Obama and Romney Tap Square for Faster Donations

By Adams, John | American Banker, March 12, 2012 | Go to article overview

Obama and Romney Tap Square for Faster Donations


Adams, John, American Banker


Byline: John Adams

There's a scene in "The American President" in which Richard Dreyfuss, who plays Robert Rumson, a senator and presidential challenger to Michael Douglas' President Andrew Shepherd, speaks with a potential donor in New Hampshire. Having won her support, the Dreyfuss character proclaims "I'll be taking that money off your hands right now."

The problem with the scene is political donations usually don't work that way a at least in the case of the smaller donations from individual voters. Since people rarely carry checkbooks to political rallies and campaigns staffers don't normally carry credit card readers, "on the spot" donations are more often commitments to donate money at a later time in a more secure manner, an inexact procedure at best.

But President Obama and his most likely Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, are trying to make donations more immediate by using Square readers, which allow staffers to collect donations via mobile payments. This allows the campaigns to pick up donations on the spot, such as after a speech or a rally when the passion of the attendees is at a high point and people are most likely to want to give their money to a political campaign.

While much of the campaign finance attention in the current cycle has focused on Super PACs, the use of Square demonstrates the continued importance of individual donations, which can be a better measure of voter enthusiasm than substantial corporate donations. Square offers a means to both collect and track donations from a large number of individuals quickly. "Square has demonstrated that it's a great way to collect money on the spot," says Beth Robertson, director of payments research for Javelin. "That demonstration has allowed it to take off in a more significant way for political donations."

Square works by attaching a white square dongle to a smartphone and downloading the Square app, both of which are free. The donors swipe their payment cards to directly make a payment, rather than keying in credit card data or verbally giving that credit card information to another person that the donor has never met. …

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