Sep 10th, 2002
"Technology and the Internet in Colorado Politics"

09/10/02 RMIUG Meeting Minutes - "Technology and the Internet in Colorado Politics"

Minutes of the Sept 10th 2002 Meeting of the Rocky Mountain Internet Users Group (RMIUG) - Technology and the Internet in Colorado Politics.

The meeting started at about 7:05 pm, and roughly 40 people were in attendance.

Dan thanked the RMIUG sponsors for their support:

MicroStaff (www.microstaff.com) generously provides food and beverages at the meetings. The company provides Creative and Technical Talent for Web, Interactive Media, Marketing Communications and Software Development projects.

ONEWARE (http://www.ONEWARE.com) -- a Colorado-based software company that provides semi-custom web-based applications, is the sponsor of the RMIUG meeting minutes.



Ken Bytel (ken.beitel@bigmountainmedia.com) announced he's forming Boulder .NET User Group, which he posted on the RMIUG discuss list. Organizational meeting is Tuesday, September 24th in Boulder - write Ken for details or check his rmiug-discuss posting on 9/13/02.

As an introduction to tonight's topics, Dan asked questions on where The meeting attendees live, who is registered to vote, how many voted in the primaries, and how many are independents who didn't vote in the primaries. He also asked how many have been to political, candidate, and/or activist websites, how many have subscribed to politically oriented email lists, how many registered on the Colorado no call web site, and how many would like to see online voting and whether Florida would screw it up!

Dan then introduced the first speaker for tonight: Kenton D. Kuhn (kkuhn@intellinetinteractive.com), Founder and President of Intellinet Interactive.

Kenton's company overseas technology sites, the Colorado telemarketer No call site, and smoke free Ft. Collins, among other things.

Kenton started in 1986 with Intellinet. This was modem to modem and bulletin boards at that time, and he started a service called Capitol Connection so that one didn't have to go into the state capitol and physically get a bill or other information. His company was also the first to provide a live audio feed from the capitol chamber in 2000.

Kenton pointed out that there are six folks who really decide policy. They are often the stumbling blocks to technology. His company also Did NCSLegislature states, but the proposed live broadcast for that was voted against. Eventually, they allowed it, and he broadcast live for 10 days from the House floor. These days thousands of people listen from all over the state and subscribe to his company service.

His company was also the first to write software that allowed bankers To electronically store information into a central filing program for lien checks to be compared against. Now it is much easier for borrowers and lenders to get the information they need on potential liens.

In addition, Kenton discussed the Governor's office and the great Colorado payback list that comes out once a year. His company also provided the 1993 Revised Statutes website for access to the statutes conveniently and electronically.

Intellinet also did both the Democratic and Republican web sites initially. The overall attitude he sees on the part of politicians and government is that they would like to have use of and access to such technology for their purposes, but of course do not want to budget for it, even at low prices.

Comment from the audience on the term "nephew-ware," in reference to folks in government finding someone in their family to do web or related IT work for them at less or no cost than they would otherwise pay.

Kenton told story of Adams County asking for an online shopping cart to celebrate their 100 years as a county.

His take is that the city governments aren't quick to innovate, but they do see innovation going on around them. For example, in 1998 no one wanted to do online parking tickets. Now Commerce City does allow parking tickets to be handled online.

So things have changed from 1998 to now: - people can contribute online now, vs. in 2000, - people can get foreign language translation online now.

Other trends towards change he's noticed: - customized job agents, etc in the city, Parks Dept., like they are now on job hunting web sites.

- Kenton told the no call list story-- The Bighorn Center for Public Policy (www.bighorncenter.org) originally financed the Colorado telemarketing no call list, and then it was adapted to the Internet. It had 25000 names in May. Initially it died because of the house speaker's bias. But the list remained, and it was brought back by a Representative from Steamboat based on feedback from constituents. When the governor signed it into law, over 50,000 people signed up. Now it has 750,000 Colorado households registered for it, and is a good example of the power of grass roots organization/campaigning - it was dead, and then the email technology blast really brought it to life again.

Q - Dan M. wondered if there was anything political underlying the fact that migration to the new list required taking an active step on the web instead of it [a persons information and preference] being passed on automatically

A - yes, it was political -- everyone had to be verified. The only People he (Kenton) knows of who said "no" were folks for whom email addresses had changed.

Comment on the list being SQL database/WIN NT server based.

Q - can we have a no email spam list? Discussion related to this.

