LOS ANGELES – A new startup hopes to wrest control of the political system from special interests and place political power back into the hands of voters this November.
Crowdpac, based in Menlo Park, California, provides a unique, comprehensive database of all candidates running for Congress nationwide. Users can view each candidate’s political ideology, check out their stances on contentious issues like abortion and healthcare, and track campaign contributions to every candidate in a national race.
The startup quietly began beta testing shortly before California’s June primary by providing a simplified guide for those casting votes in the 33rd district congressional race, a crowded race that featured eighteen candidates of every conceivable political orientation.
Now, with November’s midterm elections just a short two months away, Crowdpac CEO and co-founder Steve Hilton told Breitbart News that the startup is ready to arm voters with the tools necessary to change the way power is allocated in national political elections.
“We had a very simple voting guide for California,” Hilton said. “This time, we’re trying to really put the tools in everyone’s hands.”
Those tools include profiles of each candidate in any national race, where the candidate is ranked on a scale of 1-10 “L” or “R,” depending on how right or left-leaning they are. The profiles also include the candidate’s donor information, their top legislative priorities, and contact information. Users can also see lists of “most vulnerable Republicans,” “most vulnerable Democrats,” and “aisle crossers,” candidates with stances on particular issues that differ from their base political ideology.
But perhaps the most important feature of Crowdpac, in keeping with its mission to return some small degree of political power to everyday people, is the ability for voters to contribute directly to candidates through the service.
“For example, let’s say your issue is abortion,” Hilton said. “If you’re pro-life, and you want to support candidates along those lines, we can tell you which candidates align with your position, and you can donate directly to them. Or, let’s say there’s a pro-choice candidate in a tough race; you could donate directly to their opponent. We’re trying to make it easy for anyone to get involved in the political system. It’s been hard up to now.”
Hilton said the startup is not interested in arguing either side of campaign finance reform, and suggested instead that Crowdpac can work in the current fast-paced political fundraising environment.
“There’s a whole argument on reforming campaign finance,” Hilton said. “We’re not making a statement on that. “We’re saying, ‘Look, here’s a practical tool you can use now that works within the existing system.’ We can make people more powerful within the current system.”
As a former Senior Adviser to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Hilton worked firsthand to promote greater government transparency and voter accessibility to information. After moving to California two years ago and taking up a teaching post at Stanford University, Hilton realized that technology could provide the crucial kick needed to shake up the political status quo.
“I wanted to work on the issues that interested me back in the UK; taking power away from centralized government and putting it in the hands of ordinary people,” Hilton explained. “While at Stanford, it occurred to me that technology could be used in this particular case, in campaign finance, to level the playing field.”
Hilton said the Crowdpac team is still small, consisting of only about eight full-time members and a few scattered contractors. But the company is already making plans for the future. In addition to preparing for the 2016 presidential election, the startup hopes to provide information for all candidates in state-level races.
“Depending on what the users find useful, we’ll absolutely be getting involved in state-wide and presidential elections,” Hilton said. “Our attitude to the services we provide is ‘What can we do to provide better, more objective information to our users so that they can make informed voting decisions?'”