Internet for Activists book cover photo Internet for Activists is a how-to-do-it guide to using websites and e-mail in grass roots politics. Leonard Kranser's unique book blends essential technical knowledge with lots of political and media savvy. The result is a practical handbook in layman's language for those who are not computer experts. It is easy reading, filled with interesting real-world examples.

Kranser shares what he learned field-testing Internet tactics in a successful six-year campaign to rally public opposition to his county government's multi-billion dollar El Toro airport plan. He writes for those who may need to carry on similar efforts "with hard work, clever tactics, and a miniscule budget."

His El Toro Info website won an Award of Excellence for Internet and On-Line Marketing from the Public Relations Society of America.

"Len Kranser's explanation of how the battle over El Toro was waged is a how-to manual for Web-based political activism . . . The relationship between ordinary citizens and their government will never be quite the same again."
- Stephen Burgard, Director, School of Journalism, Northeastern University
Formerly editorial writer, The Los Angeles Times Orange County 
<meta name="description" content="
Click here for ordering information.


Table of Contents

Read a sample chapter

Updated Chronology and Afterword - October 2005  .html document


"Len Kranser has written a book that should give fresh hope to even the most battle weary amongst us who toil as volunteers in the universe of grass roots political activism.

"Written in layman’s language, Internet for Activists is a how-to journal of the exploding potential of the Internet as a campaign tool that can be accessed by ordinary citizens to achieve goals of breathtaking scale.

"The author draws on his considerable business acumen and combines it with his successful hands on campaign via a website to describe how activists defeated a well financed steamroller bent on building a mega-sized international airport in their community.

"This is a book for those who have put in years of service in behalf of various causes as well as for individuals who might want to get involved in public affairs for the first time. It should be required reading for every Political Science Major and a must read for anyone who would like to make a positive contribution in their own community.

"You can’t fight City Hall? Oh yeah, read Internet for Activists."

 - Tom Rogers

Author - Agents Orange; the Unabridged Political History of Orange County 1960-2000
Former Chairman, Orange County Republican Central Committee
Chairman - Citizens against Unfair Taxation (1984), Citizens for Sensible Growth (1988) and No on Measure R Committee (1995).



Chronology of the War Over El Toro Airport

Section I Introduction

Chapter 1 A Tool for Activists
Chapter 2 Winning the War over El Toro Airport—a Case Study
Section II Building a Website
Chapter 3 Hardware and Software
Chapter 4 Naming and Hosting the Website
Chapter 5 Money and Manpower Requirements
Chapter 6 Publicizing your Website
Section III Website Content
Chapter 7 A Mission and Policies
Chapter 8 Organizing the Website
Chapter 9 Building Content
Chapter 10 Using Federal and State Open Government Laws
Chapter 11 Creating Relationships with the News Media
Chapter 12 Reaching the Wide World Beyond the Web
Chapter 13 Whistles and Bells and Fancy Stuff
Chapter 14 Search Engines
Section IV Boards, Groups, and E-mail
Chapter 15 Message Boards and Newsgroups
Chapter 16 Building and Operating your E-mail List
Chapter 17 “E-mail Based Democratic Activism”
Chapter 18 Raising Money via the Internet
Section V Lessons Learned
Chapter 19 Evaluating Website Strengths and Weaknesses and Lessons Learned
Glossary of Technical Terms

Chapter I


    In the time period covered by this book, the Internet exploded onto the political scene. This tool dramatically changed the volume and velocity with which information is gathered and distributed to the voting public. Politics will never be the same again.

    This is a how-to-do-it book about using the Internet written for grass roots activists. It is based on experience gained in the grueling fight over the proposed El Toro International airport, the largest land use battle in the history of one of the nation’s most populous counties. However, it is written to help citizens win the thousands of smaller fights that erupt each year across the political landscape of our great democracy.

    Cheryl Katz, a pollster for the Los Angeles Times, observed: “In a sense, the El Toro controversy and the ultimate success of people keeping [the airport] out of their area will serve as a guidebook for other areas facing similar battles. Orange County is the vanguard.”

An eight-year war

On November 8, 1994, a generally uninformed public in Orange County, California, went to the polls and voted for what seemed like a good idea. They opted to convert the soon-to-close El Toro Marine Corps Air Station into an international airport. El Toro was to become one of the largest commercial airports in the nation.

    Nearly eight years later, on March 5, 2002, residents reversed course and voted to kill the airport project. During the intervening period, proponents and opponents of the airport expended well over 100 million dollars and a million man-hours planning the airport, defending it, and defeating it.

    In the same March 5, 2002 election, Cynthia Coad, the pro-airport chairwoman of the County Board of Supervisors, was turned out of office by the voters and replaced with anti-airport challenger Chris Norby.

    The airport project was politically dead in Orange County.

    What changed the voters’ opinion?  It was many things including the efforts of many people who gradually eroded public confidence in the viability of the airport project. However, both sides agree the Internet played a role far exceeding what was spent employing this new tool. Internet commandos, like military Special Forces, carried out tasks that could not be achieved by other means.

