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Ann Arbor Startup Seeks Step Toward Direct Democracy

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ANN ARBOR — Our long national nightmare of negative political advertising is over, for now.

And maybe forever, if an Ann Arbor startup called Asq.us has its way.

Asq.us is looking for money on the online crowdfunding platform Fundly to help take the money out of politics without a constitutional amendment.

The social network technology firm is seeking to raise $95,000 to enable it to turn its beta software into an enterprise, scalable, and mobile platform of one-person one-vote democracy that will function independently of big money’s political influence. To learn more, visit http://fundly.com/putting-representation-back-into-democracy.

Impossible?

“Hardly,” said Asq.us CEO and founder Brad Chick. “In point of fact, the app and use of the platform will be free to all. With modern technology, our elected representatives can reach out to find out how each of us feels. And if they forget, we can remind them.”

Chick said the site, www.asq.us, is “allowing for a level of accountability like nothing we’ve ever seen before.”

The high rates of participation by Americans online and in social media means than everyone can make their opinions known conveniently on any issue — before any lobbyists, special interest moneymen, corporations or unions can fill out an electronic purchase order and click the payment button to schedule another television or radio ad.

“We have the technology and consumer behavior already in place,” Chick said. “If you use email, the web, your smartphone or tablet, you’re already in the game. Once we have this running, they will have to stop telling us and start asking us, which is the way a democracy is supposed to function.”

To showcase the power of this use of social network technology, the first image on the Asq.us video posted on Fundly is of General George Washington and the American Continental Army crossing the Delaware on Christmas Eve to defeat Hessian mercenaries who had invaded the American colonies.

“Asq.us is a political dialogue platform, designed to modernize democracy, that lets you interact directly with the people who are elected to represent you,” Chick said. “Our goal is to replace the traditional town hall with a tool that utilizes the technology and majority citizen behaviors of the 21st century to facilitate representation. We are transparent, nonprofit, open-source, publicly funded and nonpartisan. Let me put this another way. We aren’t Asq.us, you are!”

As founder of Asq.US, Chick is leveraging 18 years of experience gained pioneering social networks and messaging to attract and manage national participation in open-to-all athletic events, including the Marine Corps Marathon, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, and J.P.Morgan Chase Corporate.

“Money in politics has way too much influence,” the married founder, and father of four, explains on the Fundly video (http://fundly.com/putting-representation-back-into-democracy).

“There is hyper-partisanship and gridlock, basically halting issue-based dialogue. At the end of the day, people just don’t feel like they are represented. Our video opens with people interviewed on the street who say just that. As ordinary citizens with opinions, but also respectful of our neighbors, we don’t have to put up with this. We have the tools at hand to fix it.”

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, deep-pocket individuals have spent far more money in the 2012 election to represent their private interests than in all the elections combined from years 2000 through 2008. For many, the din of deception and distortions has become unbearable and trust in government has declined as a result.

Instead, the online social media Asq.us will offer a continuous real-time town hall meeting on local, regional and national issues. Constituents can be heard directly by their elected representatives through their smartphones, tablets and computers before there is time to inundate the airwaves and cable networks with special interest advertising. The accumulating data of majority and minority opinions will be free for all to inspect.

And, with the same easy-to-use app-enabled technology, each elected representative can poll his or her constituents directly. This eliminates the high cost of sampling to taxpayers and the delay and potential distortions of voice that conventional polling routinely produce.

Fundly (http://fundly.com/) is the world’s leading crowdfunding platform for social causes and has raised over $300 million for a diverse range of nonprofit, political and personal fundraising campaigns with crowdfunding-for-good platforms.

The Asq.us team suggests that we put faith in the wisdom of our Founding Fathers — as when George Washington said, “Truth will ultimately prevail when there are pains to bring it to light.”

Said Chick: “We’re all counting on that.”

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