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New political website hopes to help small campaigns

September 10, 2015

An Indiana Republican and Democrat are coming together in an election year to help "the little guys" run for office.

PoliticalBank.com, which launched this week, is a website aimed at providing political candidates and elected officials an outlet to share their stance on key issues, connect with voters, sign up volunteers and raise money.

The project, which aims to increase public engagement in often-overlooked down-ticket political campaigns, is led by Adam Berry, Gov. Mike Pence’s former policy director, and Frank Short, a three-term Indianapolis City-County Council Democrat.

“We wanted to give voters a very efficient way to identify candidates and learn where they are on specific issues,” Berry said. “It could be something as simple as ‘Will you fix a broken street light on Main Street?’ or all the way up to, ‘Where do you stand on [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act]?’”

The team hopes the website—which is intended to nonpartisan, and open to any candidate regardless of party affiliation—is a helpful tool for candidates and voters in the upcoming  elections. They’ve already signed on political candidates, including Auditor Suzanne Crouch, to create profiles on the site.

The idea for the site stemmed out of Berry’s frustration when he was consulting with another local Republican, Matt Smith, on his 2014 campaign to become a Washington Township Trustee. (Smith ended up losing, ironically, to Short).

“There wasn’t a single place where I could (tell him to) create a profile where he could articulate positions, raise money, post pictures, communicate or correspond,” Berry said. “Candidates, especially in the down-ballet races, often don’t have the staff or the sophistication to create a full-fledged campaign website.”

Short said he became interested in the project because of its ability to help local candidates who won’t get a fraction of the attention—or money—that the presidential election has already generated.

“A state representative or a school board member is going to affect your life a lot more than the president,” Short said. He wanted to help “people who aren’t as sophisticated and who aren’t going to raise $100 million like Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump or Jeb Bush.”

But the PoliticalBank.com team also hopes for a broader reach. Berry plans to take the project national, and soon launch in states including Illinois and Ohio. Starting next spring, the team will “chase the primary states” including Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

“That’s our go-to market,” Berry said. “We hope to have a presidential campaign on PoliticalBank.com as long as we establish credibility and viability.”

Berry, who resigned from his Pence administration job to work full-time on the project, believes his idea is financially viable. So far, the team has spent $170,000 on development costs, including comprehensive market research.

Berry and Short hope to monetize the site by having candidates pay $25 a month, or $250 a year, to use the service. There will also be a limited free version.

If it soars in popularity, advertising revenue also is a possibility. That would require a critical mass of candidates to join the site, probably in the range of about 10,000, Berry said.

But Berry said the “most exciting revenue potential” lies in data analytics.

“Political consulting is a multi-billion dollar industry,” Berry said. “A lot of that is based on who has the best, most reliable info that parties and campaigns want to improve their chances of winning an election.”

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