Some people believe the Internet is years away from being an effective campaign tool. But we believe that used properly the Internet can have a major impact upon campaigns right now. Some of our favorite examples:
Getting Past the Press: Speaking Directly to Voters and Volunteers
Jesse Ventura's independent campaign for governor of Minnesota had little choice but to use inexpensive tools for organizing support and contacting voters. By establishing simple yet effective electronic mailing lists for each, Jesse Net was able to keep voters updated and let volunteers know what they could do to help. During his campaign Ventura established electronic mailing lists never numbering more than about 3,000 Minnesotans who were sent e-mail periodically and were encouraged to forward them on to their friends. In a state of 4.5 million citizens that is not a big list. But the electronic mailing lists proved very effective when the campaign needed to combat negative attacks. When Ventura was misquoted by the press on the topic of legalized prostitution he quickly sent a rebuttal statement to all those on the e-mail list and posted it on his Website. What might have become a lingering scandal was extinguished within a couple of days. Ventura's electronic mailing lists were also important for mobilizing volunteers. For instance, when the campaign urgently needed people to staff its booth at the state fair, a call for help through the Jesse Net generated an ample supply of volunteers. The saving in labor that single e-mail message represents over the alternative -- generating hundreds of telephone calls -- is huge.
Keeping pace with a better funded opponent
Senator John McCain's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination faced the overwhelming advantage his opponent had in fundraising. After McCain's victory in New Hampshire his campaign turned to the Internet to raise money and sign up volunteers. Not only did they raise $2.2 million in a few weeks, but by the end of the campaign they had signed up more than 100,000 e-mail subscribers who received campaign updates, requests for volunteer help and money. And that key asset -- the e-mail addresses of his supporters -- now belongs to McCain's new political action committee. He will use to generate support for his legislative agenda, which is likely to strengthen his role in the Senate.
The Internet has been used by a number of political action organizations to mobilize voters around an issue. A great example is MoveOn.org. which was established during the impeachment debate. MoveOn.org used the Internet to circulate a petition and get pledges from over 500,000 people to fight impeachment. The organization raised money as pledges designed to be used to defeat politicians that they believed ignored voters wishes to censure the President and move on to more important issues.