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Startup turns lobbying into crowdfunding campaigns

CrowdLobby buys you a lobbyist -- though not necessarily real change.
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sframephoto via Getty Images

Corporate lobbyists have a lot of sway over American politics, but a startup might have a way to bring power back to everyday people: crowdfunding. CrowdLobby's recently launched platform asks people to back campaigns around community-submitted issues, with successful efforts funding an appropriate lobbyist who advocates for the cause. The general target is $50,000, or about enough to influence politics at the state level.

The initial rollout is limited to three campaigns in the company's home of Virginia, such as decriminalizing marijuana and equal funding for students. Other states are coming by 2020 at the latest, the company told TechCrunch. There is a 25 percent processing fee, although CrowdLobby said this delivered full service that included ongoing communications with lobbyists.

You're only obtaining a lobbyist's time, not a guarantee of change -- after all, the lobbyist may be competing against companies with deep pockets and overly cozy relationships with politicians. And co-founder Heidi Drauschak is quick to admit this is more of a quick fix than a long-term solution for the existing lobbying system. "Until we can totally change the whole structure, we have to play the game," she said.

This could still give more of the general public a voice, though, and might be particularly helpful for issues that would otherwise receive little legislative attention. If nothing else, it demonstrates how online crowdfunding can be useful for more than backing clever gadgets and people facing hard times.

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