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Article: Political Campaigning on the Internet

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With Governor Howard Dean's initial successes in building a base of small donors and fund-raisers, a strategy that transformed a former governor, from one of the smallest states, with no national fund-raising network into the best-financed Democrat in the presidential campaign. He used his website to collect, organize and inform volunteers. More and more politicians, campaigners, and issue advocates have had to change the way they think about how money is raised and are using the internet to broaden their reach and appeal. In a political world where the biggest spending candidate wins most of the time, the interest among politicians and big contributors is understandable.

More and more organizations and corporations across the country are useing the Internet for campaigns about issues rather than about individual candidates. The next phase in the Internet political revolution is an always on and always available online campaign.

Issue-advocacy campaigns are moving online in greater and greater numbers. Having an online web site for your campaign offers major advantages over traditional media, including cost, availability (24X7), control of content and the ability to focus your issue(s).

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Granted many corporate websites spend enormous ammounts of money on their websites but using the web for politics can be relatively inexpensive, just ask Governor Howard Dean. Even the web newbie can use many of the drag and drop website desgin tools (many of which are free) to build a respectable website in a matter of a few hours. A professional website usually costs just a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, or next to nothing if skilled volunteers are available. Hosting can be your least expensive outlay ranging from just a few dollars a month up to about twenty five dollars a month.

With traditional printed media a brochure used in a direct mailing can cost thousands for the design alone, plus tens-of-thousands of dollars for printing and postage. Television ads start in the tens-of-thousands range for a single 30 second ad.

On the other hand, email campaigns are nearly free. By use of the website volunteers' or supporters' addresses can be gathered, they then can be turned into a mailing list for regular issue notification and for overnight mobilization. A beneficial side effect is that recipients will often forward email newsletters to friends, family who would otherwise not have heard about your campaign.

You can use your website to break stories hours before traditional media go to press. This will allow issue-advocacy campaigns to react to changes in the political arena well before the traditional media. As soon as position paper or press release is written, the webmaster can post it on the campaign's website and shotgun it out via email to all your supporters around the world.

If you are a candidate for political office (local, statewide or even for nation office) or an issue advocate, you can get your message to voters without having it massaged and distorted by the traditional news media. No longer do you have to give a speech and hope that some news media might pick up a few lines and carry it on the local evening news. Now your complet message gets out to all your supporters almost instantly.

Unlike running for political office online issue-advocacy campaigns won't cease after the polls close in November. Rather, there will be a sector of the political system, issue advocacy, which will continue year in, non stop.

Doing it:
You start with a website selling your position on an issue and gathering volunteers' email addresses and contributions. If your are more aggressive you can use an email your officeholder program to put a call-to-action plan into effect immediately.

The campaigner will use those email addresses to send out news, updates and special event notifications and as in all corresspondece include a link back to the main website (for details) an appeal to forward the message on to others.

The campaign researches websites that are related to their niche, and requests reciprocal links with them to further the reach of their campaign. Example: If you are running for city councilman because the city has no or a poor recycling program, you would endeavor to find those web sites that are focused on that very same issue and request reciprocal links with them. In other words you will provide a link to their web site if they provide one to yours.

There is also an opportunity to garner advertising dollars from coporate sponsors who are providers of services or products on the issue you are advocating. For instance, to use the example above of the city councilman, you would seek cooporate sponsorship from comapnies that provide recycling services or products that aid in recycling.

Like I have said elsewhere on this web site, in other topic papers, the web is best for niches. Political campaigning and issue-oriented advocacy is no different. Be it save the whales or running for a city mayors office, you are promoting yourself/issue to a narrow niche. As I have outlined above the internet is the best way to do this.

Thurman Ray Plumlee
Thurman "Ray" Plumlee
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