Undermining Political “Scratch” Effects with Technology (UPSET)

This project leverages technology to significantly reduce the cost of political campaigns via the sharing economy, and thus undercut the impact of money on politics (http://benefunder.org/causes/84/nelson-morgan). While the technology is important, the resulting structural change is more so; designing an efficient “supply chain” of services between a skilled citizen force and the campaigns (see http://uprisecampaigns.org for the beginnings of a separate spinoff organization to implement these ideas in real campaigns).

Many have discussed the corrosive effect of money on politics; understandably, its emphasis has increased since the “Citizens United” decision. Money from wealthy individuals and corporations distort the democratic process, but there is little relief in store from legislation or court action. As long as the moneyed interests have a disproportional effect on society, public policy decisions will not lead to the best results for the country. It could be argued that this issue is the central one that deeply affects all others – responses to climate change, reduced income mobility, voting rights, declining K-12 schools, etc.

This is not a “left” or “right,” “progressive” or “conservative” issue, nor is it a tenet of a policy middle road. It is a problem that is independent of the particular solutions candidates might favor. The status quo is unsavory for officeholders of all political persuasions, as it consigns them to a life of constant fundraising, followed by implicit or explicit constraints on their decisions. Solving this problem will be critical for the election of candidates who could devote most of their time to debating and legislating policy for the best result.

We seek solutions to this problem that leverage the capabilities of new media in ways that have not yet been fully exploited in the political sphere, and to more effectively harness the capabilities of highly capable and motivated volunteers. We are designing methods to provide far better feedback than is currently obtainable, with a focus on analytics from spoken natural language technologies in mobile devices. The point is to significantly reduce the value and the ultimate cost of running for government office by undercutting the utility of current expensive advertising methods favored by equally expensive consultants. Pursuing this type of approach will take a significant effort by both technologists and political experts in order to design plausible solutions. But arguably, it is essential to attack the problem.

Our take on this is UPSET – so named both because we are indeed upset with the current reality (and trends), and also because it is our goal to upset the overwhelming influence of money in politics. We are gathering together concerned experts, including a broad working team and a board of prominent advisors covering the range of expertise required for this project.

We are now ready to seek organizational and individual partners who will help us to proceed on this journey.

Watch the video announcing the project:

Politics Disrupted from Benefunder on Vimeo.