A - Kenton suggested Bighorn group. They worked on CFANS (for new stadium), but these people were lobbyists, and he thinks it won in large part because of the related web site.

There was some brief discussion of municipal government use of online contributions.

Kenton told a story about the town of Silverthorne; that he suggested online ticketing for local events. There's some local resistance so they're still working on it.

Q - Have there been any requests (submitted to Kenton's company) to which they've said no, that's not a good idea, or a good use of technology?

A - no. He thinks in the future all public campaigns will have some use of online technologies and capabilities.

Q - when do you see online voting [becoming commonplace]?

A - Technologically, we're probably here, but politically, it's 10-15 years away [from acceptance].

Q - What is your [Kenton's] take on whether or not public information will be on the web, and if he think it will be, how will we deal with the problems associated with such availability?

A - He thinks it's already out there. One has to have some "legitimate" reason to access it. But private detectives aren't licensed in Colorado, so the probability of abuse will always be there. But if it's truly public, he doesn't see how it can't happen, identity theft notwithstanding. He related a story of how bankers thought buying driver's license pictures was a good idea in relation to lending money, etc., but the public outcry over that contract was too much. But he feels the raw information is already out there, for the most part.

Comments - PDR [Physician's Desk Reference] being put "online" in New Orleans was an issue at one time - but all of that is now online or going to be online.

Q - Regarding the no call list and the use of email to exert influence on politicians - what is your experience of using technology to influence politicians?

A - His experience at the federal level is that they [email campaigns] tend to be discounted, however, the Steamboat story is true, if anecdotal.

Aside from Kenton that Intellinet was the first group to put in wireless at the Capitol.

Q - are they allowed to use laptops on the [capitol] floor?

A - yes.

Q - have they heard anything from Aqua? A - No, they've not heard >From them.


Dan then introduced the second speaker, Anthony S. Martinez (anthonysmartinez@msn.com).

Anthony is a candidate for Colorado Secretary of State in the election this fall. He also related a lot about himself; he's a fifth generation Colorado native and entrepreneur, and was happy to share his experiences on how the web, email, and online technology positively impacted his grass roots campaign.

He said he's running partly because he feels the Colorado Dept. of State is underused. He also feels that technology has become an important mainstay to introduce ideas and form a campaign that incorporates those ideas.

He graduated form the Air Force Academy in 1993. He used email in the Air force. In his estimation, the Dept. of Defense [DOD] was slow in using technologies, but the Federal Election Commission and other groups at the federal level were using the web more, and positively, starting around 1994.

On the state level, technology is limited by tax dollars, and also the elected officials are not of the Internet generation and therefore tend to fear it. On the federal level, it's [they're] more advanced.

He did telecommunications engineering for USWest. His current Consulting practice sells back research to the federal government and brings next level technologies to the DOD.

He realized that part of the reason for the success of his campaign was the Internet, use of email lists, and so forth, because he almost won, even though he was outspent by his competitors by a huge sum.

He described that the first thing you'll find if you become a candidate is that most folks are apathetic. Those who make the decisions are those closest to the candidates and the lobbyists. How do we bridge this gap? How do the lobbyists and political activists use the web? Pretty well ... but they really don't like the grass roots thing. He quoted Ben Nighthorse Campbell as saying people get in the way of the process. (People taken to mean lobbyists and activists). He sees that the politicians feel that they don't have to respond to people, per se, and that they're influenced by lobbyists at both the state and federal levels.

He drew parallels between his campaign style and that of Jesse Ventura as to the use of the Internet and email as grass roots campaign tools. He feels it allowed him to step up and create his own viability as a candidate.

His take on the senate race is that it really has nothing to do with Colorado, but with who certain groups want to control the Senate. Gave example of lobbyists being the ones who primarily attend state meetings, in his opinion.

There was more discussion of Ben Nighthorse Campbell.

Anthony responds to email, unlike some who use autoresponders. He also noted that Mark Udall and Scott McGuiness also respond to their emails personally or have their staff respond.

He finds that folks are disenfranchised in the elections process, and that consequently a very small percentage of voters are deciding entire races. He believes in saying what he sees, and he feels voters are not showing up because the candidates are not connected to them.

There was discussion of automatic ballot to mail out ballots. Of the 18,000 mailed, 600 came back. Technology could improve this. But not everyone is technologically ready. However one can still use the technology even if not everyone is literally ready for something like online voting.

