It is no secret that money plays an important role in American politics. In the 2012 presidential and congressional elections alone, Americans spent more than $2 billion in support of candidates. However, U.S. citizens spend nearly nothing to ensure those politicians vote accordingly after elected, according to OpenSecrets.org. This allows corporations to leverage their financial power and spend collectively over $3 billion dollars every year to influence these same politicians once in office.
Corporations' disproportionate political influence has only gotten worse since the 2010 Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which prohibited the government from restricting political independent expenditures by corporations, associations or labor unions.
To help reverse this trend, a startup called Amplifyd has launched a new crowdsourced social activism platform that amplifies people’s voices to more easily and powerfully influence government and public policy.
The company’s founder, Scott Blankenship, says he felt as though there needed to be a new way to engage with elected officials and put political influence back in the hands of voters, in a way that was more powerful than simply signing a petition but easier than quitting your job to fight for the cause.
"I was surrounded by causes I felt passionate about," Blankenship said in a recent interview. "But I wasn’t ready to dedicate my life to any of them. I wanted to build a way people could have their voice heard, no matter what their day job was."
As a crowdsourced lobbying platform, people can purchase any number of calls from campaigns listed on the site. For each call bought, someone will call and lobby the elected official of the person that bought the call.
According to Amplifyd, online petitions are becoming less relevant or completely ignored by political offices because it is difficult to verify that supporters actually represent voting constituents within their district, and there is no way to definably filter out voters versus non-voters.
"All the ex-staffers we’ve talked with said online petitions are either drastically discounted in value or completed ignored," Blankenship said.
Amplifyd says it solves this issue by verifying supporters through their billing address and only allowing people living within the community of the campaign to purchase calls. As a result, elected officials know calls are only coming from voting constituents and no one else.
Just as Lyft and Uber allow people to make some extra cash driving, Amplifyd offers individuals an opportunity to do so by becoming paid callers, lobbying elected officials for others. Callers will be able to make $12 to $30 an hour, the company says. Calls are made on the Amplifyd platform, so all that's needed is a computer, an Internet connection, and the ability to read a script and click a button.
"The platform was designed to make calling simple, easy and intuitive," Blankenship said.
Campaigns on the site are managed by nonprofit advocacy organizations and the majority of the purchase price goes to supporting their activities.
Image credit: Flickr 2MillionViews
Based in San Francisco, Mike Hower is a writer, thinker and strategic communicator that revels in driving the conversation at the intersection of sustainability, social entrepreneurship, tech, politics and law. He has cultivated diverse experience working for the United States Congress in Washington, D.C., helping Silicon Valley startups with strategic communications and teaching in South America. Connect with him on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter (@mikehower)
Currently based in Washington, D.C, <strong>Mike Hower</strong> is a new media journalist and strategic communication professional focused on helping to drive the conversation at the intersection of sustainable business and public policy. To learn more about Mike, visit his blog,<a href="http://climatalk.com/" > ClimaTalk</a>.