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Q: We have a rogue staffer who pushes the envelope. How do we channel this energy in a positive way?
A: I do not like rogue staff in a box, with a fox, in a house, here or anywhere. Bozo exhibit: a staffer from New England who sent a hoax email claiming the opposition candidate had dropped out of the election. Can you say felony charges, $7,000 bail and, if found guilty, up to seven years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines?
Write it down: All campaigns should have an official code of conduct that all staffers and consultants are required to sign; all staffers should receive mandatory instruction in obeying the law; and all members of the campaign team should operate by the standard that rogue behavior is not charming, it is dangerous.
Q: Someone is stealing signs from our supporters’ yards. How do we retaliate?
A: Life ain’t fair, politics is life on steroids, and yard signs have been disappearing since the first campaign worker drove a stake with a sign into a supporter’s front yard. As the California Secretary of State’s office points out, “Although this seems like an elections-related offense, this crime is strictly considered petty theft, best handled by local law enforcement authorities. You can report the theft to your local police or sheriff's department.”
As for retaliation, nobody in their right mind would recommend that staff and volunteers join the opposition in public thievery—one, it’s illegal and, two, it’s just a waste of time. However, it is perfectly legitimate to put out the word that your opponent is (probably) engaged in dirty tricks and to ask supporters to record or tape opposition wrongdoing if they discover someone illicitly removing campaign material from their property.
Q: How do we prepare a request for proposal for a lead consultant on a citywide ballot measure next year?
A: Keep your RFP to one page. Indicate whether the measure has already qualified for the ballot, or if it still requires a petition drive or approval by local authorities (e.g., City Council voting to put it on the ballot). Describe what the initiative would do, and be clear about what has been done so far. Ask for the proposal in writing, a sample of past work, availability for an in-person interview on specific dates, background about the firm, relevant experience, the firm principal who would handle the account, other clients during the same election cycle, and any preliminary insights about the effort.
Q: What are your thoughts about piggy backing on pre-existing events like football games or concerts where there are a lot of people?
A: Once upon a time, there was a two-time candidate for president. One year he won the Iowa Caucuses, but four years later he had trouble (as all candidates sometimes do) building a crowd. When this would-be leader of the free world recently stopped by Sam's Soda and Sandwiches in Carroll, Iowa, he was met with “three of his own staffers, two Democratic campaign trackers, a waitress, two diners and one CNN reporter.”
We offer this grim episode not to trash Rick Santorum’s advance staff or to ridicule his chances in 2016, but to endorse candidate appearances and visibility efforts at pre-existing events. In taking advantage of these ready-made crowds, just be certain the event sponsors will not evict you (that’s a bad look on social media). Finally, be visible, polite, direct and constantly aware that your candidate is secondary to why all those potential voters have gathered there in the first place.
Craig Varoga has managed and consulted on local, state and national campaigns for more than 20 years. Send questions using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter @CVaroga or CVaroga@Varoga.US.