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At Last, a Techie in the House

Winning a special election in the 14th Congressional District of Illinois, Democrat Bill Foster March 8 became a U.S. Representative who is a certified computer geek. Foster filled a seat vacated when former Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert stepped down in November 2007 after 21 years of service in

Winning a special election in the 14th Congressional District of Illinois, Democrat Bill Foster March 8 became a U.S. Representative who is a certified computer geek.

Foster filled a seat vacated when former Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert stepped down in November 2007 after 21 years of service in a solidly Republican district. How did he do it? According to the Daily Kos, a political blog, among other issues, Foster ran against retroactive immunity for telecoms who have illegally spied on U.S. citizens.

Foster apparently has some serious coding skills, according to an article in the Chicago Tribune last month. In 2006, Foster helped propel a Pennsylvania Democratic challenger, Patrick Murphy, to a narrow victory by cracking the code of the get-out-the-vote process through a software program he wrote. He had the unofficial title "campaign physicist."

"He helped us crack the code and figure out where we needed to go and how to do it really efficiently," Nat Binns, a spokesman for Murphy's campaign, told the Chicago Tribune.

"It was brilliant. We were able to knock on 140,000 doors on Election Day, which was a big part of why we won (by just 1,518 votes)."

Christopher Soghoian, a graduate student in the school of Informatics at Indiana University, interviewed Foster's campaign manager for the CNET Tech News Blog March 13 and learned that Rep. Foster specializes in Fortran, assembly and Visual Basic code. Soghoian hopes that this will bode well for tech policy because the congressman's computer knowledge will help him better understand the complex issues at play.