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Ben Affleck for Senate? You can pledge $$$ now…

A Palo Alto-based political engagement startup has launched a new page giving people the power to pledge money to candidates for California’s 2016 U.S. Senate race – even if those potential candidates have not yet even expressed interest in running.

Crowdpac – described by Yahoo News last fall as “a Kickstarter for politics and a Match.com for web-savvy politicos” – has set up a pledge system in accordance with an August 2014 Federal Election Commission ruling allowing pledges, but not actual donations, before a candidate forms a campaign. Only if and when a candidate chooses to run will the user be charged.

Ben AffleckSo the group’s 2016 California Senate page includes declared candidates like state Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat, and Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, D-Oceanside; people who’ve expressed interest but haven’t yet declared, like House members Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove, and former state GOP chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette; and celebs who’ve said nothing about entering the race, like actors Ben Affleck (D) and Kelsey Grammer (R).

Crowdpac already has a similar pledge page for the 2016 presidential race, including “say WHAT?” candidates like former Vice President Al Gore and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

The idea is to alleviate the chicken-or-egg problem in modern campaign finance: Many ordinary Americans won’t make political contributions because they feel good candidates aren’t stepping forward, and many good potential candidates won’t step forward because they don’t think they can raise the tremendous sums required to run a big campaign. The Crowdpac team believes their pledge system will get more people engaged and invested in the process, and avoid having a few rich people anoint their chosen candidates.

It’s an interesting team. CEO and cofounder Steve Hilton is a visiting professor at Stanford, and a former senior advisor to British Prime Minister David Cameron. Cofounder Adam Bonica is a Stanford assistant professor of political science who studies the quantitative measurement of political ideology; he built the algorithms driving Crowdpac’s various services. And chief operating officer and cofounder Gisel Kordestani is a tech entrepreneur who has worked in early stage startups, management consulting and spent more than eight years at Google in senior global roles in finance and new business development.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.