Michael Gurstein on Tue, 15 Dec 1998 19:14:18 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> DW: Inside Story on Ventura Internet Use (fwd)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 10 Dec 1998 09:53:12 -0500
From: Steven Clift <clift@PUBLICUS.NET>
To: do-wire@tc.umn.edu
Subject: DW: Inside Story on Ventura Internet Use

*** Democracies Online Newswire - http://www.e-democracy.org/do ***

Inside Story on Governor-Elect Ventura's Internet Campaign Use

Enclosed is one of the more important Internet-related articles from the
1998 U.S. elections.  Starting with Minnesota E-Democracy's online
Governor candidate debate last February it was clear to me that the
Ventura campaign was taking the Internet very seriously. 

In the 12 point article below Phil Madsen
<pmadsen@pioneerplanet.infi.net>, online coordinator for the Ventura
campaign, concludes "While it's true that we could not have won the
election without the Internet, we did not win the election because of the
Internet."  A number of pundits are questioning whether the Internet had
any significant role noting the strong personality of Ventura and other
factors.  By viewing this through television-centric old-media eyes -
"Were undecided voters swayed to support Ventura by visiting his web
site?" - it is easy to dismiss the Internet's role a whole.  The answer to
that wrong question is of course "No." 

The question we can learn from is, "Could Jesse Ventura have won this
election without his use of the Internet?"  After years in Minnesota
politics, over four years directly involved with Minnesota E-Democracy
<http://www.e-democracy.org> a non-profit that has helped make politics in
Minnesota perhaps the most "wired" in the world, and related democracy and
Internet visits to over a dozen countries, I say unequivocally no.  For
the first time the strategic use of the Internet, not unlike the assumed
use of other information technologies in competitive races such as cell
phones, databases, fax machines was required to win.  The Internet did not
put Ventura over the top, but without it Ventura could not have won. 

Over the last week Phil Madsen presented humble Minnesota-style comments
to Internet and politics conferences at Harvard and George Washington
universities.  They were by far the highlight of each event.  He agreed to
allow me to forward his behind the scenes comments.  Of great importance,
were his presentations comments that the next step is to aggressively use
the Internet in governance to open up the political process and involve
young people in particular. With the Internet and democracy I predict an
exciting four years in Minnesota.  It will be something political leaders
and citizens everywhere should follow and bring back to their own

When important trend setting events happen in Minnesota (and elsewhere)
with Internet and governance I will forward them to the moderated
Democracies Online Newswire that I manage <http://www.e-democracy.org/do>. 
To subscribe, send an e-mail to: listserv@tc.umn.edu In the message body,
write: subscribe DO-WIRE Your Name (Place)

Steven Clift
Democracies Online Newswire
Board Chair, Minnesota E-Democracy
E-mail: clift@publicus.net   WWW: http://www.publicus.net

P.S. In the near future we will add a directory page on Minnesota
E-Democracy <http://www.e-democracy.org> with some of the best links to
online discussions and news about the Ventura administration. 

        Notes Regarding Jesse Ventura's Internet Use
        In His 1998 Campaign For Minnesota Governor

                 Phil Madsen, Webmaster

      Jesse Ventura For Governor Volunteer Committee
  December 7, 1998 (c) Copyright 1998. All Rights Reserved

1. Webmaster Was A Web Site Rookie But Skilled Activist.

The http://www.jesseventura.org web site was established in February,
1998. While volunteer webmaster Phil Madsen had never done a web site
before, he had been active in grass-roots third party politics since
Perot's 1992 petition drive, including numerous third-party leadership
roles and candidate campaigns. He bought a copy of Microsoft FrontPage98,
found a web site host that charged $30 a month, and went to work. Total
startup costs were less than $200. Except for certain web site policy
decisions, Jesse delegated all Internet responsibilities to Madsen. 

2. Web Site Purpose And Policy Established.

>From the first day, our web site purpose was clear; to produce volunteers,
money, and votes in support of Jesse Ventura and Mae Schunk. We set out to
build and service a base of online supporters from which the volunteers,
money and votes would come. Early on, Jesse decided the web site would be
operated like a cul-de-sac and not a crossroads. The site would not be a
place for people to arrive at and then exit via links we provide. Once
people entered our site, we wanted them to stay and look around. No links
to external web site were provided. Early in the campaign, users would
enter the site and view 5 to 7 pages per visit. As election day
approached, and as we added more pages to the site, users viewed 9 to 11
pages per visit. We had about 2,000,000 hits on the site from February
through November, with about 75% coming in the three weeks before and
after the election. 

