Bundling campaign donations is no longer just for the well-heeled and well-connected.

Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign is launching a social crowd-funding platform this week that encourages small donors to set up mini-fundraising operations by dangling video game-style badges and “secret events” as rewards.

Dubbed CruzCrowd, the web-based system is effectively a mash-up of the two main drivers of political fundraising: small online giving and the bundling of large contributions. Supporters who sign up to be part of “the militia” will begin earning American Revolution-themed badges as they recruit new “patriots.” There is no minimum donation to participate.

"The idea is that it shouldn't just be millionaires who bundle donations," said Chris Wilson, director of research and analytics for the Cruz campaign.

As with high-dollar bundlers, CruzCrowd participants have the chance to climb tiers based on their fundraising totals. Everyone who signs up starts as a Colonist, then reaches Delegate after raising $1,000 and Signer after raising $5,000. The top tier, Federalist, requires collecting $10,000.

As participants expand their fundraising networks, they will compete for perks such as riding on the campaign bus with Cruz and flying on his campaign plane.

“CruzCrowd threatens the Washington elite because it bypasses traditional fundraising wisdom and allows you, the individual, not a DC power broker, to finance the race for the Presidency,” the senator from Texas wrote in an introductory note on the website. “CruzCrowd thrives on all levels of contributions, big and small, from $1 and up, because Cruz Crowd is about the power of the CROWD, the power of what can happen when like-minded patriots stand up for their beliefs and recruit other patriots to join the fight.”


Participants get a personal page that allows them to track their own donations and “money raised by my militia,” and then compare their progress with that of other Cruz supporters across the country. They can share their pages on social media to recruit new members.

As donors spur more giving, they will collect badges with images of George Washington, Paul Revere and other colonial-era themes. Those automatically translate into goodies such as free bumper stickers, coffee mugs and lapel pins. Earn 30 badges, and you’ll get a signed copy of Cruz’s book, “A Time for Truth.”

Wilson said he first got the germ of the idea back in March, after learning about a Utah-based essential oils company that uses online recognition and prizes to motivate its distributors. At the time, the Cruz campaign was worried that it would not be able to compete with the fundraising network of former Florida governor Jeb Bush.

"We’ll never have all the ambassadors that existed under the Bush administrations, the major donors who owe things to former presidents," Wilson said. "But we do have the greatest grassroots network. And so we thought, 'If we could crowdsource [the fundraising], wouldn’t it be pretty cool?'"