During the 2016 presidential campaign, it became clear to me that ordinary people were absolutely willing to invest their hard-earned dollars in political change. At the same time, as a lawyer and DC resident,
I knew that when it comes to making actual law and policy, which takes an enormous amount of behind-the-scenes work, everyday Americans are at a major disadvantage compared to wealthy corporate interests. There exists an army of lobbyists serving the latter, but precious few serving the former.
The situation reminded me of the legal world, where there is an abundance of powerful law firms, mostly dedicated to defending the interests of the wealthy and of large corporations.
If you're harmed by one of these firms' clients, and you aren't a millionaire, your realistic legal options are few and far between. And yet, in law, there is at least a mechanism that tries to solve the imbalance-the class-action lawsuit, where many people with individually small claims join together, making it economically feasible to hire a lawyer and to meaningfully challenge a well-financed defendant.
What if you could do something similar with lobbyists? What if you could join up with like-minded individuals, and hire your own lobbyist? An idea was born, which eventually led me to get involved with Lobbyists 4 Good.
That involvement, in turn, led me to learn about a Small-Donor Matching program, which would increase the political influence of ordinary citizens and leveling the political playing field.
About Campaign Finance Reform
The way our system works right now, candidates for office are better off spending 4 hours talking to 10 rich people in the hopes of getting a single $1,000 donation than spending 4 hours talking to 100 ordinary folks and getting 10 donations of $25 dollars each, for a total of $250.
Under a Small-Donor Matching program, the incentives change, possibly dramatically. With small-donor matching, those 10 donations of $25 dollars each would be multiplied. Instead of getting $250, the candidate's campaign would get $500, $1000, or more, depending on the exact ratio proposed. Small-donor matching programs encourage candidates to raise money from ordinary citizens rather than wealthy individuals.
Think of it this way, if money is effectively speech, small-donor matching is a way for everyone to have the same "speech rights" as the rich.
The problem is, this isn't the law—yet. There are a few proposals currently on the table, but they're still just proposals. This campaign is trying to change that by advocating for small-donor matching laws.
For the same price as your morning latte, you can have the same access to lobbyists as large corporations. interest groups and wealthy donors.
The average small-dollar donation to presidential candidates in 2020.
The average cost of 30 minutes of lobbying from one of our lobbyists. This is a fraction of the cost of a typical D.C. lobbyist, who charges anywhere from $500 to $1500/hour.
The average donation to all crowdfunding platforms in 2020.
The average cost of hiring one of our lobbyists for an hour of lobbying. This is a fraction of the cost of a typical D.C. lobbyist, who charges anywhere from $500 to $1500/hour.
Why hire a lobbyist?
Why hire a lobbyist to push small-donor matching? Well, for one thing, they have expertise. They know which lawmakers are likely to support small-donor matching, or might be willing to support it with certain tweaks, and which lawmakers are simply beyond hope. They might be able to identify, for example, a key Republican to join up with a Democrat to co-sponsor a bill. Or they might be able to suggest a Republican who'd be willing to sponsor a bill that is narrower than some of the bills currently on the table. It's the execution that matters, not the idea, and lobbyists can help with the execution.
Of course, even if we successfully raise this money and successfully hire a lobbyist, that doesn't mean small-donor matching will suddenly become a reality. But we will have moved the ball and proven to lawmakers that we are willing to put our money where our mouths are and to invest in an effort to improve our democracy. Not only is that a powerful message in and of itself, but the next time small-donor matching comes up, lawmakers might just remember that visit by our lobbyist and might just be more likely to support it.
And if that happens, I think my donations to this campaign (and hopefully yours) will have been money well spent.