A millionaire thanks to his work as a venture capitalist, Mitt Romney is acutely aware of the motivating power of money. His presidential campaign hopes it will have a similar effect on college students, which is why it's offering them a cut of their fundraising.
Participants in "Students for Mitt" will get 10 percent of the money they raise for the campaign beyond the first $1,000. While candidates often offer professional fundraisers commissions up to 8 percent, campaign experts believe the Massachusetts Republican is the first to do so with the legion of college students who have historically served as campaign volunteers.
"For the kids that want to get involved in a political campaign and they don't want to spend their summer painting houses, they can help the campaign and themselves at the same time," said Romney spokesman Kevin Madden.
Others take a dimmer view.
"It may very well succeed, but I'd like to think that he'd approach young people and college students based on their commitment to the country, not because they want walking-around money," said Steve Grossman, a prominent Massachusetts fundraiser and past chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
The money primary
Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, is engaged in a fundraising battle with rivals for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, including such better-known candidates as Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Presidential candidates must report their first-quarter fundraising numbers April 15. Those totals will strongly contribute to perceptions of political viability.
Running third or worse in public opinion polls, Romney is looking to raise at least $15 million to cement his status as a top-tier candidate.
Successful applicants to Students for Mitt get an ID and source code so the campaign can track donations made at their behest.
The participants are asked to contact members of their academic, social and family circles, and point them to Romney's Web site. The students get 10 percent of all money above $1,000 that is contributed under their ID and source code.
"I spend a lot of hours at the campaign here," said Sarah Isgur, second-year student at Harvard Law School, who is raising funds from classmates, friends and family members, among others in the Boston area. "Some students are working at a law firm and earning $3,000 per week. My opportunity cost is pretty high some times, and this can take the edge off that."