Q: With everything on the wrong track, do you think this cycle is a good one to run as an independent?  I don’t think either party gets it and it seems like the timing couldn’t be better.

A: It happens occasionally in Maine, Minnesota and Connecticut. It doesn’t happen often in other states and it almost never happens successfully. Some say 2012 is different. The thinking is that with all incumbents unpopular and one-third of voters believing the two-party system is broken, a third party or independent option could actually be a viable one. But as Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post recently noted, “When an actual candidate is floated as a third party option and the question goes from theoretical to practical, it’s a very different story.” 

Living, breathing candidates have flaws, foibles, quirks and inconsistencies that turn off already unhappy voters. So sure, it’s your right to run, but get ready to be ignored, called a spoiler—and to lose.

Q: How can our campaign use social media channels like Twitter for communication purposes and for paid media? 

A: Three advertising products are now available to campaigns on Twitter, according to Peter Greenberger, director of political sales for the microblogging site. One option is promoted accounts, which places your account name in the “Who to Follow” section of Twitter’s website, thus targeting users interested in the information you share on Twitter.  Promoted tweets are another option. These reach users with similar profiles by moving your tweets to the top of the user’s stream, ensuring your message is seen by your audience when they log in. Finally, for debates, primaries, conventions, early voting and on Election Day, there’s the promoted trend option. It allows you to sponsor top-trending topics on Twitter’s homepage for a 24-hour period.

Q: The next state legislative session is going to have a huge impact on my upcoming reelection, so I’m considering organizing a retreat with my government staff and campaign workers to discuss the upcoming session and campaign.

A: An organizational meeting is an admirable idea, but I’m not convinced that a small legislative operation needs a full-blown retreat to get its act together. I’d suggest a modified approach: set aside three or four hours one morning for you and your staffers to meet offsite. Spend the time to set goals, get legal guidance on who can do what and then divide responsibilities. Also, make it clear who’s in charge—the person to hold responsible when things go wrong.

Q: When is a disclaimer not required on campaign material?

A: The Federal Election Commission recommends that disclaimer notices be included on all campaign materials for federal races. However, disclaimers are not required where they cannot be conveniently printed—on pens, bumper stickers, pins, buttons and other small items, for example. Likewise, disclaimers are not required for skywriting, clothing or other forms of communications where display is impractical. You can also skip disclaimers on checks, receipts or similar items of minimal value that are used for only administrative purposes. Still, you should check with local and state election authorities, or a local campaign attorney, for non-federal rules.

Q: If it becomes necessary to resort to legal action, would my firm sue the candidate, the candidate’s campaign committee, another party or some combination of these to recover unpaid debts incurred during the campaign?

A: Here’s a hint—candidates hate to be sued, especially before an election. If you lack a contract (and it sounds like you do), send a letter to the candidate and to the campaign’s treasurer affirming your plans to sue unless the debt is paid in full.  Be prepared to show you were engaged to do specific work, that you completed the work satisfactorily and on time, and that there was an agreement, emailed or otherwise, regarding scope, deadline and price. If you wait until after the election, your claim is kaput. 

Craig Varoga has managed and consulted on local, state and national campaigns for more than 20 years. Send questions via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter @CVaroga or email CVaroga@Varoga.us