Romney, Obama turn to mobile technology for fundraising

Rosella Age Contributor

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are breaking ground with new mobile payment technology for campaign fundraising.

Square is a credit card reader about the size of a bottle cap that attaches to an iPhone, iPad or Android phone. It allows food trucks, cab drivers, and now campaign staffers to process payments with the swipe of a card.

“This allows more people to be empowered to collect donations,” said Zac Moffatt, digital director for Romney’s campaign. “It’s like taking a check, but in a secure and immediate action.”

Romney’s campaign decided to use Square last summer, and became the first to test drive it the evening of the Florida primary last month.

“It was really successful,” Moffatt told The Daily Caller. “We will continue to roll it out.”

Though the Obama campaign put out a press release saying it was about to adopt the technology, Moffatt explained, “we used it first.”

Moffatt highlighted some hurdles the Romney campaign encountered in applying Square to campaign fundraising, where finances are more complicated than with business transactions. (RELATED: Full coverage of the 2012 campaign)

“Our challenge was how to make this work and comply with the Payment Card Industry,” Moffatt stated. “We are held to a different standard because the Federal Election Commission has guidelines for these transactions.”

When volunteers are on the floor collecting donations, Moffatt explained, they have to collect additional information from contributors. For example, contributors are required to check a box that says “I am an American citizen.”

Though the mobile payment device was launched nearly two years ago, campaigns are just now warming up to the idea.

“Once campaigns realize its benefits to them, I think that you’ll definitely see it being used more,” said Vincent Harris, a new media consultant with the presidential campaign of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Setting aside privacy concerns for campaign donors, Harris sees advantages across the board for Square.

But he suspects that even though the credit card reader is a worthwhile investment at $10 apiece, Republicans will be slow to catch on.

“They’ve been running the same canvassing methods and asking the same questions for 20 years,” Harris explained. “It’s sometimes difficult to change how things are done in Republican politics.”

One expert insisted that while technology may be the future of fundraising, it’s hard to replace the face-to-face magic of retail politics.

Daniel Ureña, Managing Director of MAS Consulting Spain, said that in his native country the main problem for many politicians is the growing distance between political leaders and people.

“When we have new innovation, we think everything will change, but the most important tool is contact,” Ureña advised.

For the Romney campaign, Square has bridged the gap and “changed the entire opportunity model for us,” said Moffatt.

“The real value is the ability to take an online action offline,” he explained. “Square allows people to be truly social in their contribution.”

The Obama campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

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