A few months after the end of every election cycle, the reports come in as if on schedule. This candidate or that one has failed to pay consultants for services rendered during the campaign. The highest-profile culprits from the 2010 cycle are New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, reported to have reneged on $6.1 million in outstanding debts, and Nevada Republican Senate primary candidate Sue Lowden, who has been sued by a polling firm for $78,000.
What is a consultant to do? Aaron Beytin, president of the direct mail firm Beytin Agency, advises consultants to work with clients they are already familiar with and to be discriminating about any new clients they take on. “Unfortunately, in the political business there are a lot of people who are willing to let debts go unpaid,” he says. “The biggest thing you can do is get paid up front.”
And when a client fails to pay? Going to court is always an option, Beytin says, though in many cases legal costs will rapidly outpace any potential award.
James Spencer, president of The Campaign Network, a strategic consulting firm, advises consultants to insist on a clear contract with defined deliverables. However, he warns, “even if you have a contract, it may be difficult to enforce.”
“The advice I give to people in our industry is talk to your colleagues,” says Spencer. “I have given my sample contract away a hundred times.”
In addition, Spencer says that setting boundaries for clients who try to monopolize your time and managing the expectations of clients who are overly optimistic about their chances of victory can minimize post-election payment problems.
Noah Rothman is the online editor at C&E.