Growing respect for the role of the Internet

The rapidly emerging role of Internet activists in politics led the Los Angeles Times to publish a May 18, 1998 feature on the trend, headlined:

          Invasion of the Gadflies Online

Bureaucrats beware; Public meeting junkies who love to air charges of malfeasance and sound off on issues such as El Toro are plugging in to a whole new audience.

    The unflattering “gadfly” and “junkies” labels never appeared again. On March 11, 1999 near the turning point in the long airport struggle, the Orange County Register adopted a more positive tone:

El Toro Foes Get Savvy

Airport proponents admit that their opposition has become a formidable force.
… A webpage, complete with e-mail and hyperlinks…provides instantaneous communications to thousands.

    Days after his 2002 election, Chris Norby, the new anti-airport county supervisor-elect sent this e-mail to me. “Thanks, Len. It all began because of your website.”

    Holly Veale, Chief of Staff to one of the anti-airport supervisors e-mailed, “Thank goodness for your website. That is really the only effective forum we have for getting information out to the people who care about the issue.”

    Jean Pasco, the LA Times' principal reporter on El Toro wrote, “You’ve GOT to write a book when this thing is over, Len.” She added an emoticon (See glossary) e-mail smile :-D   Then and there, I decided to write this book.

    This is a case study about a volunteer-run website that dominated the web and e-mail part of the airport debate and impacted nearly every aspect of the campaign. It shows what dedicated citizens can do to beat city hall with this tool, hard work, clever tactics, and a miniscule budget. The book also examines other websites that entered the fight and gleans what can be discovered from their efforts.
This is a how-to-do-it book based on what we learned by trial and error as we went along. It is written for those who may need to wage similar local battles. It is a manual for grass roots Internet activists who are not computer experts.

    From its launch in 1996 the El Toro Airport website developed into a principal source of information for journalists working at the more traditional media outlets. Because we dealt exclusively with one topic, our cadre of activists developed a better grasp of the subject than did many newspaper and TV reporters. Government and industry leaders access the website regularly to follow the conflict.

    The website frustrated government bureaucrats by uncovering and disseminating public records that were never intended for the public’s eye. Website requests for government documents, under the federal Freedom of Information Act and its state equivalent and their subsequent publication on the Internet provided grist for the daily newspapers.

     Early on a pro-airport county public relations consultant wrote, “The El Toro Airport website is an almost limitless resource of anti-airport information.”  Janice Mittermeier, the County Chief Executive Officer, complained that the website “is actively and aggressively opposing current Board of Supervisors policy.”

    The Orange County Weekly labeled the website “devastatingly effective.”

    But most importantly, the website built a loyal following amongst the grass roots members of the campaign to stop the airport. Along with other websites that joined the fray, it provided the material for many hundreds of letters to the editors of newspapers and spawned thousands of messages to elected officials. With daily news updates and periodic e-mail blasts, the website team kept the public informed and involved.

    The Internet played a key role in the final election battle to kill the airport at the polls in 2002. That election saw 2,000 volunteers collect 175,000 signatures on petitions to place anti-airport initiative Measure W on the ballot. Thousands of motivated private citizens contributed over $2 million for mail and television advertising to pass the ballot measure. The anti-airport websites were an important tool for communicating with this constituency.

    Throughout the passionate campaign to kill the airport, the El Toro Info Site team of volunteers strove to maintain high standards of journalism. While the website’s editorial policy was admittedly anti-airport, it provided access to both sides of the debate. The website’s credibility grew as a result of presenting balanced news and issues coverage.

    The Los Angeles Times praised the website with “People can see all sides of the issue and make an intelligent decision.”

    Thomas Rogers in his book Agents Orange; an Unabridged Political History of Orange County, 1960-2000 calls the Info Site “An award winning website… attracting the interest of anti-airport groups throughout the world.”

    In 1999, the Public Relations Society of America honored the El Toro Airport website with an Award of Excellence for Internet and On-Line Marketing.

    By March of 2002, when Measure W passed to end the airport zoning at El Toro, the website traffic had grown to over 500,000 hits per month.

    On March 17, 2002, days after the election that killed the airport project, the Los Angeles Times editorialized that “residents with concerns about quality of life have mobilized and created a new kind of e-mail-based democratic activism.”

    This book is written for others who may wish to employ this new kind of activism in their own local campaigns.


Direct from the publisher

Contact your local bookseller. Also on hand at Borders Books, Mission Viejo. (See below)

Title: Internet for Activists
Author's name: Kranser
or ISBN: 0-595-23857-2

Paperback, 210 pages, List price $16.95

Borders Book signing
Borders Books, Mission Viejo store signing event October 5, 2002

This book was written, formatted, and edited in a paperless process using only computers and the Internet.
Finished books are printed-on-demand by computer-driven printers.
Kranser Leonard Kranser edits the volunteer-run El Toro Info website. He is a leader of grass roots opposition to El Toro airport. Kranser retired from business ownership and teaches, writes, and is active in community service. He earned his BME at Rensselaer, MS at MIT, and MBA at the Harvard Business School.

Media comments on Internet for Activists

Click below to access the El Toro Info Site

Internet for Activists - A hands-on guide to Internet tactics field-tested in the fight against building El Toro Airport>
Internet, activists, activism, politics, grass-roots, El Toro, anti-airport, Orange County, O.C., eltoro, LAX, airport,