Q: I’ve spent the past year working remotely for a political firm in another city and would prefer to work in an actual office. I believe I’m well suited for a firm that does strategic communications. Is this realistic?
A: Yes, but it might require you to relocate, and it would help if your current supervisor served as a reference with testimony along the following lines: “So-and-so is great, we wanted to keep them, but we understand why they don’t want to work remotely anymore and would prefer working in an actual physical office.”
Q: Last year we hit our fund-raising goal as anticipated and are now doing a deeper dive into money prospects. Does it make sense to hire a fund-raising consultant who’s not local to expand our prospects?
A: In Senate and congressional races, yes, outside consultants can access national money. But for local races such as mayor, county executive and council, you’re better off with a consultant who knows the engineers, architects, attorneys, developers and labor organizations in your area.
Q: What process do you recommend for vetting contributions?
A: Use donor cards with occupation, employer and address. Check whether the donation and previous contributions from the same donor are within permissible limits. Make sure that spousal donations are correctly allocated and that contributions from family members pass the smell test.
Hint: Donations in the names of infant children stink. Double-check ownership of companies to determine whether one donor is using multiple corporations to exceed permissible limits. Search public records online to match addresses on donor cards. Do news searches to flag problematic background issues such as criminal records, indictments, investigations and other scandals.
Q: I am managing a tough ballot initiative. My boss is an elected official who got it on the ballot, but now one of our coalition members says I am difficult to work with and don’t communicate. As one donor reminded me, I have a constituency of one and as long as my boss and the funders are happy, I shouldn’t worry. Are we approaching this problem the right way?
A: No, you and your donor friend are dead wrong. Although it is impossible to keep everyone happy when running a campaign, you DO have a constituency of more than one—your “coalition.” If you don’t take care of your personal politics to at least some degree, you will continue to receive unfair criticism. In the worst case, the disgruntled individual will contaminate others or even jump ship and oppose your initiative. That kind of day-in-day-out negativity is harmful and, eventually, your “constituency of one” may tell you that you’re out, gone, replaced, kaput.
Q: Should we plan to send thank-you letters to all donors or just some above a certain level?
A: Every last donor—big, small, doesn’t matter—they all gave and they should all be thanked. The more personal, the better—e.g., handwritten notes, thank-you receptions, etc. It is good manners and smart thinking, since today’s small donor may someday be capable of a large donation.
Q: Should we pay bonuses for a successful primary campaign or wait for the general? We are doing our budget and want to decide early.
A: Bonuses can be a great motivator, but decide them on a case-by-case basis before the election, put them in writing and don’t ever negotiate bonuses after Election Day—unless of course you want to blow a hole in your general-election budget and tick off every last staffer who didn’t make the cut for an unearned, un-promised and after-the-fact victory dividend.
Craig Varoga has run local, state and presidential campaigns for twenty years and specializes in independent expenditures as a partner at Independent Strategies.
Send questions using Facebook or e-mail cvaroga@independentstrategies.com