Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How to Win Your Campaign For Political Office: Campaign Finance


"How to Win Your Campaign For Political Office: Campaign Finance" is the second part to "How To Run For - And Win - Political Office," the last of our "How To" posts this month that started with, "How To Take Over A Political Precinct," "How To Organize Boycotts, Protests, And Demonstrations," Charisma," and "How To Give A Charismatic Speech."

"Campaign Finance," from Wikipedia is a useful start:

"Campaign finance refers to all funds raised in order to promote candidates, political parties, or policies in elections, referendums, initiatives, party activities, and party organizations. The funds could also detract from the opponents of the above. Campaign funds is the subject heading under which all books dealing with money in politics are catalogued by the Library of Congress. Other nations use other terms for the subject and offer a broader perspective. Cross-national comparisons prefer the more comprehensive 'political finance', researchers in continental Europe use 'party finance'. All of them deal with 'the costs of democracy', a term coined by G. Alexander Heard for his famous analysis of campaign finance in the U.S.[1]

"Political campaigns have many expenditures, such as the cost of travel of candidates and staff, political consulting, and/or the direct costs of communicating with voters. The types and purposes of campaign spending depends on the region. For instance, in the United Kingdom, television advertising is provided to campaigning parties for free, while in the United States, it is one of the biggest expenses in the campaign budget, especially for statewide and national campaigns.



"In the U.S. the campaign, political action committee (PAC), and super PAC are adequate terms to identify the units that raise and spend money for political purposes. For most other democracies (including the European countries, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Israel) the political party is a useful concept to identify and aggregate the multitude of entities that raise and spend political funds. Parties run national headquarters, constituency associations, regional branches and local chapters as well as offices in the field. Each of these units collects revenue and incurs expenses that are used to fund political competition.


"Private financing

"Some countries rely heavily on private donors to finance political campaigns. In these countries, fundraising is often a significant activity for the campaign staff and the candidate, especially in larger and more prominent campaigns. For example, one survey in the United States found that 23% of candidates for statewide office surveyed say that they spent more than half of their scheduled time raising money. Over half of all candidates surveyed spent at least 1/4 of their time on fundraising.[6] The tactics used can include direct mail solicitation, attempts to encourage supporters to contribute via the Internet, direct solicitation from the candidate, and events specifically for the purpose of fundraising, or other activities.

"Most countries that rely on private donations to fund campaigns require extensive disclosure of donations, frequently including information such as the name, employer and address of donors. This is intended to allow for policing of undue donor influence by other campaigns or by good government groups, while preserving most benefits of private financing, including the right to make donations and to spend money for political speech, saving government the expense of funding campaigns, and keeping government from funding partisan speech that some citizens may find odious (see [1]). Supporters of private financing systems believe that, in addition to avoiding government limitations on speech, private financing fosters civic involvement, ensures that a diversity of views are heard, and prevents government from tilting the scales to favor those in power or with political influence.

"These kind of donations can come from private individuals, as well as groups such as trade unions and for-profit corporations.

"However, critics of this system claim that it leads to votes being 'bought' and to large gaps between different parties in the money they have to campaign with."



Even though you'll be hiring a campaign treasurer, it pays to know a bit about it yourself, and Wikipedia has a surprisingly comprehensive entry to help you stay out of legal trouble called, "Campaign finance in the United States," (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campaign_finance_in_the_United_States).

We also recommend Thisamericanlife.org's audio files on money and campaigns, "Take The Money And Run For Office," at http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/461/take-the-money-and-run-for-office.  The description of the Prologue: "Host Ira Glass plays a voicemail containing something very common but very rare to hear: an elected official directly asking a lobbyist for money. (4 minutes).



"Practical Tips for Political Careers" is a non-partisan site containing a lot of information for anyone who wants to become a candidate or campaign manager, and in their article, "Raising Money," they briefly cover the two ways to raise campaign money, using your own money or getting it from others:

"Most candidates hate raising money, but the fact is that there are only two ways to get the money you need for your campaign. Either give it yourself or solicit contributions from other people. The self-funded campaign isn’t an option for most candidates so most campaigns need to put together a fund-raising strategy.

