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“First, Know How Power Works”: Revolutionaries Have To Be Smart And Ruthless

Truer words were never spoken:

A top Republican National Committee staffer fired back Tuesday at presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, saying it’s not the committee’s fault that Trump’s campaign staffers and his children don’t understand the rules.

Sean Spicer, an RNC spokesman, said on CNN the delegate allocation rules in Colorado and every other state were filed with the national committee back in October and made available to every GOP campaign.

“If you’re a campaign and you don’t understand the process that’s going on, then that’s bad on the staff. That’s bad on the campaign,” he said. “Running for office entails putting together a campaign that understands the process. There’s nothing rigged.”

Spicer continued: “I understand that people sometimes don’t like the process or may not understand it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fair and open and transparent.”

Apparently, a couple of Trump’s children couldn’t even understand how to register themselves to vote in the New York primary.

Look, I understand the sentiment that the system is rotten and the game is rigged. I do. But I don’t take people seriously who seek power but have no real idea how power works. If you want to be the nominee of the Republican or the Democratic Party, you need to figure out how that can be done. And, if you’re an outsider who is running with a message that the gatekeepers are all a bunch of losers and morons, or that they’re all corrupted by money, then you’ll need a plan for winning the people you’ve insulted over to your side.

Let me remind you to take a look at the list of Republicans that Donald Trump has insulted just on Twitter. I won’t deny that Trump’s insult-dog comedy routine contributed to his electoral successes, but it’s biting him in the ass now that he’s losing delegates who should rightfully be in his corner.

Bernie Sanders ought to have understood that he needed to work very hard on introducing himself to southern black voters, but that’s only half of his problem. The other half is that the superdelegates are overwhelmingly opposed to his candidacy. He needed a plan to prevent that from happening.

We can argue about how possible it ever was for either of these candidates to win over more establishment support, but they both thought they could overcome the lack of it by going straight to the people. Trump may still pull this out, maybe, but he’s acting awfully surprised to discover that his delegates can be stolen from him for the simple reason that delegates don’t like him. A savvy adviser would have told him about this likelihood last summer, and maybe he could have been a little more selective in his insults and a little more solicitous of establishment support.

Obviously, Sanders is running an outsider campaign built on criticizing those who are flourishing in our current political system, but he’s also running to be the leader of a party (and all that party’s infrastructure and organizations), and there has to be a better middle ground that allows you to challenge entrenched power without totally alienating it. Even if there wasn’t a way to be successful in gathering more institutional support, I would have liked to see him make the effort.

So far, I’ve been focusing on a straightforward strategy for winning a major party nomination as an outsider and challenger of the status quo, which is difficult enough. But imagine if one of these two outsiders actually won the presidency. They’d both have a lot of repair work to do with an establishment that they’d have to govern.

I really do understand the appeal of declaring the whole system rotten and just going after it in a populist appeal for root-and-branch change. But I think it’s a bit of a sucker’s game to hitch yourself to that kind of wagon if you don’t get the sense that the challengers really understand how power works, how to seize it, and what to do with it if you get it.

I want a progressive challenger who is pragmatic and ruthless enough to navigate our rotten system and then have the leadership abilities to lead it once they’ve taken control of it.

I never got the sense that Sanders was that guy, or even close to that guy.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 13, 2016

April 15, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Campaign Consultants, Donald Trump, Governing | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Election-Industrial Complex”: Campaign Consultants And Media Companies Are Cashing In On Our Corrupt Elections

Four days before Ben Carson finally wrapped up his failed candidacy, his campaign paid $348,141 to a direct mail company. The same amount was paid at the start of the month to Pennsylvania-based Action Mailers, bringing the company’s February total close to $1 million.

That same day, a web service provider for Carson’s campaign (run by the candidate’s chief marketing officer) was paid $59,000. In February, as the campaign limped to an end, checks totaling $651,000 were sent to Eleventy for web services.

Carson, in an interview with CNN after he announced that he would be dropping out of the race, said “We had people who didn’t really seem to understand finances, or maybe they did—maybe they were doing it on purpose.”

In total, through the end of February, Carson’s campaign raised $63 million and spent $58 million, according to FEC filings.

Much of that money came from small individual donations, and much of it was spent on a handful of companies tasked with raising money from those individual donors. There are many links between companies paid money by his campaign and the individuals who surrounded Carson.

Eleventy, whose president, Ken Dawson, was the campaign’s marketing chief, received close to $6 million over the course of the campaign. Action Mailers received over $5 million. Carson spent just over $5 million on television buys, less even than Donald Trump, whose “free media” campaign has kept his ad expenses incredibly low. Just as important, Carson spent little on developing a ground game.

“There’s a lot of people who love me, they just won’t vote for me,” Carson said as he bowed out. Hundreds of thousands loved him enough to give money to what they thought was an actual campaign.

The rise of super PACs in the aftermath of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision has often dominated the discussion over money in politics in recent election cycles. There is much more to the tale. It’s not just about who is spending the cash, but where it’s going.

