Romney Campaign Pays Students to Fundraise


Mitt Romney’s campaign has created “Students for Romney,” a program in which students are paid to bring in supporters. (Brian Baer/MCT)

Published: November 8, 2007

FCLC—Former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney has come up with a new plan to mobilize college students in the current campaign: pay them.

In an effort to reach out to college students, the Romney campaign has created “Students for Mitt,” a division of the campaign geared specifically toward college students. It offers incentives to students who bring in supporters and raise money for the campaign. Prizes include Mitt Romney bobble-head dolls, foam “Mitts” and cash commissions, as well as opportunities to meet the presidential candidate.

“I don’t have any sense that this has been done before,” said Susan Beck, professor of political science at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC).

The “Students for Mitt” Web site states that one of the goals of the program is: “To establish a grassroots network of students who will support Mitt’s campaign in schools and communities across the nation.”

Andres Portillo, FCLC ’09, thinks the program will be effective. “It’s a way to get kids [to be] more politically active.”

“You might argue that students are apathetic,” Beck said. She continued, “In recent years, students seem to exhibit more apathy than in previous crises. This campus is still pretty sedate.”

Students have traditionally been a difficult group to mobilize. While voter turnout among Americans ages 18 to 24 increased in the 2004 election, less than half of eligible voters in that age group went to the polls, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Presidential candidates are attempting to find new ways to connect to college students and mobilize the youth vote. Most major candidates have active Facebook profiles, and many campaigns have special divisions to handle student mobilization. But Romney’s program is unique in that it actually offers student fundraisers financial reimbursement for their work for the campaign.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Maria Ugarte, FCLC ’09, said. “You’re doing something for someone else and getting a reward.”

Caroline Watson, FCLC ’09, disagrees. “I think it would get people involved for the wrong reasons.” Watson fears students would get involved in the program simply for the pay. “I think it takes away from what the nature of campaigning should be,” Watson said, adding that students should participate in campaigns to support issues they believe in.

The success of this initiative ultimately relies on finding students who would support the campaign regardless of any incentives.

“I would [participate in a similar program] for someone I believe in, but not Romney,” Portillo said.

Ugarte agreed. She said she would participate in the program if she agreed with Romney’s politics, but said, “you’re not going to contribute to someone you oppose.”

According to the Washington Post, Romney placed second among the Republican candidates race in third-quarter fundraising with $10 million. All of the Republican candidates lag far behind Democratic candidates in third-quarter fundraising.

Beck said she could not predict the success of this program. “My guess is [Romney] is not supported on this campus,” she said. “I don’t know about other [colleges], but I expect Republicans here would be more likely to support [former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani].”