1960 All Over Again
by Steven A. Castleton

    In January of 1960, the Political Pundits all questioned the impact that television would have on the Political System, as we knew it. By November, the experts all had their answer. They realized that television was a medium that if used correctly, or for that matter incorrectly, could be a determining factor in the outcome of many political contests. Well, here we are again. With the Internet, it is 1960 all over again.    
    Studies have shown that during the 2000 election cycle over 33% of all college graduates received their Political information on-line. For 2002, that number is projected to double. Other studies have shown that 69% of wired senior citizens use the Internet on a typical day. With the Internet audience for Politics growing at breakneck speed, so is the ability for candidates to raise campaign funds online. For a candidate to raise funds through the traditional snail-mail method, there is an enormous capital outlay with an expected net return of 45-50%. Furthermore, from the date the campaign decides to do a mailer until the date the funds are received in the campaign’s coffers, 30 to 45 days usually elapse. With the Internet, funds can be received within hours. In one of the campaigns I was involved with, I wrote an email over coffee at 7:00AM and by 2:00PM that same day, the campaign received $56,000.00 from the solicitation. The most amazing benefit is that over 90% goes to the campaign! Relationships with companies, such as Hockaday-Donatelli, who are specialists in building the candidate’s online presence, are critical to a political campaign. It is of course, up to the candidate to distinguish between the Hockaday-Donatellis and the template style Internet solutions.    
    Candidates whose platforms include issues which are national in scope, can now reach potential supporters without attending additional "rubber chicken dinners". Let’s for example take the second amendment issue. A member of Congress who is fighting to make tougher nationwide gun control central to their campaign platform can now reach a nationwide audience of potential contributors. Without having to send each prospect an expensive mail piece (do not forget the cost of “renting” the mailing list), the candidates web site would only have to be advertised by any supporting group for the contributions to start rolling in. So called "E Captains", would send information about their candidate to all of their contacts in their address book. Recipients would then hopefully do the same, and so on. If 1000 people would do what I call "Internet Propagation" four times, 256,000 potential supporters would receive the candidate’s message. Most people would not photocopy and then mail campaign solicitations to all of their friends. With the Internet, all they would have to do is forward a candidate’s message while watching CNN or FOX News. Furthermore, those same Networks, while broadcasting information about the candidate’s website, will be increasing the site's traffic and contribution "flow through".    
    During the 2000 Congressional elections, 10 races were decided by less than 1.96% of votes cast in their districts, or only a combined 22,590 votes in those districts determined the winners from losers. None of those candidates were "actively" raising funds or maintaining voter contact through web sites. Interestingly enough, the races were split 5 Republican and 5 Democrat victors.    
    In 2002, the candidates and for that matter the political party which uses the Internet to its maximum capacity (I would have to ask Al Gore if there is one), for fundraising, issue advocacy and GOTV, will win control of the Congress.    
    The future of the Internet is unlimited. In 2002, it is estimated that over $60-75 million dollars will be raised for Political Campaigns through the Internet. In the 2004 election cycle, when President George W. Bush is up for re-election, the total is expected to exceed $250 million. I know that I do not want to be the one who again says, "the televised debate will have no effect on the election."