RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A group of University of Richmond law students is changing the face of lobbying in the commonwealth. They’ve created a portal to open up political access to the average Virginian.
It’s called CrowdLobby and follows a model similar to Kickstarter.
“Lobbying is a tremendously powerful industry in Virginia and force in the legislature,” said Sam Garrison, CrowdLobby’s Director of Legislative Affairs. “Lots of legislators rely on lobbyists to educate them about issues and actually write legislation.”
But CrowdLobby President Heidi Drauschak said hiring a lobbyist is too expensive for most Virginians.
“When we looked around, we saw that corporations and millionaires were having a very real effect on the legislature through lobbying,” she said. “We thought, let’s give everyday people the access to the same tool.”
Right now, the site focuses on five issues: education, prison rehabilitation, juvenile justice, cannabis reform and clean energy.
“They’re topics that affect people on a daily basis across Virginia,” said CrowdLobby Director of Communications Dillon Clair.
People can contribute $5 to $500 dollars to the issue of their choice. That money is pooled and used to collectively hire a lobbyist.
Clair said power in numbers can help level the playing field. They hope to build a base ahead of the next General Assembly session in January.
“We’re trying to get coalitions built, we’re trying to get resources together and we’re trying to get people excited about these topics,” he said.
The site just launched this summer.
In the future, they hope to include more issues and expand into other states.To learn more about CrowdLobby, click here.Never miss another Facebook post from 8News.Find 8News on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram; send your news tips to iReport8@wric.com.