Fondle Your Local Politician

Let the Web feed your mind before Election Day

Judging by the number of pundits who have hailed the Internet as the dawn of a new era in politics, one in which citizens could sally forth into the cold November air bundled snugly in raw, unfiltered, unspun information, the Net should have revolutionized the political process by now. Instead, it has emerged as a whole new medium in which politicians can spin like pretty little carousels.

For instance, on his official campaign site (www.pringle.org), the shiny, well-scrubbed Curt Pringle (the Assemblyman from Garden Grove now running for state treasurer) comes off as the world's oldest scout, rather than the shrewd, calculating member of the old-boys network he is. The never-say-die Bob Dornan (www.bobdornan.com), meanwhile, positions himself as a scrappy freedom fighter rather than showing his true face: Beelzebub's cabana boy.

Of course, deciding whom to vote for on the basis of the candidate's Web site makes about as much sense as buying a car because you like the looks of the hot babe draped across it. And it's something I'm sure no Weekly readers, astute and marvelous as you all are, would dream of doing.

Fortunately, while most of the official campaign sites are as bland and fluffy as lemon meringue pie, there's a plethora of nonpartisan, unofficial and gadfly-esque sites ready and willing to fill your eager minds with information about the folks vying for your vote-information your candidates might prefer you didn't know.

The Orange County Registrar of Voters

(www.oc.ca.gov/election/Polling/polling.htm)

The first key to making your vote count is knowing where to vote. Select your ZIP code and street on this site, and the registrar will tell you where your polling place is. You can also look at a sample ballot, candidates' statements and more.

Dnet California

(www.dnet.org/ca)

If you want to compare the candidates' positions on a number of issues, Democracy Net's California site is a great resource. You can view statewide candidates' statements on such issues as abortion, education, affirmative action, abolishing the draft, bilingual education and more. You can also read archived responses to debate questions from minor-party candidates for governor, who were, as usual, shut out of the televised debates between Republican Dan Lungren and Democrat Gray Davis. There's also official election information, a guide to the ballot measures, and oodles more.

California Voter Foundation

(www.calvoter.org)

The California Voter Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting online campaign-finance disclosure. For several years now, the foundation has been publishing election guides and campaign-finance information on its Web site. Its guide to the November election is chock-full of all kinds of goodies, including contact information for candidates, lists of the top 10 contributors for statewide candidates, position statements, and links to lots of other helpful sites.

Center for Responsive Politics

(www.crp.org)

In its insistence that politicians be held accountable for who buys them, this nonpartisan group has to be intensely irritating to politicians. This is where to look if you're curious about who owns your representative. You can find out who's outspending whom, with whom the candidates have crawled into bed, where the money is coming from (in state or out of it), and much more, all presented in easy-to-read charts. For instance, about 82 percent of the money Loretta Sanchez has raised comes from California; nearly 74 percent of opponent Dornan's cash comes from out of state. Just one of the many fascinating tidbits awaiting you. One word of warning: you'll want to shower afterward.

Rough & Tumble

(www.rtumble.com)

Billing itself as "a daily drive-by on California politics," this is the place to hang out on the Web if you're into political gossip. Drawing its information from dozens of newspapers, commentators and political sites, the Rough & Tumble site features links to the latest political news as the race draws to a close. Find out about late contributions and read analyses of political ads, recent poll results, and much, much more.

California Secretary of State Election Returns

(Vote98.ss.ca.gov/Returns.htm)

On election night, the secretary of state's Web site will be posting updated election returns every five minutes, so you can experience either a swell of righteous democratic power or that familiar feeling of disenfranchised helplessness. But it's better than not voting at all-at least if you wake up on Wednesday to a much scarier world, you won't have to blame yourself.

Blame Wyn at whilty@sprynet.com.

 
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