3. Jesse Net Established.

A form was added to the site early in the year with which Ventura/Schunk
supporters could register with the campaign. The pitch was, "Join the
Jesse Net to get into the loop and receive occasional e-mail updates from
the campaign." The Jesse Net grew to 3,000 unique home and business e-mail
addresses by election day. E-mail messages were broadcast to all Jesse Net
members from time to time. Members were encouraged to forward these
messages to their friends and urge them to get on board. In the days
following the Ventura/Schunk victory, an additional 1,500 people joined
the Jesse Net. The list continues to grow as more and more people sign up. 

4. Conventional Wisdom Rejected.

Conventional wisdom says, "Candidates unite, issues divide." We rejected
that idea and published all of Jesse's public policy positions on the web
site. Soon after we did so, the media began moving off the wrestling theme
and started treating Jesse more seriously as a candidate. One newspaper
called him "Jesse 'The Wonk' Ventura," referring to the large amount of
public policy information on his web site. After this information was
posted, the issues pages of the site were second only to Jesse's biography
in popularity. Users seemed to enter the site asking, "Who is Jesse
Ventura and where does he stand on the issues?" Reporters and pundits
frequently referred to and quoted from Jesse's public policy positions as
stated on his web site. 

5. Internet Boosted Fundraising Results.

We used the web site, Jesse Net messages, direct mail, and local events to
raise funds. Funds came mostly from T-shirt sales and $50 contributions
under Minnesota's PCR program. In the PCR program, a citizen may
contribute up to $50 to an eligible candidate or party and receive a $50
refund from the state. While the year-end campaign spending numbers are
not yet in, the total will be somewhere between $450,000 and $500,000. We
received $326,000 in public campaign finance assistance from the state. No
PAC money was accepted. The remaining $124,000 to $174,000 came mostly
from our fundraising efforts. Tracking codes indicate that over $50,000 of
the $124,000 to $174,000 came from the web site and Jesse Net. 

6. Internet Boosted Loan Results.

In addition to the funds described above, we raised an additional $60,000
that was not spent and is being returned to the people whosent it in. The
bulk of the $326,000 in public campaign finance money would not actually
be provided by the state until early December. We secured a bank loan
against this amount, but for most of the campaign, we could not find a
friendly bank. We started borrowing money in $2,000 increments (the legal
limit) from individuals. We stopped that when the bank loan came through.
We are returning the individual loan money because Jesse had issued strict
orders early in the campaign, "No unfunded campaign debt.". Of the $60,000
from individual lenders, about $30,000 came from the web site and Jesse

7. Jesse Net Proves Valuable In Rumor Control.

Until late in the campaign, Jesse's opponents did not attack him like they
attacked each other. Pundits speculated that Jesse's opponents, hoping to
win over the Ventura vote, avoided offending Jesse's supporters. Then the
day came when Jesse was misquoted. It was widely (and falsely) reported
that Jesse favored legalized prostitution. Jesse's opponents and their
supporters jumped on this chance and immediately began using the misquote
to discredit Jesse. 

Within hours, we had a press release up on the web site and a Jesse Net
message out the door that stated the true facts. 
 Jesse Net members rose as a statewide force of truth-telling
missionaries. Wherever a Democrat or Republican was spreading the lie that
Jesse supported legalized prostitution, a Jesse Net member, armed with
factual information from an authoritative source, was there to refute it.
The prostitution thing pretty much died within a day or two and Jesse
stood stronger than ever. He did not have to beg the media for a
correction. We broadcast the truth to the people and the errant news
organizations got the word. 

8. Jesse Net Produces Volunteers.

As Jesse Net members grew in number, recruiting volunteers for specific
events became easy. For example, when we were lacking people to staff our
State Fair Booth, a call for help on the Jesse Net produced an ample
supply of volunteers. In the old days, we used to call people on the
telephone one at a time to raise volunteers. Now we can raise them by the
dozens with a single e-mail message. Old way: several calls, one
volunteer. New way: one e-mail message, several volunteers. 

9. Virtual Campaign Office Utilized.

We did not open a campaign office until late in the campaign. It was
equipped with two phone lines, no fax machine, and no computers. While we
called it an office, it served more as a T-shirt sale point and campaign
supply center. Except for the campaign manager, who was paid in the final
two months of the campaign, all campaign staff members were volunteers. We
held very few staff meetings but were in constant communication with each
other via cell phones, land-line phones, fax, e-mail, and the web site. 

