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Salesforce.com throws its hat into political ring

Company touts Campaignforce, an on-demand Web-based CRM application made especially for politicians.

Online political campaigning has come a long way since Howard Dean's turkey sandwich fund-raiser.

Salesforce.com threw it's hat into the political ring on Wednesday with Campaignforce, an on-demand Web-based customer relationship management (CRM) application made especially for politicians.

The Campaignforce interface is basically a repackaging of the Salesforce.com dashboard with a few extras tailored to political campaigning. The CRM can be used for a large organization or a small grassroots campaigner running for alderman, for example. The pricing for the Salesforce Political Campaigns Edition is $65 per user per month for the professional edition and $125 per user per month for the enterprise edition.

"We really feel like it's the Web dashboard for the 21st century political world. It allows you to manage people, methods and events, all on the Web and leveraging the power of Web 2.0," said Daniel Burton, senior vice president of global public policy at Salesforce.com.

The nature of the Salesforce.com CRM is ideally suited to the temporariness of political campaign organizations, Burton said.

Because it's Web-based, little pre-existing infrastructure is needed besides a computer and an Internet connection, and it can be run with minimal staff. Salesforce.com offers partners to do the implementation and integration work, Burton said.

Like Salesforce.com, Campaignforce helps manage budgets and similar tasks, but the customers are instead donors and the sales staff is a campaign staff.

Instead of syncing sales with inventory, Campaignforce organizes and reports donations via NetFile to the Federal Election Commission. It syncs the FEC verification of donor information with the donor list, so fund-raisers can determine which contributors have met their legal limit and which ones can be hit up for another donation. It will also link with some state election commission sites.

"NetFile doesn't do (donation reporting) in all 50 states, but (it does) in the major states," Burton said.

In addition, it can track and organize donors by interest in issues, polling results from the general public, and advertising efforts and results comparative to other candidates.

Campaignforce mash-ups may even replace the need for college volunteers to serve as online media watchdogs. Using Web-based APIs (application program interfaces) Campaignforce can tell politicians the YouTube views for Barack Obama, searches for Sam Brownback on Google, or how many articles on John McCain have appeared on Yahoo News.

It also works to manage staffers and volunteers in coordination with get-out-the-vote efforts and campaign events, while monitoring the campaign trail with Google Maps.

Salesforce.com said an incarnation of its program is already being used by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. That program, developed specifically for Romney by a Salesforce.com partner, is called ComMitt.

While Burton would not reveal who else has been testing Campaignforce, he said that state parties and local campaigns have already been using customized versions of Salesforce.com for political needs.