He also sees that campaigns are still very Television intensive - and thinks this may not be as viable, because a lot more people either don't watch broadcast/network TV, or don't watch TV at all. He noted that John McCain's campaign accomplished a lot using the Internet in his campaign against Bush.

His was the third strongest candidacy in Colorado. He thinks that if you don't have the skills to use the technology, you may not benefit the state quite as much.

Comments from the audience:

Someone commented on the web being a space where you can see what other people are saying. It was suggested to Anthony that he have a bulletin board for his site-to be able to see responses from both people and the candidates. Someone else commented that a Google search for Weblog+software will turn up all he could need for doing a bulletin board on his site. Anthony welcomed and encouraged suggestions to his site and staff for improving their presence online.

Someone else observed that the Internet was good at stimulating grass roots campaigns, but wasn't as good [yet] for increasing voter turnouts.

Q - Have you observed this [lack of increase in voter turnout]?

A - These email messages do ask you if you want to sign up, so you aren't being spammed. But the thing that's used to bring voters out is the mail ballot. He disagrees with his opponent on this issue, because he doesn't think anyone should know that you requested a mail ballot - due to privacy issues.

He thinks some of what is defined as a "single issue" is too restrictive. Someone contributed the example of Florida.

He doesn't think it's citizen activated - because the things that bring citizens out are the things that are potentially being taken away. They pushed Jesse Ventura out - they don't want him to run again.

Dan suggested we move to the panel discussion and hold further questions.

Panel questions for Kenton and Anthony:

Q for Kenton -Do you see any technologies now being delayed in adoption in the legislature?

A - Initiative for tourism supervised wireless access in Copper Mtn is dragging.

Q - for Anthony - What is the purpose and role of the Dept. and Secretary of State?

A - The Dept. is responsible for:

1) running a clean voting system in the state. He cited Florida as an example. He believes every state has a problem with the voting system in general, and feels that the Secretary of State needs to work on it continually.

2) business registration. Technology necessitates this being speedy, and in his opinion, his opponent and the current office are extremely slow. Right now it takes much longer than 72 hours to get a new business registered.

3) registering and re-certifying notary publics.

4) registration of state lobbyists. He feels the current audit process [for lobbyists] is inadequate, and that their access is unencumbered, currently. He referenced the collegial atmosphere of candidates who are former lobbyists hanging out with lobbyists.

Comment from Kenton - they [the office of Sec. of State] also regulate bingo, raffle, non profit organizations, etc - and it is not possible for many groups to do this stuff over the Internet right now. At least with online INET based registration and access to this information, you could see if a name is already taken.

Q for both - where do you see technology fitting in in the future?

A - Kenton - access is everywhere, not at a computer terminal alone.

Same Q - and how does that work with politics?

A - Kenton - politics will probably drag behind that. Anthony commented that technology might also make information more accessible - i.e, he envisions online voter registration and going to polling place and finding a computer there at the polling place.

Q - trivia from Dan: What year did Anthony graduate from Air Force Academy?

A - 1993 [audient member won a SoftPro books gift certificate].

Q to panel - do you think it would be feasible to electronically poll the electorate on what issues should be covered on the House floor?

A - (Anthony) I don't think that enough people have access to the Internet yet to make this particularly relevant. Phone or push polls are, however, getting more accurate, at least at the level of the governor. The legislature doesn't use them too much yet, because they're too expensive.

Q - do you see continuous polling to be a viable option in the future?

A - (Anthony) - It might help - and yeah, you could do it through your PDA eventually.

Q - Is registration of special interest groups/activists required by the office of Secretary of State?

A - (Anthony) Only on Federal level, and if the group is raising over $5000.00. But you see lots of millionaires doing this, because if the funding is private, no reporting is required. Libertarianism was formed on the basis of some of these early principals of this country.

Comment from Kenton - in Colorado, money doesn't always determine who wins.


URL's of interest:
    Intellinet Interactive, http://intellinetinteractive.com
    Equal Rights Colorado, http://www.equalrightscolorado.com
    Smoke Free Fort Collins, http://www.smokefreefortcollins.org
    Colorado No-Call List, http://www.coloradonocall.com
    Anthony Martinez candidate site, http://www.votemartinez.com


RMIUG minutes sponsored by ONEWARE ( http://www.ONEWARE.com ).

RMIUG minutes submitted by Elizabeth Cline, Cline Enterprises (phdski@aol.com).

Elizabeth is a former research scientist with many years experience in technical writing and editing. She is available for work editing, writing, or creating electronic and print documentation.

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