Crowdfunding exemption – WeFunder and other Senate nudging

Should non-millionaires be able to invest small amounts, like up to $100 or $1000, in small, local businesses or other ventures that they believe in, without the ventures having to spend tens of thousands (or more) on state or federal securities compliance?  I believe so, provided that the offerings can be seen and discussed openly, and have other requirements and limitations to prevent abuse.

I think this legalization of crowdfunded securities would create meaningful jobs and enable grassroots innovation on an enormous scale.  Maybe I'm overestimating, but I see it as a regulatory change comparable in importance to the revision of NSF's Acceptable Use Policy, which first allowed commercial traffic on the Internet.  That early 1990's policy democratized the flow of information the way a well-implemented crowdfunding exemption would democratize the allocation of human effort.

Largely under the radar, crowdfunding exemption proposals have progressed to a point now where the first bill, H.R.2930, overwhelmingly passed the House, with White House support, and is now under review by the Senate Banking Committee, along with two competing bills, S.1719 and S.1970.  Other countries are looking to the U.S. as an example on this issue.

But the crowdfunding exemption idea needs to be processed by the public far more than it has been, and the Senate is leery of passing it until this happens.  The issue has not yet been widely reported, perhaps because the Occupy movement has owned the "challenging Wall Street" narrative, or because reporters have mentally binned it as "arcane regulatory detail" rather than "fundamental systemic change."

I'm hoping this relative silence will change soon, because three efforts to raise the issue's profile  are launching within the next week.  Today, the Crowd Investing | Wefunder petition launched, supporting S.1719, with the great idea of generating an actual dollar figure on what a CF exemption can pump into the economy.  Please sign it now, before it scrolls out of your consciousness!  Within a couple of hours this morning, this petition quickly passed 1 million in pledges, and if it gets enough signatures, the people behind it have the opportunity to present it to Senate Majority Chair Mary Landrieu on Wednesday.  So this is not just another go-nowhere internet petition.

Meanwhile, Woodie Neiss and the Startup Exemption folks will soon launch a new campaign to promote H.R.2930, and some people I've been working with at the American Sustainable Business Council and elsewhere will launch a crowdfunding campaign through Loudsauce to take out a full-page back cover ad in Politico (which is distributed in DC in print form and read by congresscritters) promoting an exemption in a way that's agnostic regarding the 3 competing bills (but not agnostic about their specific provisions).  The ad was written (PDF with text, not designed yet) by Michael Shuman, author of The Small-Mart Revolution and Going Local, and will be designed by Jake Levitas, who created posters and other graphics for Occupy Wall Street.

Also, as far as I'm concerned, this effort began on Boing Boing, with my sanity-check post floating the idea of crowdfunding an effort to change crowdfunding law, and the resulting public petition (PDF) to the SEC, by the Sustainable Economies Law Center in Oakland.  I've been covering progress on my Change Crowdfunding Law blog.