WASHINGTON-Craig Newmark is getting political, even though the Craigslist founder readily admits, "Most people don't want to be bothered by politics, including myself." Nevertheless, Newmark is banging the drum for Barack Obama and urging young voters to register to vote.
"We need them to bail out our collective baby boomer butts," the 55-year-old Newmark said at an Oct. 3 appearance at Google's Washington headquarters. "I really need the kids to come out and vote. Also, I need them to get off my lawn, but that's another issue."
Newmark followed his Google appearance with a National Press Club gig, again calling for the "kids" to lead a "network grassroots democracy" that will drive elected officials to be more responsive and transparent through the Internet.
"Everything the government does should be online," Newmark said. "It would be great if everyone could figure out the connection between money and politics."
Newmark is doing his best to make that happen, joining the board of the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 2006 with the idea that citizens can be their own congressional watchdogs. Since its founding, Sunlight has funded OpenCongress.org, Congresspedia.org, FedSpending.org, OpenSecrets.org and EarmarkWatch.org. The sites make information available online about members of Congress, their staff, legislation, federal spending and lobbyists.
Another favorite site of Newmark's is FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. Accepting no funding from business corporations, labor unions, political parties, lobbying organizations or individuals, FactCheck.org endeavors to monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. politicians in TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases. The site has already posted a fact check about the Oct. 2 vice presidential debate between U.S. Sen. Joe Biden and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
"This is a chance for technology and human passion to get serious about participatory democracy, to get directly involved," Newmark said. "This election is the beginning of a transition from top-down power to bottom-up power. It is unstoppable regardless of who wins, sort of an evolutionary development."