Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Philly's next 'good government' geek?

I can almost guarantee you’ve never heard of David Lynn. Until recently, neither had I.

Philly's next 'good government' geek?

David Lynn (Photo by Barb Baur)
David Lynn (Photo by Barb Baur)

I can almost guarantee you’ve never heard of David Lynn. Until recently, neither had I.

Lynn, 46, is mild mannered and gentle. He’s the kind of a guy you feel comfortable around right away. He’s also the kind of person you sometimes don’t notice or remember at a cocktail party because he’s so unassuming.

That’s his outside demeanor.

Inside is a totally different story.

Lynn, a Wharton grad who hails from Overland Park, Kansas, may quickly become Philadelphia’s next independently minded  “good-government” Internet geek – the next Ed Goppelt, who was another obscure “folk hero” who provided Philly’s political junkies and community organizers with tools to make public information easily accessible though his now defunct Hallwatch.org website.

Lynn, a database/web programmer during the day, has developed the Pennsylvania Political Campaign Management database (“PPCM”). The free download, available at www.papolcm.com, bills itself as “fully capable of managing any size campaign, from school board to governor.” It can sort voters by party, election history, and district, along with complex demographic information, allowing campaigns to target voters based upon their party, age, gender, location, and voting history.

The software requires the user to import Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (“SURE”) voter data from the PA Department of State in order to be functional. The SURE voter data for the entire state of Pennsylvania costs $20 and is available here.

PPCM launches today.

Why on earth would Lynn make this software free, when competitors are selling similar products for hundreds to thousands of dollars? What is Lynn’s motivation?

Lynn has assured me there’s no ulterior motive.

“I don't ask for anything of people who download my software,” Lynn told me, adding, “I do this because I am not wealthy. So many of us non-wealthy folks feel as though the political system is rigged in favor of the wealthy, and there is nothing we can do about it. I decided one day there was. Running for office is kind of like drinking water through a fire hose, especially in the beginning. I want to solve as many problems for a new candidate as possible. Most of the people who use my software will be young, tech-savvy, and more idealistic than incumbents.”

Center City GOP Ward Leader Michael Cibik first introduced me to Lynn. “I contacted Dave Lynn about 2 years ago when I saw an article in the Public Record describing his voter database software,” Cibik told me. “I subsequently called him and he gave me a free copy which I consistently use all the time. I find it extremely helpful in managing the 5th Ward along with assisting candidates running for office.”

Lynn, who carries a strong Sunflower State accent similar to another famous Kansan-turned-Pennsylvanian, preached a very strong populist motive for his decision to make this program free.

“I'm not worried about someone running for Governor, Supreme Court, or Attorney General," he said. "I'm worried about the mom in Central Pennsylvania, who thinks she can do a better job on the local school board than the people there now. I'm worried about the small businessman in Western Pennsylvania who believes that the town council has overstepped its bounds in one way or another, gets fed up, and decides to do something about it. This is my hope. This is why I publish my home phone number on the website, so if someone has a how-to question, they can get it answered, and go back to the business of knocking on doors.”

And ever the idealist, this “David” wants others to have no fear in taking on Goliath. “My dream,” Lynn asks? “Every handbook on running for office published in the Commonwealth has the words ‘free software is available to run your campaign.’ I want candidates with new, fresh ideas to think it is possible to take on the establishment in our Commonwealth. It's been done before. It needs to become a regular part of the landscape. For that, I am partly responsible, so I do my part."

John Featherman
About this blog
John Featherman is a contributor at Philly.com and writes about politics and consumer-related issues. Reach John at john@featherman.com.

John Featherman
Also on Philly.com
Stay Connected