See that picture up there? That’s a sign I held at Occupy Wall Street protests a few years ago. Well, it looks like someone has finally answered my question. Using a new online tool, regular people will now have a way to hold their elected officials accountable after gaining office.
It’s no secret that well-paid lobbyists have stolen democracy from the people and handed it to special interests on a platter. Citizens United opened the flood gates of corporate money in politics, but special interest lobbying was going on long before that. In America, lobbying takes many forms, from providing favored candidates with money or special services, to circulating petitions and writing their own legislation.
Exerting this type of pressure on politicians can be a full time job, and many lobbyists are just that: hired hands paid an attractive salary to push an agenda. Average citizens are far too busy trying to make a living to engage in this time-consuming process, so they often have little recourse against powerful lobbyists–until now.
Launching this week is Amplifyd, a crowdsourced social activism platform that makes it possible for people to support causes in their community (and the nonprofits fighting for those causes) by sponsoring someone to call and lobby their elected officials on their behalf.
“Americans spent more than $2 billion attempting to rally our favorite politicians into elected office during the 2012 presidential and congressional campaigns alone – not including state, county or local elections,” states a new release. “Yet how much do we spend making sure these officials are representing our best interests after they are elected? Practically nothing.”
Scott Blankenship, Founder and CEO of Amplifyd, says the new platform will help put political influence back in the hands of voters, even if they can’t be full-time activists. Current campaigns include organic milk at Starbucks, old growth logging in California, fracking and smarter gun laws.
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. Amplifyd verifies supporters through their billing address so only 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.
The idea has obvious benefits for time-strapped voters, but it could also help citizens in another important way: job creation. Anyone can sign up to become a paid caller, and if hired, could make $12-$30 an hour making calls for others. All that’s needed is a computer, an internet connection and the ability to read a script and click a button.
It will be interesting to see how Amplifyd fares in its first few months of existence. While it has advantages over other forms of online activism, it’s still a depressing commentary on the state of democracy in America. Voters are so apathetic, frustrated or both that personal engagement in the political process is nearly out of the question. We just don’t want to deal with it anymore. So, like lots of other things we can’t be bothered with, we’re just going to throw money at it instead? For some reason that makes me sad.
What do you think: Is Amplifyd a smart way to fight back against big money in politics or a cop out? Tell us in the comments.
Image © Beth Buczynski
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