News Column

Local lawyers develop an app that makes it easier to lobby a cause

June 6, 2014

By Steve Tarter, Journal Star, Peoria, Ill.



June 06--The act of calling up one's representative may be a sacred right that defines democracy in this country but it can also be something of a chore.

Tom Howard and Henry Getz have come up with a way to use technology to expedite that democratic right: a mobile app called Callitics.

Callitics uses targeted phone calls to office holders to focus on an issue, said Howard, an attorney with the Howard & Howard law firm, 211 Fulton St.

It also represents an opportunity for the average citizen to do some low-cost lobbying, he said. It's a way of using a smartphone not just to make a call to urge a bill's passage or to stop legislation but to make it easier for likeminded people to do so, as well.

Using the mobile app costs 20 percent less than the average cellphone minute with information and talking points so that a phone call is understood and gets counted, said Howard.

Callitics has the ability to expand your call by sharing it with your group, family or friends through social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Linked In, he said.

Howard said he and Getz, a day trader in Peoria, thought up Callitics after the government shutdown last year. "With all the problems created by the budget standoff, we couldn't believe that our representatives were willing to let this happen," he said.

"That's when we realized there was nothing for regular people who want to call Congress," said Howard.

"I've built websites before but this is my first mobile app. The key was to turn politics into a game and open it up for everybody," he said.

Getz talked about the app's "core functionality," referring to the effectiveness of a flurry of phone calls to a representative versus other alternatives.

"Callitics gives you the organization to get the job done -- for less than the price of a postage stamp or a cellphone minute. It's also more effective than a petition or an email," he said.

"Sometimes letters are illegible. They may not clearly state the issue being discussed. As for emails, there is no current research citing emails as being even remotely effective tools since they are spammed so often -- many being sent to all of Congress at once," said Getz.

"The key to the whole thing is how do we get you engaged?" he said.

As to the division of labor on the project, Howard said he was "more of the designer" for a program that's taken about six months to develop.

- "I'll come up with how it should flow and be set up and Henry will tweak things and see if it can be made better. Finally, we engage our engineers to make the code," said Howard.

While calls on the Callitics app are free, the purchase of 60 minutes for callers who want to follow your lead is $15, he said, pointing out that a price list is available on the Callitics.org website along with information on creating a call.

Getz added that the pair are now looking for groups to test out the Callitics program.

The developers aren't short on rhetoric when it comes to their app. "We think it's going to be pretty big," said Howard, who has confidence in the process being streamlined.

"When people really care, they will make the call," he said.

The app website notes that "Callitics is the seed of the revolution that will get America back on the right track. Callitics was built on the simple principle of restoring participatory democracy, true democracy, a direct democracy."

Steve Tarter is Journal Star business editor. Tarter's phone number is 686-3260.

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(c)2014 Journal Star (Peoria, Ill.)

Visit the Journal Star (Peoria, Ill.) at www.PJStar.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: Journal Star (Peoria, IL)


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