Yet the argument remains: is it ‘fair’ or ‘democratic’ for wealthy donors to have greater freedom of speech vis a vis their contributions? Does this imply a shift towards a plutocratic form of democracy? And how much longer till the masses arise and simply throw the yoke (think Tea Party & Occupy Wall Street on steroids)?
My belief is that the masses have already arisen, yet it is difficult to see and challenging to comprehend.
Let’s first look at the noise. When considering influencers in the online skies, we will invariably come across top influencers in wide-distribution media platforms (i.e. Twitter). Whereas the top 10 influencers in twitter command the following of nearly 20% of U.S. households, the top 10 political donors carry less than 0.002% of U.S. household interests. Money doesn’t seem to buy too many Twitter friends. But still, it’s more likely the the ideologies and agendas of the top 10 political donors will have a much larger impact on the lives of those same 20% of U.S. households than would the tweets of the most popular noisemakers. But yet, we’ve stumbled upon an interesting notion: can social media empower political donors to be greater influencers (e.g. can greater spend also grant you greater clout in the online skies)?
The answer is yes. The beauty of search and social media is the ability to create links based on affinities. As individuals, organizations, and companies construct a political genome for American politics, the costs associated with finding like-minded voters and donors decrease, allowing for greater education and engagement. We see this with every passing month. Innovative startups like Votizen, NationBuilder, PopVox, NationalField, AmicusHQ and AngelPolitics, are enhancing the ability to identify supporters for campaigns, and reduce the infrastructure costs of fundraising; in effect, marrying the breadth of crowdsourcing/crowdfunding with the efficiency of marketplaces.
What we will see in the coming years is the opportunity for influencers to also become large donors, and donors to become large influencers. While risks remain that small donors (e.g. the 20 million Americans who make contributions under $200), will be unable to present large collective interests without the branding of a movement (e.g. MoveOn.org), a PAC, or a celebrity, the reality is that never before have we as a society had the tools to build affinity-based communities around issues, candidates and campaigns. These opportunities exist as a function of improvements in technology, and the current misgivings of our campaign finance system.
Sources: The Center for Responsive Politics, OpenSecrets.org.
By Jesse R. Sandoval