Dem. candidate suggests targeting Koch ‘economic power’ with smartphone app

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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Darcy Burner, a Democratic congressional candidate from the state of Washington, suggested Friday that liberals should target what she viewed as the economic power of the conservative movement and build a smartphone app that could identify products made by companies whose owners contribute to conservative political causes.

Burner’s remarks came during her keynote speech, titled “Going On Offense,” at the Netroots Nation 2012 Conference in Providence, R.I. She outlined leverage progressives could use to fight back against their opponents on the political right and win what liberals have called a “war on women.”

Burner, whose career began as a software developer at Lotus Development and  Microsoft, said an app could tell consumers whether products they purchase were made by companies who were aligned with their ideological preferences. An app could instead, she added, help users purchase products made by companies that supported left-leaning political causes.

“So let’s say, hypothetically speaking, you didn’t like the Koch brothers — hypothetically — and you thought that their investments in ‘right-wing infrastructure’ were problematic for the future of our country,” Burner said, while pictures of libertarian billionaires Charles and David Koch flashed on a video screen.

“Well, it happens that the Koch brothers own a company called Georgia-Pacific, and Georgia-Pacific makes a whole bunch of consumer products, including, among other things, Dixie Cups and Brawny paper towels. So we should say, ‘All right, we don’t want women — who by the way do more than 80 percent of all of the consumer shopping in this country — to buy Brawny paper towels anymore.”

“But it’s a very difficult thing for people to remember all of the products they’re not supposed to buy,” Burner said, “so let’s make it easy on them. Any of you seen one of these devices and carried it into a grocery store?” Burner asked, as the screen showed an image of a smartphone.

Her audience reacted with applause.

“What if we had an application that you could use to scan a barcode on any product that would tell you how good it was on issues we care about? Let’s make it easy for people to exercise their economic power for change,” said Burner.

Burner’s keynote speech was not the only portion of the left-wing conference mentioning consumer technology as an integral part of future progressive strategies.

Using the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street as examples, speakers encouraged the use of social media, online activism, blogging and digital data for advocacy purposes.

Google, a co-sponsor of Netroots Nation, also hosted “Google Hangout” sessions for attendees to connect with speakers at its exhibition hall booth.

Conference attendees also had access to able to a free mobile app to help them create a fully searchable and customizable event schedule, send direct messages to other conference attendees and trade contact information with them. The app was sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers, a unit of the AFL-CIO labor conglomerate.

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