April 15, 2002

GeekPAC looks for volunteer help, names Eric Raymond as board member

- By Grant Gross -

The American Open Technology Consortium, the geek lobbying organization that began getting media attention last week, has raised nearly $30,000 in pledges without really asking for them yet, and organizers are thinking about splitting the group in two comply with U.S. political action committee rules.
Organizer Jeff Gerhardt, host of the Linux Show, has revised the group's position statement since news of the AOTC's pending launch was first reported on NewsForge April 8. The goal of the AOTC itself, which organizers hope to create as a charitable organization, would to educate the public and politicians about issues near and dear to Open Source advocates and Internet users at large. The second organization, the proposed GeekPAC, would be a more traditional political action committee, with its focus on directly impacting the outcome of elections and legislation. GeekPAC wouldn't accept corporate donations, while AOTC would.

"So far, in conversations with lawyers, the dual organization
structure proposed in the latest proposed Position Statement ... has passed basic legal muster," Gerhardt says. "So we are now interviewing lawyers for the task of creating
documentation on the PAC."

Also announced today was the group's first board member, veteran Open Source advocate Eric Raymond, with more to follow in the coming weeks. "We are
announcing Eric first, because he is helping craft the language of our
documents, and I think people ought to know that we are not doing this
alone," Gerhardt says. "We are using some of the best geek minds in the world. "

In the meantime, AOTC would use more help to get launched, Gerhardt says. Although "we have had several hundred people pledge in spirit both volunteer sweat equity and cash" once the group launches, to the tune of nearly $30,000, an angel investor would help the group take its first steps, he says.

"The problem is, when we pick the law firm, we need seed money to get the process in motion," he writes in an email to a couple of Web journalists today. "It will be way 'cleaner' if we can find an angel do donate
$5,000 to $10,000 to get the ball rolling. It will be way easier to
do this (legally), by getting all the money from a single source, rather
than by pushing the edge of the legal envelope, starting to do a general
fund raiser BEFORE the papers are filed. So guys, the bottom line is: we
need an angel. If you know of any dot com millionaires that have not been
wiped out yet -- or any other folks whose largesse might be
attracted to our mission here, please spread the word."

Organizers Gerhardt and Doc Searls of Linux Journal are also looking for two teams of volunteer Web developers to build sites for AOTC.info and GeekPac.org, both of which Gerhardt hopes to launch this week. Gerhardt and Searls are looking for developers at the moment, artists later.

"Although the AOTC site IS NOT going to be a news portal, we
are looking for people who have worked on a portal or who understand how to
harvest from other sites," Gerhardt says. "We need to integrate stuff from at least four other sites into this site, and it is likely that list of source sites will grow.

"For the GeekPAC site we are looking for people who know CGI or JAVA (Tom Cat
available) and have at least a clue about MySQL database," he adds. "We are going to
create a very elaborate 'score card' system for tracking house and senate
members and issuing them a 'Report Card.' From that report card we will be
integrating a payment system to donate moneys directly to campaign funds.
We are going to call this system 'GeekPAC Incentive Bucks.' "

AOTC organizers are also working on further documents that "discuss not just what
we are against, but what we are for and how we propose to do what we
suggest," Gerhardt says. "Rather than just whine, we need to provide realistic alternatives that everyone can live with -- or we will lose."

Gerhardt says such position statements are necessary because AOTC is already being criticized as anti-business in some media, with its goals including a consumer-friendly Microsoft antitrust settlement and limits on corporate control of the Internet. "We do NOT want people to
think we are anti-business or anti-private property," he says. "We are far from it. It
is just coming up with solutions that provide a safety net for everyone,
not just a corporate welfare program."

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