The Revolving-Door Online

Tracking politics as it's practiced on the Web.
Oct. 21 2000 12:00 AM

The Revolving-Door Online

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

Political candidates of all stripes are keen to stress their commitment to jobs and health care. At the same time, however, next month's elections will leave hundreds of their own employees out of work.

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The jobs will be finished for most of the campaign workers who are toiling for more than 1,000 candidates seeking public office, whether or not their boss gets elected.

But that's nothing new in the rough-and-tumble world of politics. What is different this election cycle is that the Internet is giving those newly unemployed another place to look for a job. A new Web site called CapitolWorks.com officially launched at the end of September, just in time for the post-election job search. Its fledgling job board currently lists nearly 50 positions ranging from events manager for the Human Rights Campaign to senior vice president of public affairs for Ketchum Public Relations, the world's seventh-largest PR firm.

The site was a natural for its creator, Chris Jones, president of PoliTemps, a staffing agency in Washington, D.C., that specializes in public affairs. But in contrast to PoliTemps, which was founded four years ago, Jones hopes to expand CapitolWorks nationally.

"There are some cities we thought about expanding to, such as the capitals—Albany, Sacramento, Austin," says Jones, a self-described political junkie who, as a child, helped build signs for his father's judicial campaigns in Texas. "I don't believe there's enough of an industry to support a full-time PoliTemps in any of these cities. CapitolWorks lets us move to these capitals."

Of course, Jones faces considerable competition from larger, better-known job sites. Monster.com, found to be the most popular site among job seekers in a February 2000 Forrester Research survey, lists 165 public affairs positions, though only 15 of those were in Washington, D.C. HotJobs.com, the second most-popular site, lists 134 public affairs positions, with only seven in Washington.

Despite that competition, CapitolWorks seems to be getting off to a good start, with some help from PoliTemps' client base.

Anne Fenton, a senior account executive with the Hoffman Group, a small public affairs outfit in Washington, says her postings on CapitolWorks have attracted more interest than ads in local newspapers. Two postings drew eight or nine résumés within the first two days of appearing online and a steady stream of at least one a day since then, she says. "The hits we're getting are people that are actually very qualified for the positions."

Rates for postings on CapitolWorks range from $100 for a single posting for two months to $2,000 for annual unlimited postings. Other, more general job sites range in price from $50 for a single one-month post to $275 for a single 60-day listing.

CapitolWorks' specialty approach follows what many see as the future of job sites. "We've always thought that the trend in job board sites will be more toward niches," says Perry Boyle, an analyst with Thomas Weisel Partners, who writes a weekly wrap-up and commentary called Labor Daze.

"I think there will be specialist sites not only for industries but even for consumer segments," adds Chris Charron, an analyst with Forrester Research and editor of the February report on online career networks. In the report, Forrester concludes that to survive, the sites must offer career management tools in addition to just job listings, to attract passive job seekers as well as active ones.

CapitolWorks has taken a modest step in that direction, with a section called "The Well." It currently offers a column about how to land a political job, complete with links to other competing job sites in such fields as the nonprofit sector.

But there is one fact working against CapitolWorks and virtually all online job sites: The No. 1 way people find jobs today is still by word of mouth. That's even truer in the insider world of politics.

"The arithmetic of campaign networking is exponential—since you meet anywhere from 10 to 100 people on a campaign, and each of those people has worked on a number of campaigns on which they've met 10 to 100 people," says Tom Bridle, policy director of a Congressional campaign in California and a former staffer with the presidential campaign for Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J.

Though that network may hamper CapitolWorks' success, Bridle still gives the site good marks. "I'm sure that soon-to-be-ex-campaign staff will use it," he says. "Any source of information is valuable, the cost is zero and it's an easy-to-use interface." 

Ronna Abramson is an Industry Standard staff writer. This article is reprinted from the Industry Standard.

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