Category: Politics

Obama Crowdsources Election Campaign Funding

June 19th, 2008 — 12:08pm

The NYTimes reports today in Obama Opts Out of Pub­lic Financ­ing for Cam­paign that Sen­a­tor Obama
”…raised $95 mil­lion in Feb­ru­ary and March alone, most of it, as his aides noted Thurs­day, in small con­tri­bu­tions raised on the Inter­net. More than 90 per­cent of the campaign’s con­tri­bu­tions were for $100 or less, said Robert Gibbs, the com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor to Mr. Obama.“
Obama’s suc­cess rais­ing money with small dona­tions is a clear indi­ca­tor that crowd­sourc­ing is a viable approach to financ­ing what is prob­a­bly the most expen­sive and demand­ing type of elec­toral con­test ever seen — a U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cam­paign.
The old ways aren’t going away just yet — wit­ness McCain’s more con­ven­tional reliance on a mixed palette of pub­lic finance and unlim­ited dona­tions to the RNC — but suc­cess­ful crowd­sourc­ing of an elec­tion effort of this scale and dura­tion proves other mod­els — net­worked, dis­trib­uted / decen­tral­ized, bottom-up, etc. — can be effec­tive in the most chal­leng­ing sit­u­a­tions.
“Instead of forc­ing us to rely on mil­lions from Wash­ing­ton lob­by­ists and spe­cial inter­est PACs, you’ve fueled this cam­paign with dona­tions of $5, $10, $20, what­ever you can afford,” he told his sup­port­ers in the video mes­sage. “And because you did, we’ve built a grass­roots move­ment of over 1.5 mil­lion Amer­i­cans.“
And that’s a good thing. The rel­a­tive elec­toral stale­mate we’ve had in the U.S. for the last decade echoes the trench war­fare phase of World War One; grind­ing bat­tles of attri­tion between nom­i­nally dis­tinct com­bat­ants that con­sume much, accom­plish lit­tle, and yield no sub­stan­tive change for the peo­ple involved.
The next step is to apply this net­worked / crowd­sourced / dis­trib­uted financ­ing model to sup­port a cam­paign by some­one out­side the (dis­tress­ingly) com­pla­cent major par­ties. We’ve man­aged to change the feed­ing mech­a­nism, now we have to change the ani­mal it feeds.

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