AGILE GRASSROOTS POLITICAL GROUP TAPS TECHNOLOGY TO LURE MEMBERS, RAISE MONEY

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Ross Perot may not have thrown his hat in this election-yet-but his political organization continues to be a proving ground for new technologies.

Advertising Age's Adman of the Year for 1992 made electronic communication a hallmark of his presidential campaign. He bought half-hour blocks on network TV to tout his ideas and floated the concept of a talk show where viewers could respond through interactive media.

Now, the Internet is the backbone of his political grassroots juggernaut, United We Stand America.

"We're using it as we build the Reform Party," Mr. Perot's fledgling third party, said Mike Hicks, director of information services for United We Stand America.

In August, United We Stand America staged a three-day conference in Dallas that displayed the next generation of electronic politicking: online debates, instant polling and live video.

The Internet, Mr. Hicks said, is a cheap way to distribute basic information. United We Stand America's Web site (http://www.uwsa.org) contains information on the organization, a newsletter and links to like-minded sites. The group also maintains several FTP sites and uses e-mail whenever possible.

Staffers say the Web site and e-mail combined are accessed 50,000 to 60,000 times per week.

"The real costs in a campaign are fund-raising and communications. We don't have the money the Democrats and Republicans do, but we can compete with them because the costs of communication are getting so much lower, thanks to the Internet," Mr. Hicks said.

"And we see great fund-raising opportunities online. You know if someone has the ability to communicate over the Internet, they have a little bit of money."

Mr. Hicks acknowledged Internet users sometimes resent the intrusion of e-mail solicitations. But in the last year, out of the thousands of people United We Stand America has sent information to via the Internet, only two asked to be taken off the e-mail list.

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