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Obama Campaign Using Square to Collect Campaign Donations

BY Nick Judd | Monday, January 30 2012

The Obama campaign is outfitting campaign staffers and volunteers with Square credit card readers and custom software to allow them to collect donations from mobile phones.

Square card readers plug in to the headphones jack of a mobile phone. In conjunction with apps available in the App Store for iPhones and on Android Market for Android devices, they can be used to process credit card payments. But in order to comply with Federal Election Commission requirements, donations need to come with information the stock Square software isn't equipped to ask for, like the donor's employer and occupation. That's why a custom app, specially built for the Obama re-elect by the campaign's own under-the-radar development team in conjunction with Square, is available to people using this setup for the re-election effort, campaign spokeswoman Katie Hogan told me.

This is the latest example of the kind of project Obama for America 2012's secretive coding shop is up to. The big coming rollout is the campaign's revamped online organizing platform. The Obama campaign's message about the platform is that it will be a new way for volunteers to do organizing in their communities and in their networks online. In the meantime, the Obama campaign's development shop is a lot like a startup in stealth mode: It's clear they're working furiously, but not a lot of people know exactly what it is they're building.

Politico's Byron Tau had the first news of the Square card-readers going out to staffers and select volunteers around the country.

Update: Here are a few screenshots of the app, as passed along by the campaign. The entire workflow is a little longer; when the Square device is plugged in, the transaction finishes with two pages, one asking for the donor's signature and another asking where to email a receipt.

This post has been updated.