hilton believes that more independent candidates that aren’t affiliated with Republican or Democratic political machines will run for office. While Crowdpac is certainly a nice idea, you wouldn’t be too off to think it’s also a little naïve.
It’s no doubt that money is a major barrier when running for political office, but as many would say, it’s also just an eventual symptom of political clout. It’s well known that donors choose individuals not necessarily to buy votes, but to gain an ear in the decision process. If that is the case, the politically well-connected immediately have a major advantage over most individuals running for office. Massive stockpile of cash or not.
But then again, maybe we’re being a little too cynical here.
As stated in the Washington Post interview, Crowdpac has been expanding their election databases to include local races. While at the federal and state levels it would be almost impossible to see Crowdpac make meaningful strides in bringing individuals that aren’t part of the political scene, in the cases of local elections however, it has the potential to be a game changer. For many city and county elections, something like Crowdpac could be used not only as a vital tool in fundraising efforts, but as a litmus test for whether potential candidates should step into the fray.
For those candidates that truly need it, Crowdpac could be a first step in the right direction for those wanting to get into public office, but lack the resources to do so. But then again, Jeb Bush has a Crowdpac page.
On second thought, he could use all the help he can right now.
(Photo Credits: Crowdpac)