Michael Gurstein on Sun, 10 Jan 1999 02:06:53 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Anti-impeachment website: $$ Millions in pledges (fwd)

>[SOURCE: CyberTimes, AUTHOR: ]
>January 8, 1999
>January 8, 1999
>Anti-Impeachment Web Site 
>Tallies Millions in Pledges
>WASHINGTON -- Thousands of Internet users, fed up with the impeachment
>have gone online in the past three weeks and pledged more than 
>$10 million to try to defeat the politicians they believe have ignored 
>voters' wishes to censure President Clinton and move on to
>other business, the operators of a new grassroots Web site say. 
>How much of that money will actually be collected is
>anybody's guess, but the sheer volume of response is
>astounding, Internet campaign watchers agreed. 
>"Did you say $10 million?" asked a surprised Michael
>Cornfield, a professor at George Washington
>University's Graduate School of Political Management.
>"That's like four orders of magnitude, as in decimal point,
>greater than anything I've ever heard of." 
>The key difference, he said, is that the previous measure pertains 
>to campaign donations actually collected, not pledged, over the Internet. 
>"But the odd thing, and what is really interesting to me, is that 
>this is not an interest group," Cornfield said. "This a bunch of people 
>who have been following a news story and are outraged by the
>narrative. They want to change the narrative. We've had enormous 
>reactions before, to things like Vietnam and Watergate. 

>But this is new. We've never had anything like this. 
>I've never heard of anybody getting this kind of money before." 
>The pledge drive, launched immediately after the House voted 
>Dec. 21 to impeach the President, is part of an anti-impeachment 
>movement started on the Internet in September by Wes Boyd and Joan
>Blades, a married couple better known in technology circles 
>as the founders of Berkeley Systems, a software company that 
>created the popular flying toaster screensavers and the computer 
>game showYou Don't Know Jack. 
>The Berkeley, Calif., entrepreneurs sold their company about 
>a year ago and since have been working out of their home developing
>software. But those efforts have largely been
>moved to the back burner since September, when they decided to put their
>technical expertise to work in the political arena. 
>"Fundamentally, it happened because a group of friends and family 
>were talking about what was going on, at that time it was close to 
>the time of the Starr report, a little before. People were saying,
>this is crazy. There are important issues that are being ignored. 
>It's time to move on," Blades said in atelephone interview. 
>"If you walked into a Chinese restaurant you heard people saying that." 
>So the couple started doing some research and talking to people 
>around the country. 
>"We got the message that people wanted to censure and move
>on," Blades said. "We wanted to create a place for the centrist
>viewpoint to express themselves." 
>On Sept. 22, at a cost of $89, they launched the MoveOn Web
>site, which began collecting petitions to deliver to Congressional
>candidates before the November elections. 
>Participation was promulgated mostly by Internet word of mouth
>-- people sending e-mail to friends and family. "We were very
>careful not to spam," Blades said. 
>"The first day we had 300 something petitioners," she said. 
>"Then 1,500, then 9,000, then 16,000, then 25,000. Anyway, 
>it was just amazing the growth curve." To date, some 450,000 
>Internet users have signed on. 
>As the elections neared, Blades said, volunteers began mobilizing, 
>presenting lawmakers from 44 states with printouts of the online 
>petitions and launching a get-out-the-vote effort. 
>After the elections, which resulted in the defeat or several 
>Republican Congressional seats and the
>resignation of House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Blades said 
>she thought voters had made it clear that
>they were tired of the Presidential sex scandal. 
>"I think people were absolutely shocked when it looked like 
>they were going to go ahead and
>impeach anyway," Blades said. 
>So the group mobilized again. Using a donated "800" telephone number 
>and volunteers, they began calling and e-mailing House members. 
>And they also gathered more petitions, which were presented
>to House leaders. 
>On Dec. 19, one minute after the House of Representatives 
>voted to impeach, MoveOn.org e-mailed
>its 450,000 supporters and urged them to make a 
>"We Will Remember" pledge. The pledge commits
>a person to donating from $25 to $1,000 to up to 20 campaigns 

>of candidates. The pledges are to be sent to the Year 2000 
>campaigns of candidates running against those who voted to impeach. 
>By Thursday, Blades said, more 16,000 people had committed pledges 
>that were nearing $11 million. 
>"Some politicians think the public has a short memory," Boyd said, 
>"but they are mistaken. We will remember that these Representatives 
>do not reflect our values and do not hear our voice." 
>Boyd added that MoveOn is forwarding thousands of e-mail messages to
>individual Senators this week as the Senate debates how to handle the
>impeachment trial. 
>Although Blades and Boyd said they are keeping a database of the pledges
>and intend to follow up next year with reminders and information on how
>and who the money should be sent to, it is tough to say how much of that
>money will actually reach the campaigns. 
>"I'd imagine it will be about the same as a traditional pledge drive," 
>said Melissa Ratcliff, press secretary for the Democratic National Committee.
>"There's always some drop-off. But I don't think it will differ that much." 
>Others are more skeptical. 
>"This is an expression of emotion, and it's a little more concrete 
>than most expressions, but it's still a
>long way to the Year 2000," Cornfield said. 
>What happens with the Senate trial, Cornfield said, will likely 
>determine how many of the pledges are actually made. 
>"If it lasts three or four months, if it's really ugly, if 
>the story is sustained and people are led to think that members 
>of Congress have betrayed them in some way, yes," the pledges may come 
>through, he said. "But if there's a vote this week and the Senate and
>everybody agrees to censure, I think people
>will remember it forever but I don't think they will be motivated 
>to act on it in the next election." 
>Regardless, what MoveOn has achieved in such a short time is an important
>signal for the future, said Jonah Seiger, co-founder of Mindshare Internet
>Campaigns in Washington, D.C. 
>"Regardless of actual pledges, it is significant because political power is
>based on a group of people with a like-minded agenda," Seiger said. 
>"I find its whole existence very important. This is a signal of 
>the future of the political process in that someone with access 
>to technology, a little bit of money and a compelling message can organize a
>very effective constituency essentially overnight." 
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