Slate, the Industry Standard, and washingtonpost.com join forces to examine the effect of the Internet on Campaign 2000.
PHILADELPHIA—This Republican National Convention may yet go down in history as the first “e-convention.” E-commerce companies, however, seem to have forgotten about this particular party.
Not surprisingly at an event where the press far outnumber the actual political participants, Internet media and politically oriented Web sites such as Grassroots.com and Web White & Blue abound. There’s also a smattering of politically oriented application service providers showing the flag and working the media horde outside the convention site. But apart from random sightings of executives from America Online (Steve Case is here as the proud father of his AOL skybox), Excite@Home, and eBay—all of which are deliberately keeping a low profile—commercial dot-coms are confining themselves to donating money, throwing receptions, and quietly circulating among the delegates.
One exception is Raul Fernandez, founder of Proxicom, an 1,100-employee Internet consulting company in Reston, Va. He is scheduled to give a speech Wednesday night on the convention floor. Fernandez was also part of the contingent that officially welcomed George W. Bush to Philadelphia on Wednesday morning at the “Un Nuevo Día” reception at the city’s Museum of Art. Fernandez was also a personal sponsor of Wednesday’s RNC Lunch Gala.
“If there’s one thing that the last few years and the Microsoft trial has taught us, it’s that you have to be engaged in politics and policy,” Fernandez says. He was careful to add, however, that he was in Philadelphia representing himself rather than Proxicom. On Wednesday night, Fernandez plans to tell the convention the story of how the Internet made it possible for a son of immigrants to start a company that now has a market capitalization of more than $2 billion.
By midweek, the award for most ostentatious e-commerce presence went to govWorks, a government-to-consumer electronic middleman that processes payments for utilities, parking tickets, and property taxes for state and local governments across the country.
“We wanted the opportunity to talk to elected officials about this,” says govWorks spokesman Christopher Fenyo. “Their constituents are really asking for this.”
But Fenyo was making do with a tiny table at “PoliticalFest” in the Philadelphia Convention Center, miles away from the GOP’s ground zero at the Comcast First Union Center. The govWorks outpost was tacked on to an outfit peddling convention photographs. Fenyo’s computer monitor was on the fritz, and he had trouble accessing the govWorks site on his laptop. And the elected officials that Fenyo wanted to reach were apparently occupied elsewhere at lunches and receptions.
The e-commerce display runner-up award goes to Half.com, which placed an advertisement on the side of a truck trailer parked among some weeds in the industrial wasteland near the Comcast Center.
That’s not to say there’s no Internet economy money flowing into Philadelphia. Microsoft, Verizon, and AT&T each donated $1 million in cash, goods, or services, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. But there are no Microsoft advertisements, no canvas bags filled with worthless knickknacks, no phalanx of corporate public relations minions bending ears. There’s a dot-com presence in Philadelphia, but it’s very subtle and low-key—if you don’t count the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert that the online fund-raising firm eContributor.com hosted Monday night.