Politics in cyberspace


What happens when a computer whiz with a penchant for the outdoors decides to tackle politics? Brad Udall, creator of one of the first on-line political action committees, hopes he can influence the composition of the next Congress.

Following in the footsteps of his father, former Arizona Rep. Morris Udall, and his uncle, former Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, Brad Udall quit his engineering job in order to help elect candidates committed to "a West increasingly based on services and technology rather than the extractive industries."

Udall's New West Network targets anyone who recreates on public land, from hunters and anglers to skiers, kayakers and mountain bikers. "They are truly environmentalists at heart but they have been lost from the fold," says Udall. So far, however, many of the PAC's 400 members are college students.

Udall's PAC works this way: He writes e-mail memos outlining key races that affect public lands throughout the West. Then he sends them to people on his electronic Rolodex, inviting them to join his network. If they say yes, they also agree to consider making at least two donations to candidates endorsed by his network. Checks get mailed to his PAC; he consolidates the contributions before passing them on to candidates. Like an on-line chainletter, Udall also asks network members to send his memos to their friends.

Udall's network recently announced six endorsements (including Democratic candidates for the House Dan Williams of Idaho and Michela Alioto of California) which were chosen by an advisory committee. Eventually, Udall hopes to let members choose the network's endorsements by an e-mail vote. Says Udall, "The whole thing is so far ahead of the Federal Election Commission, it's not funny."

The New West Network can be reached at newwestnet@aol.com