Harpers Magazine, in its April cover story, delves into the world of “strategists, pollsters, TV-ad makers, media buyers, direct-mail specialists, broadcasters, and other subcategories of what we should properly call the election-industrial complex.” Its conclusion leaves the reader feeling, if only for a moment, somewhat sorry for the billionaires and multi-millionaires pumping money into elections. It’s all wasted extremely efficiently, mostly on advertising buys.

Exhibit A: Jeb Bush, whose campaign and supportive PACs spent close to $150 million on his failed candidacy, with nothing to show for it but… well, actually, there’s just nothing to show for it.

The big winners are consultants and television companies.

Les Moonves, chairman of CBS, made it clear, twice, that what may be bad for America is very good for his company. “Super PACs may be bad for America,” Moonves said following the 2012 election, “but they’re very good for CBS.” That year, CBS made $180 million out of the election.

This election cycle, not only are broadcasters pulling in cash from advertising, they also have Donald Trump to thank for an unprecedented ratings spike.

“It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS,” Moonves told a media conference in San Francisco in December. “Man, who would have expected the ride we’re all having right now? … The money’s rolling in and this is fun,” Moonves said.

“I’ve never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going.”

 

By:  John Breslin, The National Memo, March 23, 2016

March 24, 2016 Posted by | Campaign Advertising, Campaign Consultants, Election Industrial Complex | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Giant Confidence Game”: Is Ben Carson’s Campaign One Big Con?

Ben Carson’s presidential campaign is many things. A curiosity, an oddity, a fascinating yet disturbing commentary on today’s Republican Party? Absolutely. But there’s also some reason to believe that it’s a giant confidence game.

That isn’t to say that Carson isn’t genuinely trying to become president. He has even moved into the lead in a couple of recent national polls. But the inner workings of his campaign will look awfully familiar to those who understand how one right-wing movement has been bilking gullible conservatives over the last half-century.

Like many outsider candidates, Carson is relying on small donors to raise money — lots of it. He took in over $20 million in the third quarter, more than any other Republican (though less than Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders). But he has also spent much of it already. As of the end of the third quarter, he had raised $31 million but spent $20 million, almost two-thirds of the haul, an unusually high “burn rate.”

Spending lots of money early in an election isn’t necessarily bad, if you’re investing it in things that will be valuable for you later. If you have a big staff in Iowa, for instance, presumably they’ll be organizing activists, persuading voters, and putting in place the infrastructure you’ll need to get your supporters to the caucuses.

But that’s not where Ben Carson’s money is going. Much of it is going to the fundraising itself, mostly through direct mail. And money spent to raise money is just gone. Yes, you can go back to those people who contributed and ask for more, but that might or might not pay off. The Carson campaign is also delivering phone spam to untold numbers of people all over the country. I know lifelong Democrats who have gotten these calls and can’t figure out what list would include them as potential Carson supporters, suggesting a telemarketing firm is billing the candidate for oodles of useless calls.

It sure looks like Carson’s campaign is a self-perpetuating machine in which money is raised to pay mostly for more money being raised — and the people doing the direct mail and phone calls are making out quite nicely. As conservative radio host Erick Erickson says, “Carson’s actual expenditure list reads like a wealthy Republican getting played by consultants.”

So why does this sound familiar? As Rick Perlstein has documented, out of Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign grew an entire industry in which conservatives would receive an endless stream of solicitations for both right-wing causes and various brands of snake oil, offered by people they trusted and with the assurance that they were remaking the country in their own image. Lists were the primary currency, the leads that were bought, sold, and traded between the industry’s participants, providing an endless stream of profits in mountains of small checks and bills. “The strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers,” Perlstein wrote, “points up evidence of another successful long march, of tactics designed to corral fleeceable multitudes all in one place — and the formation of a cast of mind that makes it hard for either them or us to discern where the ideological con ended and the money con began.”

And that was before the internet and super PACs came along. Now it’s even easier, with conservative publications and organizations using the new versions of those lists to solicit more and more cash. Go to Newsmax or WorldNetDaily or Human Events and sign up for updates, and just watch the solicitations roll in. “Give to our super PAC and take down Obama!” they’ll say, and people do — though the money only goes to pay the fundraisers, who in a weird coincidence share an address with the super PAC. Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee hawks miracle Biblical cancer cures to the gullible fans on his email list, profiting off their misery with talk as smooth as any confidence trickster.

No candidate was better positioned to take advantage of these same marks, who had been conned so many times before, than Ben Carson. While most Americans only heard of Carson when he started running for president, he’s been a prominent figure in certain socially conservative circles for years. With his mix of fervent religious belief and faith in unseen conspiracy theories, Carson’s story and personality has been admired by those same people who get so many other solicitations from those in the movement — or who seem like they’re part of the movement, but who are really only there to make money.

It may be that Ben Carson is really running a professional, forward-thinking campaign where nobody’s getting rich and all the money being spent is only on wise investment that will pay off when the actual voting starts. But it sure doesn’t look that way so far.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, November 4, 2015

November 5, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Campaign Consultants, Campaign Fundraisers | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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