BY TONY WEST/ David Lynn wants to change the face of all political campaigns forever. He wants to do for politics what Craigslist did for classified ads, what Google did for research: make all its core data accessible and manageable by anyone with internet access â€“ at no charge.
His aim is idealistic. â€œRunning for office should be free,â€ says Lynn.
Lynn, a mild-mannered Microsoft VBA programmer in Northeast Philadelphia, has been developing his Pennsylvania Political Campaign Management Database since 2006. It is available through his company, DAL Services, Inc.
State Rep. Fred Keller (R-Union) used PPCMâ€™s campaign-reporting suite in his 2010 election campaign. â€œIt worked very well for me,â€ relates Keller.
PPCM is multipurpose campaign-management software. It can solicit and acknowledge campaign contributors; it will then print scheduled campaign-contribution reports. If a candidate has filed with the Pennsylvania Dept. of State before, PPCM can retrieve those older data from DOS online and integrate them into a candidateâ€™s ongoing campaign.
Other functionalities can manage campaign volunteers: these can solicit contributors to become volunteers, track their activity and send them emails.
Another PPCM module stores media contacts and issues media releases. Still another can produce web pages on campaign events, fundraisers or other get-togethers and upload them to a campaign website.
PPCM offers state-of-the-art voter-file management. The original voter file can be obtained for $20 from DOS â€“ and then massaged in ways not even DOS can do. Lynnâ€™s program can print out a wealth of voter information, up to and including a street list for any electoral District in the Commonwealth, complete with each voterâ€™s registration and voting history. It automatically combines data for Districts that span two or more Counties.
All most campaigns need to run PPCM is Microsoft Outlook. Campaigns that wish to manage Philadelphia Co.â€™s large voter database, however, would exceed Microsoft Accessâ€™s 2-gigabyte limit; they would need to have access to an SQL server. Lynn says he is willing to help small Philadelphia campaigns rig up ways to get at the data they need.
Most important to Lynn is that all PPCMâ€™s powers must cost nothing to the user. â€œI would object to making money from it,â€ Lynn asserts. He comes from the open-source community, which believes in the free sharing, and continuous collective improvement, of important computer technology. This is the community which created Linux, Mozilla and many other powerful computer tools, on which the world depends heavily now.
For this reason, Lynn swears he will help anyone install PPCM and will work with them afterwards to answer their questions at no charge.
The potential for a tool like PPCM is huge. A lot of scutwork goes into developing and maintaining the nuts and bolts of a political campaign. This is one reason campaigns cost so much money; and it creates a large handicap for newcomers and challengers. If software can reduce the organizational demands on campaign staff, the costs of campaigning may â€“ for the first time in a lifetime actually go down. This, in turn, could create a more-open body politic with a more-even playing field.
Lynn is studiously nonpartisan in his approach. â€œI will work with any party,â€ he says â€œRepublican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green, whomever.â€ He developed PPCM as a hobby, starting from a curiosity about tracking campaign donations. â€œI was one of those geeks who went down to Delaware Avenue and read campaign-finance reports,â€ he recounts.
Originally from Camden, Lynn attended the Wharton School of Business. He now lives in Mayfair with his wife and daughter.