It's where the geeks meet the wonks.

The Communications and Policy Technology Network, a coalition of 70 area groups that use the Internet for political activism, began meeting in Washington this summer as a sort of self-help group for the e-political. Their sessions are proof a new occupation has emerged, the cyber-lobbyist.

Some of the members are techies who are wondering how campaigns work, others are policy experts looking for new ways to spread their word.

There's no shortage of policy-technology conundrums to answer when they sit down every month for lunch: how to convince members of Congress that e-mail is just as good as snail mail, how to figure out what exactly constitutes an online signature, how to best target Internet constituents on certain issues.

Two of the founding members, Daniel Bennett and Pam Fielding, both self-described cyber-lobbyists, are planning to come out with a book on the subject, "The Net Effect: How Cyber-Advocacy is Changing the Political Landscape," in September.

Bennett and Fielding, who run Internet lobbying group e-Advocates in Merrifield, see three reasons why what they do is a new occupation rather than just a strategy.

Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr is one. His September report, available almost instantly on the Internet, gave people an expectation that they should be able to get political documents online, fast.

Plus, the sheer number of people using AOL's service--17 million--has helped the effort, because more people are comfortable e-mailing and researching online. "When you look at the number of people in AOL's channels, it's a different kind of reach," says Fielding.

And the 2000 election will attract people to the Internet, says Bennett, because of "the 7 a.m. voter" who has 15 minutes before leaving in the morning to find information on the candidates. "People are really looking at the Internet for their information this time around," says Fielding.

You can find the group online at

A deal with Proxicom Inc. of Reston is new evidence that America Online Inc. is offering business-to-business service again.

The Dulles company's first attempt at branching beyond the consumer market, AOL Enterprise, faded away in 1997, and its leader, Mark Walsh, went on to become chief executive of VerticalNet Inc. of Horsham, Pa., and one of the most in-demand speakers on the Internet circuit.

One big problem was that potential executive clients felt kind of funny about signing on tothe same company their kids used to talk to their friends.

Now AOL is running back into the corporate business through its acquisition of Mountain View, Calif.-based Netscape Communications Corp. And this week AOL said it's signed a deal with Proxicom to offer Web services to big corporate clients. AOL advertising will be packaged with Netscape software and with consulting and design services from Proxicom. The two companies are together targeting Fortune 500 businesses.

One of the most interesting things about the deal is that, unlike many other AOL partnerships, no money is changing hands. This time it's strictly a barter arrangement. America Online gets services, while Proxicom gets publicity.

"We paid zero, they paid zero," says Proxicom chief executive Raul Fernandez. "It's odd, in that AOL usually gets a marketing fee for everything it does." Fernandez says to think of his company like one of Microsoft"s corporate "partners."

It's a new deal, but hardly a new relationship. Proxicom has been doing work for AOL since 1996, such as building its site, and earlier this year it named AOL's Ted Leonsis to its board of directors.

The area's out one new telecom company and has one chief executive looking for work. The cause: A deal fell through last week for Lucent Technologies of Murray Hill, N.J., to spin off a sales unit to investment group LSME Holding Co.

Susan Mandl had left her job as chief executive of Newcourt Communications Finance in New Jersey to run the new company that was going to result and live in Great Falls with her husband, Teligent Inc. chief executive Alex Mandl. When we last spoke with her for a column on tech power couples, she was looking for a name for the company and some Northern Virginia real estate.

With her 18 years of telecom experience and desire to stay in the Washington area, we're likely to soon see Susan Mandl in another top telecom role in the region.

Cashing in on the growing local trend of eating while investing, the eMedia Club was launched yesterday in Vienna.

The 30-person group, run by John May and Cal Simmons, who also lead the similar Dinner Club, will meet monthly to eat the evening meal, hear presentations by early-stage companies and consider investments in the $300,000 to $700,00 range.

The angels are local business owners, high-net-worth individuals and cashed-out entrepreneurs. And they like a good feed.

Send tips and tales of the digital capital's local people, deals and events to Shannon Henry at

CAPTION: Daniel Bennett and Pam Fielding wrote the book on cyber-lobbying.