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CNN Today

McCain Takes Cyber-Politics to the Next Level

Aired February 11, 2000 - 2:35 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DONNA KELLEY, CNN ANCHOR: In the struggle among the Republicans, George W. Bush has challenged John McCain to release the names of people who pledged money last evening, in the first-known political fund-raiser convened on the Internet. In his latest attempt to question his rival's commitment to campaign finance reform, Bush accused McCain of "passing the plate" among special-interest lobbyists.

Bush's objection aside, as CNN's Rick Lockridge reports, the event last evening made political history.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My first day in office...

RICK LOCKRIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Lenes family of Charleston, South Carolina had never paid $100 to watch a guy talking on the Internet, but then, who has? The Leneses were among the 500 donors who dialed in for the McCain campaign's first-of-its- kind, Internet-only fund-raiser. They said it was a C-note well spent.

ELISABETH LENES, MCCAIN DONOR: I think this was really good that we could all dedicate this time here in our office, you know, to just really learn more about who really Senator McCain is.

MCCAIN: This is another exciting event.

LOCKRIDGE: The Arizona Republican chatted for about an hour in a multimedia Web-cast moderated by his wife, Cindy. He answered e-mail questions, including one about whether Internet commerce should be taxed.

MCCAIN: I hope the Congress of the United States would pass a law, which I would sign as president of the United States, permanently banning sales taxes over the Internet.

LOCKRIDGE: McCain's Web campaign has set the pace this primary season, out-earning those of Bradley, Gore, and Bush. On-line efforts like this one, which raised $50,000, will now give McCain a new way to attract the small, individual donations he relies on, while simultaneously enabling him to reach large audiences in an inexpensive way. MCCAIN: Because you are able to communicate, the communications capability is unbelievable. It'll change politics in America permanently, because the next presidential campaign will be run over the Internet.

LOCKRIDGE: McCain's on-line supporters rewarded the candidate's New Hampshire primary victory with $2.5 million in fresh contributions and bombarded mccain2000.com with 3000 e-mails a day.

This was a chance for McCain to speak directly to his Web army, and his unscripted performance played well at the Lenes home.

STEVEN LENES, MCCAIN DONOR: In a way, it was kind of a family sort of meeting. We had the children here, and we got to be with his wife and be with him.

LOCKRIDGE (on camera): Where would the McCain candidacy be without its Web site? According to campaign staffer, the answer is: $4.1 million poorer...

(voice-over): ... and with 40,000 fewer donors.

Rick Lockridge, CNN, Charleston, South Carolina.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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