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Home / News

Blogs Pump Bucks Into Campaigns

2004-02-19 05:00:21

But that was before Chandler's campaign turned a $2,000 investment in blog advertising into over $80,000 in donations in only two weeks. Chandler -- who won a seat in the House of Representatives Tuesday evening -- definitely knows what a blog is now, Sauer said. "It's that thing that brings in money."

Political blog advertising represents the latest twist on the Internet fund-raising strategy pioneered by the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, which raised millions of grass-roots dollars from its Blog for America website. Chandler's campaign is the first of several that have started advertising on political blogs as a cost-effective way to reach a national audience.

But even as campaigns queue up to place ads on the most popular sites, and political bloggers seem poised to reap an election-year windfall, some warn that politicians should not expect blog ads to translate automatically into dollars.

The key is to make readers feel they have a stake in the race, said Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, publisher of the popular Democratic activists' blog Daily Kos and one of Chandler's most visible online backers. (Moulitsas is married to Wired News staff reporter Elisa Batista.)

"What I fear is that candidates will see blog readers as ATM machines," he said.

Nevertheless, politicians will find it hard to ignore the sheer magnitude of Chandler's financial success.

Tuesday's special election in Kentucky's sixth district marked the end of an intense two-month campaign that pitted Chandler against Republican state Sen. Alice Kerr for the House seat vacated by Ernie Fletcher, now governor of Kentucky.

Chandler, who served two terms in Kentucky as state auditor and one as attorney general, enjoyed the advantage of name recognition and held a sizable lead in January polls. But Kerr steadily closed the gap, raising over $1 million between mid-November and the end of January.

By the first week of February, polls showed the margin between the candidates narrowing fast. With Chandler trailing Kerr's fund-raising by hundreds of thousands of dollars, Chandler campaign manager Mark Nickolas decided to reach out to a new group of potential contributors: readers of political blogs.

Nickolas knew that congressional races do not traditionally attract grass-roots donations from outside the district. But he reasoned that many of the activists and election junkies who read political blogs would be interested in helping a Southern Democrat like Chandler recapture a seat in the House.

Nickolas bought ads on 11 mostly left-leaning blogs, including Daily Kos, Political Wire and Eschaton, planning to make up the money out of his own salary if the ads didn't pay for themselves.

He needn't have worried. By the end of the day, the campaign had made back its money and then some.

The following Monday, Nickolas showed Chandler 65 e-mails that had piled up since the previous night.

"I said, 'Oh my god, these are all contributions,'" Nickolas remembered saying to Chandler. "And he said, 'Since when?' and I said, 'Since last night.' He was in disbelief that people around the country would care about this race."

www.wired.com

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