A startup fundraising app making a push into the political market is finding a warmer reception among Democrats.
“Especially when we explain that we are not a competitor to ActBlue, but a compliment,” said Royal Kastens, Democratic co-founder of Prytany. The company noted that Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) has been an early adopter.
Beltway-based practitioners may have seen Prytany’s billboards around DC. John Polis, Prytany’s Republican co-founder, owned and operated a billboard business before launching the app in June.
First-time political vendors face hurdles breaking into the market, but those making a non-partisan play face added barriers. Namely gaining the trust of decision-makers who don’t want to employ a platform that can benefit the other side.
The added challenge for a fundraising app like Prytany is a 2020 environment were Republicans are coalescing around WinRed and aren’t open to entertaining pitches from a donations vehicle backed by industry newcomers.
“The reception’s been poor because of the edict that’s been laid down that everyone has to use WinRed,” said Polis.
In response to an inquiry from C&E, WinRed’s Gerrit Lansing said in a statement: “With the full support of President Trump, Republican leadership and every national party committee, WinRed is going to raise all conservative boats with small-dollar donors. ActBlue has a 15-year head start, and it’s going to take time for the right to catch up, but having everyone in the conservative ecosystem united on a single platform is a network effect we can’t ignore anymore.”
Polis and Kastens’ platform was designed, in part, to spark cross-party donations by enabling “individuals to make contributions to principal campaign committees and national political party committees that have enrolled with Prytany.”
For instance, right-leaning Democrats could form a group on the app to channel donations to Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who would receive the contributions within six hours along with the proper FEC reporting requirements for the donors.
Conservative Democrats in flyover country “are never going to go onto WinRed to register and put their credit card information on a Republican site,” said Polis. “But they are likely going to want to give to a few leading Republican [members] because their issues line up. It’s very hard to find people outside the Beltway who are 100 percent” one-party voters.
While the platform is non-partisan, it says there’s no cross-party mingling of the donor file.
Polis said the idea for Prytany, whose name comes from the rotating seat of executive power in the Athenian senate of ancient Greece, was to provide a “one-stop platform for donating.”
He noted that if a donor on the right wanted to give to several candidates she supports, it could take 45 minutes to make contributes to five candidates by going directly to their websites.
“We’re quick and simple and easy and less expensive,” he said, noting the company’s service charges a flat fee of 3 percent per transaction.
Campaigns and committees must pay $250 to register, but that fee is waived once commissions exceed that amount. A candidate or committee must be signed up for Prytany in order to receive the donations.
According to the FEC advisory opinion the company received in April, “Prytany’s three percent transaction fee is included in the total amount of the contribution as reported by Prytany to the Enrolled Committee and is separately reported by Prytany to the Enrolled Committee as an expenditure from that committee to Prytany.” The platform is built on Stripe.
Despite the early rejection from Republicans, Polis said the platform can carry on. “Would we survive? Yes, but it would be a shame,” he said.