Burner's Big App Idea

The three-time congressional candidate aims to use technology to stick it to the Kochs.

When Washington 1st Congressional District candidate Darcy Burner delivered the June 8 keynote address at the Netroots Nation 2012 Conference in Providence, R.I., unveiling an idea for a smartphone app that would allow users to identify whether the products they buy come courtesy of companies that contribute to right-wing causes, she knew she had a decent idea on her hands. But what she didn't realize is just how much buzz it would garner.

"It's not uncommon for me to propose ideas," says Burner of her address. "It is uncommon for them to go international."

But that's exactly what has happened with Burner's proposed smartphone app, which has earned headlines on both sides of the Atlantic and generated a fair amount of buzz for the three-time congressional candidate here in her home state. Designed to empower consumers with greater knowledge about where their hard-earned dollars are going—for instance, as Burner points out, the Koch brothers, long loathed by liberals, own companies responsible for a bevy of household products, from Brawny paper towels to Angel Soft toilet paper—it might not be long until Burner's app comes to fruition.

"People are incredibly frustrated by government of, by, and paid for by large corporations," says Burner. "The more frustrated people become, the more ingenious they'll become trying to solve the problem."

And so her app idea was born. While Burner, a Harvard-educated former software developer at Lotus Development and Microsoft, is quick to note that she's probably not the first person to dream up such an idea, she may be the most high-profile, which is likely why it has received such attention. Buoyed by coverage in publications like Forbes and The Guardian, Burner says the reaction has been "bigger than I was expecting," with people's opinions generally falling into one of three categories.

Not surprisingly, Burner says she's heard from a number of conservatives who are "infuriated" by the potential app. But she also says she's received "hundreds of e-mails" from people who want to know where to get the app or how they can help make it a reality.

Burner says the app is still in the early stages of development, and she expects to produce more detailed specs in the next few weeks. "It's going to be a collaborative effort," says Burner, "which is exactly how we should be solving problems at this point."

While her Netroots keynote address "wasn't a stump speech," Burner says, "I certainly think the talk . . . has had some impact on the race. The fact so many people are talking about what I proposed has changed the way people look at me as a candidate for Congress." Considering that Burner is 0-for-2 in her previous congressional bids, that might not be a bad thing.

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