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Dinner with Barack: How to sell mass influence

September 17th, 2012

Everyone decries money in politics. The typical phrase used is “selling influence to the highest bidder.” Considering how much money is in politics, it is actually remarkable infrequently reported cases of overt corruption you hear. But how do politician sell access and influence for money?

The Obama campaign is perfecting a new technique: the raffle. Here’s an email I received from the campaign earlier today:

Subject: I’m saving a seat for you
From: Barack Obama <info@barackobama.com>

   I’m only going to get to sit down to dinner with grassroots supporters on this campaign one last time.
   It’s one of the most meaningful things we do, and represents exactly the kind of politics we believe in: All of us, at one table, together.
   So if you’re someone who is helping to build this campaign, I want to meet you. I want to thank you in person. And I’d love to hear what’s on your mind.
   This is the last time we’ll be able to sit down together for one of these — so I hope you’ll take me up on it.
   Your donation of $19 or whatever you’re able to chip in will automatically enter you.
   Thanks.

Barack

P.S. — Flight and hotel are on me. All you have to do is come and eat.

It is a fairly safe assumption that many donors, even small ticket donors, are asking themselves, “What’s in it for me?” Even for those who prefer Obama to Romney, why not free ride off everyone else’s donations? This raffle solves the problem by holding out the possible of a free trip and meal with Obama. Viola: money for access.

But a raffle is a bit different than selling access to the highest bidder. A raffle isn’t constrained to the number of people who can fit in David Geffen’s backyard– any number of people can enter. So the entry price can be much lower (here just $19, what a bargain!) Influence is sold here at the mass market level.

No such thing as a free lunch, you say? Well, then I guess I won’t be seeing you at dinner with Barack then!

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