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The USA Today headline read “Internet turns 30.” It’s hard to believe
that only a few years ago, a lot fewer than 30, no one but a few
computer geeks knew about the Internet, let along the dot com
revolution. Today it’s very difficult to miss the plethora of television
and radio advertising for this dot com and that dot com. Even
advertising for non-computer and non-Web products includes computer
references — an ad for the new Volkswagen “bug” calls it version 2.0.

There are lots of predictions that 1999 will be the year that
e-commerce really comes into its own, and it seems that many Internet
companies are gearing up for a very green Christmas. If they are not
successful, they will have spent a ton of money advertising their
websites on billboards, radio, print, and television for very little
return.

For those of us just trying to decide what to buy and for whom, the
question is academic. But when the statistics are released they will be
studied by more than stock market gurus and economists. The entire
political establishment will be watching, because their Christmas
shopping season comes November 2000.

The Internet to date has only been a small adjunct to political
campaigning. Its development has been mainly by political enthusiasts
who are also computer enthusiasts. Websites and individuals who felt
strongly about issues and candidates originally started mailing lists.

In 1994 a grass-roots campaign started by two individuals, one in
Texas and the other in Spokane, Wash., was given the name, DF8
(defoliate). In plain English it was a Web campaign to help defeat
Congressman Tom Foley, then the Speaker of the House. They set up a
political action committee (PAC) and proceeded to raise money over the
Net. According to my sources, they raised approximately $40,000 and
spent it all on political ads in the Spokane area urging the defeat of
Foley. The FEC was incredulous when they interrogated the Treasurer and
found no expenses related to fund raising or salaries of the two
volunteers.

A national presidential campaign rather than a congressional race
seems to be more suited to the Internet. As a result the 1996
presidential election saw the first wide-scale use of Internet sites for
presidential campaigns. Yet there still was plenty of room for sites to
emerge that were developed and maintained by grass-roots volunteers.
Among the noteworthy ones were Gramm-net, a Senator Phil Gramm for
President mailing list, and The Brigade list, an e-mail list supporting
Pat Buchanan for President.

Gramm-net is still active and is now supporting Steve Forbes for
President. Further information can be found on its well-done
website. The Brigade
List, which has been maintained by Linda Muller since 1995 is still
active even though there has been a split between the Buchanan campaign
and Muller recently. In fact her work on Buchanan’s own Internet
site,
was praised in the April 22, 1999,
issue of the National Journal’s Hotline. They said, “Patrick J. Buchanan
owns the kind of rip-snortin’, rootin’-tootin’,
ride-to-the-sound-of-the-guns … political site that other presidential
candidates can only dream of. … Even Buchanan’s URL screams energy and
enthusiasm –
http://www.GoPatGo2000.org. … Linda Muller, (is) probably the best
political
Webmaster east of Jesse Ventura’s. … In fact, Buchanan 2000 violates a
lot
of the rules I think make for a good and effective political Internet
site. But it
still works, ’cause Muller never, ever loses sight of the goal: The
voting booth
on Nov. 3, 2000.”

Although the GoPatGo site is now being maintained by others, Linda is
still supporting Buchanan and trying to keep her “army” of enthusiasts
on the Buchanan bandwagon through her personal site,
Buchanan.org.

The trend, however, is for more professionals to get into the
political Web business. Every major candidate and political party have
websites, which for the most part are run by political consultants. Yet
there are some anomalies, which can be refreshing.

Looking for a Republican site I came across a web page with the name
2000GOP. Yes, it does have something to do
with politics and the Republican party, but it is an independent site
run by EH Communications that follows all the Republican candidates. The
difference between 2000GOP and the Republican National Committee
site
is like the difference between color and
black-and-white television.

The 2000GOP had an interesting and informative article on the Dec. 13
Iowa Republican debates. That article even mentioned that candidate Alan
Keyes placed first in the Vote.com poll on who won
the AZ Monday night debate. Of course, Keyes’ Internet
site
features that story prominently.

In sharp contrast the RNC site main story features the RNC TV crew
following Al Gore in New Hampshire, while the only mention of the
presidential primaries is a presidential politics page which only
gives links to the candidates’
sites.

It’s really time for the Republican National Committee to have a site
that looks and feels up-to-date. After all the new millennium starts in
a few weeks.

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