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Crowdfunding Campaign for Lisbon’s Mayor Nearing End
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Crowdfunding Campaign for Lisbon’s Mayor Nearing End

During the 2008 presidential election campaign, and again four years later, Barack Obama showed how small donations from many people (effectively, crowdfunding) can be used at a mass scale to raise millions of dollars for politicians.

Since then, other American politicians have asked the crowd to help fund their campaign. Just a few weeks ago, for instance, Bryan Parker, who hopes to become Oakland’s next Mayor, wrapped up a $60,000 campaign on CrowdTilt.

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Now, it seems, that practice is beginning to spread to Europe. The Mayor of Lisbon is wrapping up a successful (if modest) crowdfunding campaign on the Portuguese platform PPL. The platform’s founders believe it’s the first political crowdfunding campaign in Europe.

The campaign launched on June 21 and finishes this Friday. Over the past month, Mayor Antonio Costa raised €3,553, which will go toward creating a video that encourages Lisbon’s youth to participate in the vote, as well as fulfilling the rewards. The rewards range from things like thank you emails, badges, and t-shirts to a chance to meet the Mayor. The donations have ranged from €2 to €350, with the average clocking in at roughly €42. 

The idea for the campaign came about roughly four months ago, said PPL’s managing director and cofounder Pedro Domingos, when the team behind the platform met with Costa to discuss crowdfunding in Portugal. The managing director said the three-month gap between idea and the campaign’s launch resulted from consulting with legal experts.

“Political campaigns in Portugal can only receive identifiable transactions – bank transfers,” he explained. “So we cannot use PayPal or [other] electronic payment options, we have to take only direct transfers between the backer and the campaign.”

This has resulted in a bit of a headache for PPL, as the platform and the Mayor’s campaign staff must verify that the payments are coming from individuals – not companies, for instance. Only when PPL receives and matches up a receipt to a transaction does the team update the campaign funding total, Domingos said. The money pledged is going to the election campaign’s bank account, which will be audited.

The process is more involved than simply selecting an amount and hitting the ‘Donate’ button, but that hasn’t stopped other potential candidates from inquiring about their own crowdfunding initiatives. Domingos welcomes their requests, if only to not be seen as supporting a specific candidate or party.

“We want another candidate, if possible from a right-wing or independent party, so we don’t get [affiliated with] any specific party, because we’re not,” he affirmed, after pointing out that Costa is a left-wing candidate.

In the long run, Domingos expects to see more political crowdfunding campaigns, both in Portugal and elsewhere. Costa’s initiative, though hardly breaking funding records, could encourage more such activity.

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