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New Crowdfunding Site Promises to Be a Kickstarter for K Street

BY Nick Judd | Monday, September 12 2011

For years, many Internet activists have gone online to counter the influence of real-world lobbyists. Soon, though, they may go online to hire their own lobbying muscle instead.

A coming website, YouLobby, is expected to serve as a sort of Kickstarter for lobbying campaigns when it launches next month, according to an item on RollCall.com by Ambreen Ali. Conceived by a lobbyist, Chris Litton, YouLobby is built to allow activists with a cause to pitch their campaign and collect donations. When a campaign is funded, lobbyist groups — Ali reports just one, Watts Partners, has publicly agreed to participate so far — can choose to bid on the project.

The idea proposes to marry the peculiar speed of Internet fund-raising with the traditional savvy of K Street strategists, something that Ali observes might not be a great fit. A single news item or an online rant can quickly rally supporters and fundraising dollars around an idea, but only some fraction of those sparks grow into a sustained fire around a given candidate or cause. The actual process of lawmaking, meanwhile, can be drawn out over months or years. Here's Ali:

The obvious challenge facing the site is the snail’s pace at which Congress operates. While activists fired up by a particular cause might pay up initially, success could come only after an extended investment.

“Hiring the lobbyists might be instant, but actually seeing results might take years and more money,” said Christopher Kush, whose Soapbox Consulting trains nonprofit groups on how to lobby on their own.

And results might not come at all, a fact that could frustrate individuals who have spent tens of thousands of dollars on an unsuccessful campaign for a bill. To manage the activists’ expectations, Litton said he is requiring lobbyists to use a private blog to communicate with the campaigns’ members.

“For most lobbyists, your reporting to your client is a necessary part of your job. You want the client to feel comfortable with what you’re doing,” Litton said.

More at Roll Call.

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