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Crowd-sourcing site aims to give voters lobbying power

Crowd-sourcing site aims to give voters lobbying power

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Published by: Crowdsourcing.org on Jul 25, 2012
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Crowd-sourcing site aims to give voterslobbying power
By Deborah M. Todd , July 3, 2012
For many Americans, pressing the glowing red "vote" button on ElectionDay is the only way they send a message to politicians. But thousands of lobbyists miles away from the polls can deliver face-to-face messagesfrom special interest groups just about any day of the year.Deciding that a few minutes in a voting booth can't compare to a well-connected professional lobbyist, a registered D.C. lobbyist has declaredif you can't beat 'em, hire 'em.
"No matter how you feel about it, lobbyists provide a necessity. Theyknow how to navigate Capitol Hill and the legislative channels. Theyknow how to access the right people, and they provide a service that'smuch needed," said Chris Litton, founder and CEO of YouLobby.com."It's just unfortunate that our systems of government at the federal andstate level don't allow for the average American to have that kind of access. YouLobby was theorized to service that group of people," hesaid.Mr. Litton, who has been putting in work on Capitol Hill since 1994,said the idea of crowd-sourcing campaigns to help private citizens hirelobbyists came after he was hired to represent more than 3,000 membersof a Youngstown, Ohio, chamber of commerce. After grouping businessowners by issue and urging them to travel to the state capital together, herealized that model could work just as easily with individuals seeking toband together online in favor of a cause.Modeled after crowd-sourcing site Kickstarter.com, which helpsindividuals raise money for creative projects, YouLobby users start withan initial $1,000 fundraising goal to attract supporters and bids fromregistered lobbyists interested in taking the job.Once the chosen lobbyist explores whether lawmakers and senior staff members believe the campaign is one that can gain momentum duringthe legislative session, a second fundraising goal is set to get the moneythat will officially put that lobbyist on private citizens' payrolls. Withoutthat "legislative traction," the campaign creator may be advised to tweak the direction of the campaign before lobbying can begin.
Although sites such as Miami Gardens, Fla.-based iGive.com, whichallows donations to a chosen charity through shopping at select stores,and San Francisco-based Causes.com, which encourages donationstoward specific social causes or initiatives, may use crowd-sourcing toraise funds and awareness for social causes, neither allows the user tohire someone to proactively push for legislation.Since the beta-site of YouLobby launched on March 31, 12 campaignshave been activated and 14 lobbyists have signed on to participate.Hot topic campaigns such as stopping student loan debt and bordercontrol are already under way, but the most any campaign has been ableto raise in the first few weeks is $56 for a campaign to raise theretirement age of congressional officials to 62.The biggest challenge so far has been getting word out that the site andthe campaigns exist, Chief Operating Officer Daniel Luketic said. Hesaid users are encouraged to promote campaigns on Facebook, Twitter,Google+ and personal blogs, but he also advises them to reach outdirectly to public officials who have shown support for their cause in thepast."Thank [the official] for fighting for the issue, and invite them to pick upthe fight by using YouLobby to complement their efforts," he said.Regardless of how many Facebook "likes" any campaign attracts, there'sno question that users will face a serious financial battle if going upagainst a traditional lobbying campaign.

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