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COLUMNISTS

Web site really isn't that Swift

by Cosmo Macero Jr.
Friday, March 8, 2002

There's a Web site on the ``history of pencils.''

You can make online donations at cheetah.org to help protect the world's fastest land animal.

And Charlie Lyons, a selectman in Arlington, nicely highlights his 21 years in local politics on a home page designed by his pal from the school board.

So when it comes to cyberspace, why is acting Gov. Jane Swift's campaign still flailing about like some Prodigy subscriber with a Commodore 64?

It's been five months since the Republican Swift announced her run for governor. And her political identity on the Internet speaks volumes:

``Thank you for visiting the future website of the Swift 2002 campaign,'' is the greeting at the meek and vapid swift2002.org. ``Our website is currently under construction but will be up and running soon.''

The future?

The future is now, Gov. Jane. Or haven't you seen the poll numbers?

Take a memo: Building the Web site quickly and professionally falls somewhere on the to-do list between buying the ballpoint pens and opening the bank account.

``We're working on the content,'' says Swift campaign spokesman Dominick Ianno. ``It will be up very soon.''

But the reality is, whatever Swift does from this point forward might never make up for the 146 days she's wasted since her Oct. 18 campaign announcement.

And ``very soon'' could very well be too late for Swift, who barely raised more than $90,000 in February.

That's about $10,000-a-day short of the pace Swift needs to keep just to match former Gov. Paul Cellucci's $6.5 million winning war chest from 1998.

``They are a little behind the eight ball,'' says Bentley College professor Christine Williams, co-author of a study on U.S. Senate campaign Web sites in the forthcoming Journal of Political Marketing.

And a lot behind most everyone else.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Robert Reich has generated buzz by using a message board on his campaign site.

Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham feels confident enough about tombirmingham.org that he actually links to the sites of gubernatorial rivals for comparison.

Steve Grossman offers links to localized content and voter registration help. Warren Tolman has a detailed ``contribution center'' explaining the parameters of his Clean Elections candidacy.

And Shannon O'Brien - perhaps the Democrats' strongest entry - has video clips of supporters talking about the issues as a complement to her position papers.

``In the past this was a gray area because the Web was still up-and-coming in the political realm,'' says one prominent Bay State Republican. ``But since the 2000 elections, the strength or weakness of your Web site is an indication of how well your campaign is functioning.''

Indeed, both Arizona Sen. John McCain and Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura have demonstrated the power of building online communities for the purpose of fund raising, political organization and outreach.

But Ianno suggests the Swift campaign's extended absence from the fastest-growing form of political discourse ``has had little effect on fund raising.''

``Raising money on the Internet is a pretty new concept,'' he says. ``It wasn't even legal in Massachusetts in 1998.''

Tell that to the downtown executives - they're not all jumping for Mitt Romney - who have tried to but can't contribute to Swift online with their Platinum Cards.

Even Green Party candidate Jill Stein - a Harvard-educated doctor - is light years ahead of the Swift camp in cyberspace. Jillforgov.org takes Visa, Mastercard, Amex and Discover.

Compare: Swift's near-vacant Web site has been promising to take credit card donations since January. It still doesn't.

You'll look hard to find the campaign's e-mail address. But there isn't one.

And you'd think at the very least - 146 days and counting - Swift would have a platform or an issues section. You'd be wrong.

``It's outrageous,'' says one Swift administration official. ``It's a disgrace.''

But let's be fair. Jane Swift isn't alone on her five-month lunch break from reality. Republican lieutenant governor candidate Jim Rappaport, for all his hemming and hawing about experience in the business world, is ``under construction'' until further notice on the Web.

And the Massachusetts Republican Party is also missing in action online - they promise ``a new and improved (site) premiering in early March.''

You can still call or visit them, though. In Wakefield.

Massachusetts Republicans and the Internet.

Welcome to 1998.

Send e-mail to cmacero@yahoo.com.

Cosmo Macero Talk Back

 

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