Internet Anti-Impeachment Drive Yields Big Pledges of Money, Time
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, February 7, 1999; Page A9
With $13 million and more than 650,000 volunteer hours pledged to Censure and Move On, a grass-roots Internet campaign against the impeachment trial of President Clinton, the realm of political activism now must bend its boundaries to include cyberspace.
MoveOn.org, based in Berkeley, Calif., has been mobbed by more than 475,000 citizens who have signed the movement's one-sentence petition: "The Congress must immediately censure President Clinton and move on to pressing issues facing the country."
Another petition, which is the proclamation of the organization's "We will act" volunteer campaign, also was sent to every senator and House member in Congress. It says: "In the 2000 election, I will work to elect candidates who courageously address key national issues and who reject the politics of division and personal destruction."
MoveOn co-founder Joan Blades said, "We have sent a strong message that there are a lot of people out there who are unhappy with the impeachment trial."
The money and volunteer hours pledged will be donated to congressional candidates in the 2000 elections who share the views of MoveOn – in effect, punishing those in office who have favored continuing the impeachment process by supporting candidates who run against them in 2000. Blades dubbed this the "We will remember" branch of the movement.
This firestorm of political activism began Sept. 22 when Blades and her husband, Wes Boyd, set up a Web site (www.moveon.org) for $89.50 and told friends about it. Within a week, 100,000 people had signed the petition.
"We already have more money raised than the biggest political action committee of the last elections," Blades said. "We're blown away by this. We knew people were concerned, but we are amazed."
Jonah Seiger, co-founder of mindshare Internet Campaigns, a District-based political consulting firm, said, "The numbers that the MoveOn campaign is receiving are larger than anything else I have ever seen. A half-million people in four months is very impressive and unprecedented."
Since MoveOn chose not to collect the donations, the amount of money and time pledged that is actually given will be incalculable until Election Day approaches in 2000. "I hope 100 percent of the pledges will come through," Blades said. "We've talked to some fund-raisers and they said it's generally about 95 percent or better. . . . But say it is only like 50 percent, that is still a huge amount of money."
"In pledging, there's going to be some percentage that won't materialize," Seiger said. "But they have an active group of participants in this case and that suggests that people will be willing to follow up on their pledges."
Blades said about 60 percent of the pledges are from Democrats, 30 percent from independents and 10 percent from Republicans. "And that's still tens of thousands of Republicans," she added.
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