The blurring of party lines

Nov 01, 2000 10:30 PM  By

Traditionally, Republicans have been fiscally conservative and preached reducing the size of the federal government and putting the power at the state level. And historically, Democrats favored power at the federal level and more social programs.

But “there’s no clear distinction between party lines in many of the issues that the Direct Marketing Association is following,” says Richard Barton, the DMA’s senior vice president for congressional affairs. “We have Democrats supporting some issues, as well as Democrats opposed to the same issues.” Candidates on both sides of the political aisle, he says, have supported bills that originated from the other party.

For example, Rep. James Moran, a Democrat from Virginia, helped Rep. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican from Arkansas, sponsor the Privacy Commission Act (H.R.4049), which would create a commission to study all kinds of privacy proposals, including opt-in and opt-out.

Such bipartisan actions indicate that candidates “have been adopting each other’s platforms for quite a while,” says Adelaide Elm, a board member of political action group Vote-Smart.org. Elm suggests that politicians have crossed party lines to appeal to a more cynical electorate but ultimately have “confused the voters.”

Nonetheless, for the most part the Democrats seek greater online privacy protection for consumers than the Republicans. Vice President Al Gore outlines the specifics in his Electronic Bill of Rights (see story on p. 83). But while the Democratic party platform wants Websites to inform online visitors regarding their use of the visitors’ personal information, it stops short of recommending specific opt-in or opt-out proposals.

Conversely, while the broader GOP platform suggests that businesses and government should respect citizen’s privacy when using technology, the Republican party’s take on the issue is that the existing laws already provide enough protection for consumers.

MARTIN NAEGELIN JR., chief operating officer of San Antonio, TX-based Rush Enterprises, which owns the Smith Brothers western gear catalog, says he will vote for Bush. “Bush brings more business value than Al Gore will,” he says. “He’s pro-business, and he’s done a good job running the state of Texas.”

DARYLE SCOTT, president of Jacksonville, FL-based Venus Swimwear, also plans to vote for Bush. “My problem with use tax is the auditing and reporting,” he says. “What legislators are proposing right now is 50 different states imposing 50 different [taxes], and that would put me and a lot of other companies out of business.” Also, he notes, “I’m for privatizing the post office and making it as inexpensive as possible. Forcing it to compete with other private entities will make it cheaper for my business,” and privatizing the USPS is something he believes Bush is more likely to advocate than Gore.

For Braintree, MA, educational supplies cataloger J.L. Hammett, educational budgeting issues are key. And with that in mind, director of marketing DAVID MERIGOLD says, “I don’t know that one candidate would be better than the other. Education has become such a forefront item that the public will make sure it stays there. But we’ve enjoyed nearly a decade of increased spending, so in that vein, Gore wouldn’t hurt us.”

MIKE KELLY, president of Hazleton, PA-based business-to-business pet supplies cataloger The Dog’s Outfitter, favors Al Gore because as vice president, “he proved that he can be a level-headed, unbiased diplomat. He is a smart and articulate leader.”