Q: Is it okay to allow alcohol inside the campaign headquarters, like beer with pizza at night?A: It’s not unprecedented, but on-site recreation is a bad idea that interferes with productivity and makes many volunteers uncomfortable. Never mind legal liability, the potential of underage drinkers, etc. To protect the candidate and campaign and encourage responsible behavior, consider a written, legally vetted employment policy in which inappropriate behavior, such as public intoxication or driving under the influence, is a firable offense, and have all employees sign this policy as a condition of employment. Q: I was wondering how we should approach potential donors for a new PAC that we’ve put together. A: Talk to people you trust with PAC experience to get advice and recommendations for attorneys, fundraising consultants, bookkeepers and compliance experts. Develop a prospectus with the purpose of your PAC, the outline of a plan and budget, staff and consultants, past record of success and contact information. Reach out to prospective donors or their representatives and schedule introductory meetings. Keep them informed of polls, trends, news and other developments. And be persistent; few fundraising successes happen overnight. Q: What disclaimer should we put on our yard signs? A: In federal races, political committees must include a disclaimer on all public communications, including advertising, bulk emails, web sites, phone banks, handcards and yard signs. The disclaimers themselves vary by whether the material is paid for and authorized by a candidate—e.g., “Paid for by the Lady Gaga for Congress Committee” or “Paid for by It’s a Small World After All Committee and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.” Disclaimer requirements vary widely in state and local races. Some states have none, others have precise requirements for wording, font size, address, name of treasurer, even the need for contrasting colors in the lettering. Whether your race is local, state or federal, consult your attorney just to be sure. Q: What information should we include on call sheets for fundraising? A: Name, employer, contact information, biographical background, contributor history, potential problems or concerns, specific size of dollar ask, and a note section for follow-up, including a deadline for collecting pledged money. Q: Would you recommend ever conducting your own poll with volunteers? A: No. Polls are hard enough to conduct without relying on untrained callers. Volunteers are better used for actual voter contact, e.g., door-to-door canvasses, persuasion phone banks and GOTV. Q: Is it better to be the first or last speaker in a debate? A: Either slot is good, but going first has a slight edge since that position allows you to frame the overall discussion and news coverage. The final slot allows you to summarize issues and fix misstatements, the downside being that many voters and reporters will have tuned out by then. Q: Are FEC complaints public or confidential? A: Here’s the deal: Federal law requires that any “matter under review” be kept “strictly confidential” until the case is resolved. But the law does not prevent a complainant or respondent from “disclosing the substance of the complaint itself or the response to that complaint or from engaging in conduct that leads to the publication of information contained in the complaint.” Only the government is required to treat the matter as confidential, and either the complainant or respondent has the right to release, leak, spam r post online whatever strikes their fancy. Translation: Most complaints get filed to generate attention, so it’s open season if you get hit with one.
Craig Varoga has run local, state and presidential campaigns for 20 years and specializes in independent expenditures as a partner at Independent Strategies. Send questions using Facebook or email, firstname.lastname@example.org