The Democratic Party Needs Better Campaign Infrastructure

While this stuff might seem like insider baseball (ok, it is), as we’ve discussed before, it’s how campaigns are won and lost. And Democrats are losing too many campaigns, so, like it or not, we have to pay attention to this–because the professionals can’t be trusted to do so (and are more concerned about their status within the party than winning elections). Consultants who view political campaigns as ATMs are not helping (boldface mine):

A US House candidate recently dropped out of their 2018 run for office and contacted me about their negative experience. The biggest complaint they had was the result of a deal they had made with a national fundraising group about building money into their campaign.

What they didn’t realize what they signed was the terms of the deal: out of every dollar raised into the campaign, almost 30 percent was marked as “overhead” which was payable to the fundraiser. This included money not raised by the fundraiser, but money raised by the candidate or local efforts as well. In other words, if a candidate held a house party in their district and raised $10,000, an organization in DC who ran an online fundraising campaign for them would receive a large sum of money—even though they had nothing at all to do with the exercise.

The influx of new candidates eager to change the system has also resulted in a lot of candidates who are going to be abused by predatory practices that take advantage of their inexperience as to the deals they are signing.

Some of these deals are borderline criminal. Candidates have sent me proposals from vendors and firms that included elements I’ve never seen or heard of before from consultants, some of which are truly repellant.

One candidate, preparing for 2016, found an out of state firm willing to work with them only if they picked and controlled their treasurer, who would exist in their offices. Other candidates signed into agreements and suddenly found that their FEC reports all listed Knoxville, Tennessee as their mailing address, re-routing potential fundraising and finance reports states away from where they were located.

The Democratic Party has a lot of bad political consultants and they need to be purged from the party. We–that is, Democratic voters, can’t afford them anymore. Then again, it’s not just the consultants who are the problem, but party officials who just aren’t that bright–consider this response to a ward-level candidate (1,131 Democratic voters, of whom only ~200 voted) whose local chair urged hiring a pollster:

My answer was pretty straightforward: Nobody. Use absolutely nobody. In a race where you know that less than 20 percent of registered Democratic members voted, but if you were to get say, 350 of the Democratic voters to show up you are almost guaranteed a win, the idea of spending money on polling data struck me as a gigantic waste of money and resources.

We had a call with their chair and others and recommended they throw all their money and resources into knocking doors, pizza parties for volunteers and hauling people out of their houses if they had to in order to get votes.

More campaigns find themselves tempted to spend money on items that they feel make their campaign big time. Whether it is polling data or video feeds on Facebook and elsewhere, these spending priorities often come at the expense of smaller and far more effective expenses.

Judge your universe and set your goals. For the record, their candidate did win in Ward 3, prevailing with a nice bump in local Democratic voter turnout.

We need better Democrats, and not just in terms of policy.

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