Rudy Learns the Downside of Internet Innovation

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Sep 26, 2007 10:57 AM
You probably saw this yesterday:

The International Association of Fire Fighters accused Republican Rudy Giuliani of exploiting the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks because a supporter is holding a $9.11-per-person fundraiser for the presidential candidate.

The union -- already a vocal critic of Giuliani's -- said Tuesday that the fundraiser's "$9.11 for Rudy" theme is an abuse of the image and symbols of the 2001 attacks.

Here’s the statement Giuliani spokesperson Maria Comella about it:

"These are two volunteers who acted independently of and without the knowledge of the campaign. Their decision to ask individuals for that amount was an unfortunate choice."

First, it's entirely possible this was planted by another campaign.  I mean, how hard would it be for Campaign A to have volunteers sign-up for a house party for Campaign B, and then do something like this?

... Of course, even assuming this was an innocent mistake, this just serves to further underscore the unfortunate danger associated with campaigns using the internet in an innovative fashion.

Rudy's admirable goal was to empower his supporters to take a leadership role in the campaign, by planning their own events.  Yet he got burned ...

When we criticize stodgy political consultants who advise their candidates not to fully-engage the internet, we should remember that they are considering the downside.  And when we criticize top-down campaigns that want to micro-manage every last detail of the campaign, we must realize that this is the reason.

Ultimately, the benefits of running an innovative campaign often outweigh the loss of control.  But it's only fair to point out that there is a downside to giving others control of your campaign ...