Mitt Romney's Square Deal: Not About the Money

The new science of winning campaigns
Aug. 30 2012 8:09 PM

Mitt Romney's Square Deal: Not About the Money

151007569
TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 30: Why are these Republican National Convention attendees giving alone? (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Read the rest of Slate’s coverage from the GOP convention.

TAMPA — Mitt Romney’s digital department has used the convention week to roll out a new interface for accepting credit-card donations over the Square network. But just because Romney’s campaign has invested in developing a new mobile-fundraising platform doesn’t mean his aides expect to take in much money from it.

“I don’t see it from a fundraising point of view,” says Zac Moffatt, Romney’s digital director.  “I see this from a campaign-engagement point of view.”

In Tampa, the campaign has begun distributing the Square credit-card readers that plug into the earphone jack on an iPhone or iPad, and have developed a proprietary app that processes campaign contributors while soliciting donor information required for federal disclosure reports.  Square collects 2.75 percent of every contribution as a processing fee, which for low-dollar contributions could make it a far more cost-effective fundraising mechanism than direct-mail or phone solicitations.

Mobile giving is likely to accelerate the fusing of fieldwork and fundraising, traditionally considered two distinct functions in candidate campaigns.  (Non-profits that do fundraising canvasses already, to some degree, think in such hybrid terms.)  While individuals can make or process Square contributions anywhere, the campaign will specifically encourage their use at Victory field offices and debate-viewing parties that supporters host in their homes, according to Moffatt.

By turning supporters and volunteers into donors, the campaign hopes it can entice to them to get yet further involved later. “When people give to a campaign you get buy-in,” he says.  “This is equity in the campaign, but not equity from a financial perspective.”

Sasha Issenberg is the author of The Victory Lab about the new science of political campaigns.