Advocate PAC

Your personal lobbyist has arrived

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I expanded on these thoughts at Medium: I'm incredibly excited that Advocate PAC is on product hunt. Advocate PAC is a federal Super PAC my team created. I'm a full-time faculty member at Florida State University previously working as a quantitative analyst and entrepreneur in solving social problems mostly in Africa. I helped found Advocate PAC because there are issues that make me incredibly angry/sad, specifically, because there are people and animals that unnecessarily suffer. One of the most effective ways to solve these problems is to change laws. Despite the prevalence of social problems, it is quite difficult to find a beneficiary political organization that is transparent and relies on data to optimize a donation’s impact. If you think gun violence is a major problem in our country (which it is), and you wanted to do something about it, what would you do? Where would you donate money? Maybe you could donate to the Brady Campaign, but how much do you know about the organization? How do you know that your money will be used effectively? Typical political campaigns and 501c4 organizations are bloated with unnecessary expenses, and are are largely removed from expert political literature, that conducts randomized field experiments to figure out how to optimize a campaign’s impact. Once you donate, you will likely never hear back from the organization until they are asking you for more money. What if I wanted to donate to multiple issues? Would I be forced to find multiple organizations? I don’t have time to do that. I also don’t have much money, and will likely forget to donate. Super PACS and political organizations largely do two things, collect and spend money to influence elections and policy. Advocate PAC is designed to transform both. For collection, we already built an amazing financial technology app, that makes donations automatic and empowers anyone to automatically give spare change. The app is incredibly secure, built with .net government level security by actual people we know well, and not outsourced to a random website. When spending money, we rely on data and academic literature optimize each donation's impact. While a cynic would state, ‘statistics can be manipulated’. This is correct for a single data source, that is viewed by someone without expertise in data analysis. In opposition, Advocate PAC will rely on a distribution of data sources, placing weights according to any bias or validity concerns. This method is similar to Nate Silver’s work in accurately predicting all states for the 2012 Presidential Election. We are committed to complete transparency, letting donors know specifically how your donations are spent, the data behind our decisions, and the impact your donations created. What I love about transparency, is simply by committing to it, it ensures that Advocate PAC will do the right and optimal thing. Because we know that we have to explain to our donors how we are spending your money and that many of you will analyze our results. Anyways, I'm really excited to be here and appreciate you reading my something long post.
@chrismarkl providing feedback/impact data is great
@cfrascl totally agree. Thanks for your support Chris! It drives me nuts that we are asked to give money but never hear what happened to it or the impact those funds created. My background is as a quantitative analyst and I left a Ph.D. program in Political Science to start my first business in Kenya. Advocate PAC leverages fantastic tenants of academics: relying on logic, data, and transparency. Instead of just treating donors as a checkbook, the team and I envision donors as fellow founders who can help us make better decisions. We feel this is what political donors want and we hope others agree. Your support really does mean a lot as today is the first time we put this out there. Feel free to reach out anytime. Cheers, Chris
Totally badass. That's all I can say. Congratulations on launching meaningful work Chris Markl!! I am pumped!!
@vincenthunt Thanks, Vincent! Just like yourself, we are working hard to leverage technology to create tangible change in America!
Money is power. I'm fascinated by projects like this and there ability to break down some of the traditional walls.
@thorpus The stats are crazy on how wealthy are dictating politics. Fortunately, technology is the great equalizer. It is why we created Advocate PAC, to provide everyday Americans with a platform to aggregate pennies from across the country to combat big money in politics and fight for policies that help everyday Americans.
Super cool and relevant, I like the re-use of the Acorns style savings model.
@fletchrichman thanks Fletcher! We need to bring that out in our messaging: "Round up to legalize marijuana. Round up to end gun violence. Round up to create better public transportation. Round up to help low-income workers." Overall we want to make it easy for everyday Americans to change laws.
@fletchrichman Thanks, Fletcher!
I love this! Do you have any plans or ideas on a way to merge this with 'proxy voting' or any of the work by Democracy OS?
@swetzequity Zach, Thanks for the kind words! Can you explain further what you have in mind? Feel free to share any ideas, which as much detail, as you'd like... =) Cheers, Chris
@chrismarkl sure :) Democracy OS seems to be building a platform where, a political candidate or party, can organize ideas and initiatives into a structured debate and then ultimately hold a vote on the issue. In addition, you can 'outsource' your vote to another person that you trust to cast a ballot on your behalf. This is typically broken down by issue type (similar to how issues are aligned in your app: Prevent Gun Violence, Help Low Income Workers, etc). So I could align my vote to Bernie Sanders on Economic Regulation but to Hillary Clinton for Healthcare, etc etc. I feel there are a lot of overlaps. Both are breaking issues down by category and then attempting to have the best ideas emerge and gain support. The problem is, D OS doesn't have a great way to actually act on any of their new legislation ideas unless elected officials actually used and listened to them. But, as you've demonstrated elected officials are typically listening more closely to money then people. So, my thought would be if you could have a way to combine the proxy voters I support on specific issues with how you are funding them, it could be an interesting way to stay alert both on new legislation ideas as well as support financially. Sorry if this was rambling, I guess I mostly curios to see how you think this project will evolve.
@chrismarkl To further articulate what I mean.. Your category 'Prevent Gun Violence' says my money will support initiatives aimed at that category, but is kind of vague on the details.. i feel Dem OS is more focused on the specific initiatives but has no money or power to actually implement. It's a great step forward and is super exciting to see innovation in the political space!
@swetzequity First off, no need to apologize for rambling, the fact you care enough to write something means a lot to me. That is an interesting model. Let me say yes to voting, but with some slight but important differences. Advocate PAC's thesis is: making it easy for donors to have the maximum impact possible on the political issues they care about. A voting model can make users feel like they have to do something, or those who chose to participate will have a greater influence. Also having a background as an analyst, I am a bit worried about pure voting, as it assumes that users know a lot about specific policies. It is really hard to figure out what policy has the optimal impact on a given issue. We want to empower users to submit, vote, and shape the direction of the PAC, but ultimately we have to honor the commitment of creating the maximum impact possible. Which is why I think: data + academic literature + policy experts + crowd will create the optimal impact.
@swetzequity The category is not vague, it is a policy category. A user can say, 'I want to reduce gun violence.' Then we do all the hard work in figuring out what ballot initiative will create that maximum impact. Policy prescriptions are sometimes unexpected or counter-intuitive. We create a credible commitment with donors that we will do the right thing by being transparent about the reasons behind our decisions.