Saturday, October 11, 2008

Web 2.0 vs. Corruption

The McCain/Palin ticket is the first in American history in which both candidates were found to have violated ethics standards before a national election.

This is the real reason America needs Obama.

Obama takes no donations from lobbyists or PACs, and he's gotten the Democratic Party to follow his lead.

On Good Morning America Thursday, ABC News' Chief Washington Correspondent George Stephanopoulos reported "the Democratic National Committee will no longer accept contributions from federal lobbyists, will no longer take contributions from PACs" in keeping with Obama's well-publicized policy.

"The DNC and the Obama Campaign are unified and working together to elect Barack Obama as the next president of the United States. Our presumptive nominee has pledged not to take donations from Washington lobbyists and from today going forward the DNC makes that pledge as well," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean.


Lawrence Lessig's Change Congress project highlights this as the first and most important change that needs to occur in American politics to end the Washington culture of corruption.

(Meanwhile, during the time McCain was chairman of the Senate Commerce committee, that committee set a record for unauthorized appropriations.)

Obama's campaign contributions come from voters, many of them first-time political contributors via his Web site. This, plus the sophistication of his online social networking software and its crucial role in his campaign, has prompted people to call him the first Web 2.0 candidate. If you've read Here Comes Everybody, it makes perfect sense that a Web 2.0 candidate can bypass lobbyists and go directly to the voters. However, Obama is not the first Web 2.0 candidate.

You might imagine Ron Paul as the first Web 2.0 candidate, given the fanatacism of his online supporters and the way they organize online. Ron Paul has to be the only Presidential candidate who built a campaign almost entirely out of passionate supporters putting up graffiti. There are still a few "Ron Paul YouTube" stickers and scrawls on the freeways of Los Angeles. As great as it is to see that the Republican party still has a Libertarian streak, and as gigantic and interesting as the question of YouTube politics is, Ron Paul isn't the first Web 2.0 candidate either.

To find the first Web 2.0 candidate, you have to go all the way back to 2003.

"We fell into this by accident," Dean admits. "I wish I could tell you we were smart enough to figure this out. But the community taught us. They seized the initiative through Meetup. They built our organization for us before we had an organization."

Meetup is a Web tool for forming social groups. In early 2003, Dean himself was lured to an early New York City meetup where he found more than 300 enthusiastic supporters waiting to greet him. Meetup quickly became the engine of Dean's Internet campaign. Back then, the leading group on the site was a club for witches. Zephyr Teachout, Dean's director of Internet outreach, describes sitting across from campaign manager Joe Trippi in the early weeks and hitting Refresh again and again on her Web browser. "I was obsessed with beating Witches," she says. "Witches had 15,000 members, and we had 3,000. I wanted first place."


Howard Dean's candidacy happened because of Meetup.com.

One candidate using social software to change his party's fundraising policies and outspend the opposition by an overwhelming margin is exciting news. Two candidates coming on the radar through social software is a curious footnote. Three candidates makes it a trend. Expect to see more of this trend in future.