Joe Conason's Journal

How the Web kick-started Howard Dean's campaign. Plus: The Urban Outfitters founder is a Rick Santorum fan.

By Salon Staff

Published July 1, 2003 5:17PM (EDT)

Not just dollars but doorsteps
After yesterday's extraordinary Dean fundraising blitz, it's obvious that I underestimated the propulsive effect on his candidacy of the MoveOn preference poll. In a single day, the Dean campaign reaped a substantial portion of what it would have gained if he had won MoveOn's endorsement outright. When campaign manager Joe Trippi told the Washington Post that the Dean Internet effort is "putting the grass roots and the community back into politics," his boast rang true. And it's even more impressive if, as the Dean Weblog indicates, the average June 30 Web donation was less than $67.

At least as significant as the gross dollars, which vaulted the Vermonter overnight into the ranks of serious Democratic contenders, is the mobilization of potential field volunteers via the Internet. In the close early contests that occur in small states like Iowa and New Hampshire, field organizing may prove to be the crucial factor. John Kerry will probably have the most money in the bank when the second-quarter totals are tallied. But money isn't everything. As I like to remind those who worry about George W. Bush's ability to sell $2,000 hot dogs to fat cats, he outspent Gore by more than $65 million -- and still lost the election.

The continuing conquest of cool
Speaking of spending, Philadelphia Weekly reveals yet another deceptive branding strategy in the world of hip merchandising. Reporting his acid-washed profile of Richard Hayne, the Urban Outfitters mogul, reporter Jonathan Valania discovered that Hayne and his wife Margaret are major financial supporters of U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum. That's right: the guy who became a countercultural millionaire, selling trashy T-shirts and Puma sneakers, is bankrolling America's leading congressional scourge of gays, lesbians and dog lovers.

As a former VISTA volunteer and antiwar protester, Hayne instinctively understood how embarrassing his political contributions to the ultraright Santorum would look in print. So he prevaricated: "When PW asks Hayne about his financial support of Santorum, he initially denies it. And when presented with a computer printout of Santorum's campaign donors from the Center for Responsive Politics website -- which cites a $4,650 contribution from Urban Outfitters -- he responds: 'I'll have to look into this. I don't think this is right.' In fact, he and his wife have contributed $13,150 to Santorum and Santorum's Political Action Committee over the years.

"Asked to clarify for the record whether he ever contributed to Santorum's reelection campaign, he counters, 'I don't want to mislead you. Like many people, I have some affinity for Rick Santorum, and I have problems with some of his positions.'"

Well, how about Santorum's charming comparison of gays with criminals who molest animals and children?

"I'm not going to comment on it," replied an "irked" Hayne. "I have my own opinion, but I am not going to share it. Our job as a business is not to promote a political agenda. That's not what we do. There are all kinds of political views held by my employees. Some would be horrified to learn that we contributed to Santorum's campaign, and others would be fine with it. We openly discuss and joke about our political differences." He just doesn't want the customers to know. One other thing they might like to know, however: Hayne's company also owns the 40-store Anthropologie chain.
[10:25 a.m. PDT, July 1, 2003]

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