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Campaign contributions go mobile

Armed with a smartphone and a special app from Square, fundraisers can collect credit card donations on the spot.

Kai Ryssdal: This is a big day in the finances of the presidential race. Candidates and the super PACs that support them -- independently and in a non-coordinated way, of course -- have to report how much money they raised and spent last quarter.

The chase for political contributions is a neverending one, big donors and small ones alike. Marketplace's Jennifer Collins has more on what campaigns are doing to bring in contributions from the little guys.


Jennifer Collins: The last presidential election was all about online donations. This year, candidates are going mobile.

Both the Obama and Romney campaigns are trying out a mobile payment system called Square.

Daniel Rubin: First of all, it's incredibly easy for political campaigns to deploy.

Daniel Rubin is with Square. Here's what he means by easy: Campaign workers attach a card reader to a smartphone and download Square's special app. Then they hit the campaign trail, where they can easily collect donations from anyone with a credit card.

Michael Malbin directs the Campaign Finance Institute. He says Square helps campaigns hit up supporters when emotions are high.

Michael Malbin: You know before there's a chance for second thoughts. It's just, ‘Do you support me? Yes! And at that moment you say, ‘Click.’'

The app also collects the information needed to comply with Federal Election Commission rules. Carl Howe of the Yankee Group says this is a huge boost for Square, and it's not just because it takes a small fee every time you swipe.

Carl Howe: They couldn't buy better advertising. They're implicitly getting an endorsement from the presidential candidates.

And the political campaigns are getting an app that can turn anyone with a smartphone into a fundraiser.

I'm Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.

About the author

Jennifer Collins is a reporter for the Marketplace portfolio of programs. She is based in Los Angeles, where she covers media, retail, the entertainment industry and the West Coast.

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