Monday, February 12, 2007

"Dean Internet Class of 2004 -- Where Are They Now?"

It’s probably no coincidence that Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, Obama for America, sounds a lot like that of a former 2004 candidate’s campaign: Dean for America. That’s also likely because some of the internet masterminds from the Howard Dean’s campaign now work for Obama’s bid.

The most recent hire was announced this weekend: former Dean Web strategist Joe Rospars will be Obama’s new media director on the campaign. He joins his former colleagues from the Dean Internet staff Gray Brooks and Jim Brayton, who has directed Obama’s internet operation since his 2004 Senate campaign.

For many Democrats, Howard Dean’s 2004 Presidential campaign is synonymous with innovation in internet politics. For many practical reasons, it was also the training ground for much of the Democratic internet talent on the market for 2008. Let’s check out the rest of the Dean Class of 2004 and see where they are now:
After running the campaign’s online organizing and outreach shop, Zephyr Teachout worked for the Sunlight Foundation, but says she plans to return to teaching law school in the near future. Dean Director of Internet Communications Matthew Gross, a “blogger in chief” for Dean for America, was a strategist for Jon Tester’s Senate campaign and now works as a Senior Strategist for John Edwards’ Presidential campaign.

Dean Webmaster Nicco Mele raised eyebrows last summer when it was reported that he signed on to work for John McCain’s Internet team. Since then, Mele wrote on his blog that he’s no longer working for McCain and instead will devote his time to the Internet company he founded after the campaign, Echo Ditto.

Harish Rao, who managed Dean for America’s IT infrastructure, is CEO at Echo Ditto. He works with the firm’s Director and Senior Strategist Michael Silberman, who managed Dean’s Meet-Up efforts, and Echo Ditto CTO Justin Pinder, who was a Web developer for the campaign.

Garrett Graff also worked for Echo Ditto after the campaign, but has since left the firm to start the media blog FishbowlDC and most recently was named editor at large at the Washingtonian magazine. Brayton, now the Internet Director for Obama’s campaign, worked at Echo Ditto before leaving the firm to work for Obama after his election to the Senate.

In-house consultant Jerome Armstrong managed the Internet advertising and blogger outreach for the Dean campaign. Most recently, Armstrong reports that he’s signed on to help put together a netroots team to help with John Kerry’s campaign to end the war in Iraq.

Rospars founded his firm, Blue State Digital, with partners and former Dean Web staffers Jascha Franklin-Hodge, Ben Self and Clay Johnson. At the Dean campaign, Franklin-Hodge was the national systems administrator, Self managed the national database, and Johnson was a software engineer. In addition to doing the technical work for Obama’s campaign, BSD also does the back-end work for Bill Richardson’s Web site and has a strategist on leave working for Tom Vilsack’s e-campaign.

Still others left the world of Presidential internet campaigns altogether. Amanda Michel, who ran the youth outreach effort Generation Dean, works for Web team writer and editor Mark Sundeen is now a freelance writer for the New York Times and outdoor magazines. After Dean photographer John Petit finished the campaign, he sailed from Panama to San Diego and more recently helped BitTorrent with their engineering process.

Campaign multimedia director Karl Frisch is now the director of Media Relations at Media Matters. Zack Rosen left college in Illinois to develop each state’s campaign Web site. Since the campaign, Rosen founded Civic Space Inc and most recently another software firm, Chapter Three LLC.

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