reviews shop candidates

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Political-information site is casting ballots of its own in an effort to select an agency for a $20 million branding campaign.

Last week, a handful of agencies made final presentations to the Internet company, with a decision expected to come early this week.

Bozell Kamstra and AG, both New York; E. James White Communications, Herndon, Va.; and an undisclosed political ad shop in Washington are vying for the account. McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, was among the finalists but dropped out.'s director of political outreach, Christina Lisi, is heading up the review. Ms. Lisi also plans on naming a new public relations agency this week.

DEBUTED IN NOVEMBER debuted the beta version of its non-partisan Web destination in November; it will be redesigned in January and include paid advertising. The site provides content from candidates and advocacy groups, as well as information on campaign finance.

Backed by undisclosed venture capitalists, the site links to various political groups, including the AFL-CIO, the Christian Coalition and the Democratic Leadership Council.

"We're making a site that's helping the voter get first-hand information straight from the source," Ms. Lisi said. "Our effort is to build a site for the voters to educate themselves.'

Ms. Lisi said she wants to promote as the site to visit for personalized political information. By next year, when users input their addresses onto the site, they'll get an individual voting page -- complete with local election information. also allows users to compare their specific political positions and opinions with those of elected officials.

Ms. Lisi hopes to have a finished ad campaign by the end of January. Making a positive initial impression through the work is vital, she said.

"We're in a very sensitive space," Ms. Lisi said. "Politics is very personal, and we have one shot to prove we're credible. We need to figure out a way to make folks remember us." is also working on a series of distribution deals with Internet portals in order to make its site accessible. Although Ms. Lisi declined to identify the portals, "We'll be their political content provider or [have them] connect people to us," she said.

OTHER SITES joins a long line of other political sites vying for consumers' attention before the upcoming presidential election.

"Just in the last three months, there's been a half-dozen to a dozen new political sites," Ms. Lisi said.

But she's relying on the new agency -- and the ensuing ad effort -- to put at the front of the consumer registration line.

"The political [online arena] is a crowded field, but we believe when we go up with the advertising, it'll be clear that we're the leader in our space," she said. "Nobody is offering a comprehensive, personalized resource like ours."

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