Political Graffiti Goes Online

Tracking politics as it's practiced on the Web.
July 18 2000 3:00 AM

Political Graffiti Goes Online

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Slate, the Industry Standard, and washingtonpost.com join forces to examine the effect of the Internet on Campaign 2000. 

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Anti-Gun Group's Site Targets Virginia Senate Candidate

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Handgun Control Inc. is taking aim at former Virginia Gov. George Allen's Senate candidacy with a TV ad and online campaign that target the Republican's record on guns.

The gun control group's association with the Web site is made clear in the usual small print on the TV ads and in links at the bottom of pages on the Web site. The anti-Allen site is also promoted side-by-side with a similar site aimed at criticizing Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush on the Handgun Control home page. Both the Bush and Allen sites use the same design and images, including a close-up photo of a weapon tucked into a pair of jeans. "Made Virginia 'Holster Heaven,' " says a caption under a photo of a smiling Allen giving a thumbs up.

Handgun Control's $100,000 TV ad buy, which began last week, is focused on the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., a part of the state that is usually critical to Democrats' statewide election prospects. Allen is challenging Virginia's incumbent Democratic senator, Charles S. Robb, in a race rated "too close to call" by Congressional Quarterly.

The Allen campaign promptly returned fire, accusing Robb of allowing interest groups—"liberal extremist groups," Allen said—such as Handgun Control and the Sierra Club to pay for negative campaign ads against him.

Earlier in the year, the Sierra Club spent an undisclosed amount on TV ads attacking Allen's environmental record. As is common practice for such groups these days, the group posted RealVideo versions of the ads and related information on the voter education pages of its Web site.

Advocacy groups are not required to disclose their political spending, online or on-the-air, but they cannot coordinate their efforts against Allen or other candidates with rival campaigns, in this case Robb's.

Some Campaign Web Sites Not Accessible for Disabled

When George W. Bush held a campaign event in Cleveland last month to unveil a $145 million plan to help disabled Americans get to the workplace, Al Gore's Web team was incensed. How could Bush talk about disabled accessibility, the Gore team wondered, when his Web site cannot be accessed by the blind?

Web site accessibility for the disabled has gained currency in the private sector, with companies coming under increasing pressure to design their sites in such a way that they can be accessed by those who can't see, can't hear, or can't manipulate a mouse. So far, campaign Web sites have received little such scrutiny.

But that may change, as evaluating a site's accessibility gets easier and easier. The Center for Applied Special Technology, a nonprofit that works to increase educational opportunities for the disabled through the use of technology, maintains a tool on its Web site that reads the HTML code of a URL and generates a report detailing specific problems. Sites that pass the basic requirements for Priority 1 accessibility can post a "Bobby-Approved" banner on their home pages.