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Q: What about staff as targets of political attacks? I’m starting to think we need to be aware of the possibility, and may need to preemptively hit the other side.
A: Attacks against associates have been part of the game since, well, forever (e.g., Caesar’s associates were always subject to suspicion and assault). But as The Wall Street Journal recently noted, staffers have new vulnerabilities—“personal brands” and “provocative” online voices that can embarrass a candidate. It’s why research firms are now marketing their ability to screen the social media accounts of new campaign personnel. Get used to it and get prepared—or suffer the consequences.
Q: I just read that the Federal Election Commission is allowing donations by foreigners. This exemplifies what is wrong with politics in this country. Why would they do that?
A: Slow your horses; it didn’t happen. You may be referring to FEC advisory opinion 2014-20, in which the commission allowed a PAC to receive uncompensated voluntary computer services (open-source code, design, graphics, etc.) that become the intellectual property of the PAC. It was a controversial case, yes, but four of six FEC commissioners voted to allow it.
For what it’s worth, the FEC has consistently interpreted federal law as permitting foreign nationals to provide volunteer services. For example, a foreign national entertainer who performed without compensation at a fundraiser would not be considered to have provided a contribution to that candidate.
Q: I haven’t been able to focus on our announcement, but will meet with our team in the next few weeks. Can you offer some quick general advice, especially about building a crowd?
A: You can’t focus and your boss didn’t even announce yet? You better get a grip before it’s too late. Let’s go through a few checklist items:
1. Core message and rationale of the campaign, including contrast with opponents
2. Speech content and practice
3. Venue and location, including potential symbolic value
4. Date and time
5. Introducers and endorsers to include as validators
6. Signage and visuals to amplify the message
7. Media lists, including digital and social-media platforms
8. Name collection and contact information for all attendees
9. Security that is thorough but not oppressive
10. Thank you emails or letters after the announcement to all attendees
11. Fundraising solicitations, including events, emails, abd online asks on the day of the announcement
12. A project leader (if it can’t be you) who will focus on the announcement and make it all happen.
As for crowd building, invite all friends and known supporters, and consider a venue with built-in crowd potential, as Sen. Ted Cruz did when making his presidential announcement at Liberty University in Virginia, “the largest Christian university in the world.” It was a smart choice, signaling organizational smarts, even to many observers, inside and outside his party, who dislike both the candidate and his policies.
Q: How extensive is corruption in the political system, and what would a possible platform look like if I wanted to running against that corruption?
A: Here are interesting numbers from a 2015 Harvard study: “In the last two decades more than 20,000 public officials and private individuals were convicted of federal crimes related to corruption, and more than 5,000 are awaiting trial, the overwhelming majority of cases having originated in state and local governments.”
These findings correlate with Pew Research polling that voters’ trust in government “remains mired near record lows.” As for formulating an anti-corruption platform, you might propose an ethics plan to fight “illegal corruption” (tougher enforcement of existing laws), as well as opposing “legal corruption” (advocating for new regulations to outlaw loopholes that permit corrupt behavior to go unpunished).
Obviously, make sure that you are clean as a whistle on these proposed ethics reforms.
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.