Online Consultants Turn Down Lieberman

Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman is searching for a firm to manage his campaign's Web site for the upcoming election--and coming up short.

So far, two Democratic Web site consultants have turned down the campaign because they don't want to cross party lines. Lieberman, who recently lost the Democratic primary for Senate to challenger Ned Lamont, is now running as an Independent. Lieberman's campaign did not return calls for comment.

Blue State Digital, an online communications consultancy, was approached by Lieberman's campaign to run the Web site, Joe2006.com, but declined by e-mail, stating, "Thank you for your inquiry about Blue State Digital's technology services. Unfortunately, we cannot be of service to the Lieberman campaign. We work exclusively with Democratic candidates."

Joe Rospars, co-founder of Blue State Digital, also said that there would be a conflict of interest in running Lieberman's Joe2006.com Web site, because they have already been contracted by Ned Lamont's campaign. "We've been with Ned Lamont since the beginning, we've been his Web vendor, so it's puzzling why they would call us," he said.

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Lamont's campaign Web site blog also reported that a second Democratic online political advertising firm and campaign site manager, PlusThree, declined to work on Lieberman's Web site. PlusThree did not return calls for comment.

Lieberman's campaign Web site suffered a critical failure in the last days of his primary race, but the Senator's campaign indicated that it wanted to beef up its Web efforts for the general election.

Some Democrats have criticized Lieberman for his decision to run in the general election, arguing that he should stand aside for Lamont to run against Republican candidate Alan Schlesinger.

Political consultant Michael Bassik, who works with the Democratic firm MHSC Partners, said consultancies often align themselves along party lines. "Lieberman is running as an Independent, so there's not much he can do to convince some of the larger Democratic technology firms to help him out," he said. "This isn't just sound business strategy, it's testament to our ideals and beliefs that the values of the Democratic party are the values we will fight for. Lieberman was once a Democrat, but now he is not."

Eric Porres, co-founder of political online advertising firm Pericles Consulting, said that not all political consultancies operate along partisan lines. "When we started Pericles Consulting, we always said that we would work for the 'green' party--whomever was interested in parting with some green would be the group that we would work with," he said. "In our case, Republicans jumped first, and then we were automatically labeled a 'Republican firm.'"

Porres added that Pericles would be willing to cross party lines and work for Lieberman. "The bottom line is that the companies balking at Lieberman's campaign show a typically myopic way of viewing business in the face of politics," he said. "Put another way, we'd be happy to work with Joe Lieberman."

One firm, Media Mezcla LLC, which produces Campaign Engine, a Web site management platform, has been running online ads highlighting Lieberman's site outage as a way of drumming up business. "If Joe Lieberman had used Campaign Engine, his site would still be up," the ad reads.

Would Media Mezcla work for Lieberman's independent campaign if approached? "My firm works with Democrats and progressive candidates," said President Ben Schaffer. "Joe Lieberman is neither."

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