10. Online Volunteers Did Valuable Data Entry Work.

5,000 people completed volunteer forms at Jesse's State Fair booth. Many
requested bumper stickers and lawn signs. With little time left before
election day, no computers in the office, and no money to hire a data
entry service, we turned to the Internet. We set up a private web site for
data entry. The form fields on the data entry site matched the fields on
the printed State Fair form. A Jesse Net appeal for data entry volunteers
was answered by over 70 people. After asking them to complete a minor
administrative action on line, 48 serious and reliable volunteers
remained, which we named the Data Entry Team (DE Team). 

We divided the paper forms into packets of 100+ and mailed one packet to
each DE Team member. Working from home, DE Team members went to our
private web site and entered the data there. We downloaded that data into
our database and printed mailing labels. Within days, we had bumper
stickers and fundraising letters on the way to the 5,000 new supporters we
met at the State Fair. Except for postage to mail the DE Team packets and
copying the printed forms for backup in case they were lost, the total
cost of the data entry operation was $0. 

11. Drive To Victory Tour Relied Heavily On The Internet.

With just over two weeks to go to election day, the decision was made for
Jesse and Mae to do a statewide get-out-the-vote Drive To Victory Tour.
The tour would consist of a caravan of motor homes and cars, which would
travel around the state, stopping at a number of 20 to 30 minute rallies
along the way. 

On Monday, October 26, we put out a Jesse Net message inviting members to
an important meeting on Wednesday October 28. We also announced the
meeting through the campaign's phone tree (volunteers who call 10, each of
whom call 10 more, etc.). The meeting was otherwise unpublicized. That
Wednesday night, 250 people attended, many from distant areas of the
state. The tour plan and volunteer positions were publicized in an
operations order which was distributed at the meeting and later posted on
the web site. With their orders in hand, people rose to fill in the tour
volunteer slots and went to work organizing the local rallies. The caravan
departed Friday night, October 30. 

The tour route and rally stops were mostly determined by targeting data we
purchased. In some of the target communities, we had no campaign contacts
whatsoever. By using the Internet and cell phones, we had successful
rallies in these towns as well. 

Jesse essentially owned the news for three days as the tour progressed.
The whole state was abuzz about Jesse's Drive To Victory. Unsolicited
police escorts were provided in several towns. News crews followed us most
of the way. Rally attendance exceeded 500 in several communities. And they
cheered their lungs out. It was quite the show. With this level of public
interest, and the tour route and operations order posted on the web site,
people we never met before could rise and put a rally together in a town
where we had no organized support. 

Typically, an individual would contact the caravan by cell phone and get
named as the lead local organizer. We would refer him or her to the
operations order on the web site. They would follow the instructions and
call back to let us know they were ready. When we pulled into that town,
everything was set, including a guide on the outskirts of town waiting to
lead us to the rally site and waiting crowd. 

The caravan often fell behind schedule. One person in the caravan was in
constant touch with another back home who was updating the web site every
few minutes with reports about the caravan's progress. In towns where
crowds were waiting, someone in the crowd was usually in touch by cell
phone or runner with someone at home who was tracking the caravan's
progress on the web site. Even though we were quite late at times, the
crowds held because they knew exactly where we were, why we were late, and
when to expect us. 

Another component of the tour was the people we called Jesse's Geek Squad.
These computer-skilled people produced video clips and digital pictures of
the caravan and rallies as they progressed. This data was uploaded to the
web site as soon as the Geek Squad members could get to a phone line. In
some cases, people attending the rallies could return to their homes, log
on to the Internet and see a picture of themselves with Jesse on the
Ventura/Schunk web site. By using the web site as we did, the tour was far
more successful than it otherwise would have been. The caravan was like a
train. Jesse's supporters were laying the tracks ahead of us as we
proceeded around the state. 

12. Observations.

A. The Internet is not about technology. It's about relationships. 

B. While it's true that we could not have won the election without the
Internet, we did not win the election because of the Internet. We won
because our candidates, campaign staff and volunteers engaged the voters
in a number of meaningful ways. 

Without the Internet, we would have lost the election. The same applies to
all other components of the campaign. Take away the debate inclusion,
public campaign finance money, campaign office, telephone team, good media
relations, public policy research, campaign leadership, quality
candidates, a staff that worked well together, eager and hard-working
volunteers, etc., etc., etc., and we would have lost as well. 

End of document.

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