Q: I am a part-time consultant to a congressional campaign and just learned that they are having weekly message calls, but I’m not included. On the one hand, I’m glad the calls are taking place. On the other hand, I wonder why I’m not on the call. Am I being paranoid?
A: Just ask to be on the call—most likely, they were in a rush and forgot to include you. In the unlikely event that you are given the bum’s rush, it’s their loss and your gain since it will free you to pursue other gigs.
Q: Is a county party required to coordinate activities with its state party?
A: Yes. Officially registered local party committees within a state are presumed to be affiliated with the state party committee and, as a result, share the state committee’s contribution limits. As a result, the committees must stay in close touch to ensure that they stay within their shared limits.
Q: We are doing a little opposition research for 2012. Can you give us a timeline that would work for our campaign?
A: I love that—“a little research.” As if the foundation for your entire electoral strategy were a tiny pinch of salt.
Seriously, start candidate research as soon as you have a reasonable sense of who’s running and still have enough time to test the findings of your research in your baseline poll. As research consultant Austin Burke notes, “the time required can vary widely depending on the candidate’s public record, or whether they have a lengthy legislative voting record or an extensive business background.” Burke also says a good rule of thumb is to budget several weeks for a young opponent with a short record and a few months for an older official with a long record.
Q: Our campaign’s lawyer billed us for messengers. Is this reasonable? I thought it was just a cost of doing business.
A: Yes, it is reasonable and quite common. Many firms and consultants use messengers to shorten delivery time and offer greater flexibility. Those terms should be made explicit in a contract or letter of engagement between your campaign and all professional vendors and consultants.
Q: Can anyone request an advisory opinion regarding federal campaigns, and should an advisory opinion request follow a special format?
A: According to the FEC, an advisory opinion may be requested by any person affected by federal election laws. As for format, the request must be in writing, must include a complete description of all relevant facts, and must concern a specific transaction or activity that the requester plans to undertake or is currently undertaking and intends to continue in the future.
Q: I’ve written a screenplay that exposes the hidden agenda of a certain group of politicians and ideologues. This movie would do more than any amount of money spent on television or any other ads. Please advise on how we can get the movie business interested. You’ll be doing Americans a big favor.
A: No movie, no matter how well done or popular, is going to replace television, radio, mail, online communications, and social media. And frankly, it’s hard to believe that you have cracked the secret code to mass communications when you cannot get in the door of a single Hollywood agent. But even if you’ve written a great story, how to sell a script is outside my expertise.