"The most helpful tip I can give you is to keep the overhead for your fund-raising operation as low as possible. Almost every campaign has someone who will immediately want to start planning really nice events as fundraisers.  Unfortunately, your supporters can only give a certain amount of money and you really don’t want to have it all go for overpriced boneless breast of chicken and expensive centerpieces. And, in reality, most of your supporters will be quite happy to forgo the fancy dinner and just write the check.

"A tremendous amount of energy goes into making a successful event and, unless you are running for a high level office or you are famous in some other way you will have to work very hard to sell enough tickets to fill up the room with donors. If the room is half empty, word will get around that turnout at your fund-raiser was disappointing and that could hurt your campaign in other ways.

"The one advantage to having an event is that it does give a specific deadline for money to come in. And, some donors do want to make their donation in a way that the candidate knows they are supporting him.

"One option for those contributors is to have breakfast fundraisers with a small group of attendees. Many restaurants and even coffee shops have private rooms that will comfortably fit a group of 10-15 attendees. Generally, the cost is simply the menu price of a breakfast which is usually pretty modest, especially when compared to the cost of a banquet dinner.

"This size group is also ideal for individual supporters to get a group of their friends together to contribute to your campaign."



Next, from their article, "Campaign Treasurer: The Most Important Job on a Political Campaign,":

"The media often quotes campaign managers and consultants. These campaign leadership roles get lots of attention and they are key players in any campaign. However, it would be a mistake to consider your choice of a manager or consultant as the most important personnel decision for your campaign. The position that often gets shuffled off to some well-meaning volunteer with a little accounting or bookkeeping knowledge, the campaign treasurer, is really the most critical role you have to fill.

"Generally speaking, the worst your campaign consultant or manager can do is lose an election. If your campaign treasurer is incompetent or dishonest, he can net you a huge fine or even a possible criminal conviction.  Campaign law violations also look very bad to the voters who may not understand anything about the law you are accused of violating, but who do assume you are a dishonest politician if your campaign breaks the law.

"Larger campaigns generally hire professional campaign treasurers who are well-versed in campaign finance law. A professional treasurer is a reasonable possibility for a smaller campaign. Most of their work is done through campaign software and they have pretty efficient processes set up for filing forms and tracking donations and expenses. If you can find an experienced professional treasurer who has worked with the laws of the jurisdiction where you are running, it is worth getting a cost estimate from them. You may find that they are fairly affordable.

"Before you hire a treasurer be sure that you have all costs and terms in writing so there is no misunderstanding later. Check her references and also check to see if any of her clients have been cited for campaign law violations. Remember that the candidate is held responsible for any errors or omissions even if someone else is doing all the bookkeeping. So, it is vital that you have someone with a great deal of professional integrity as your treasurer.

"If you can’t afford to hire someone or if you can’t find a professional you feel will do a satisfactory job, you need to find a volunteer to fill that role. In the jurisdictions I am familiar with, you can’t even form a campaign committee or raise money without a treasurer. However, don’t just sign up the first willing volunteer you can find to be your treasurer.

"Here are some traits to look for in a volunteer campaign treasurer:
  • Honesty and integrity
  • Attention to detail
  • A willingness to spend time in study to understand the rules
  • A strong supporter of your campaign
  • Someone who doesn’t travel a lot and will be available when you need them at critical times in the campaign
  • Organized and good at setting up systems
  • Computer savvy, preferably with experience using bookkeeping or financial software
"Most jurisdictions have either voluntary or mandatory training sessions for campaign treasurers. Those that don’t have training classes have written training material. Training from the agencies that enforce the rules is usually free or low-priced. Even if the training is optional, you should take whatever sessions are available. And, I would highly recommend that the candidate take the training along with the treasurer. You both need to understand the rules."



And finally, take some time and read an article from The New York Times, "From $25 to $10,000,000: A Guide to Political Donations," at http://elections.nytimes.com/2012/guide-to-political-donations.

We'll cover Campaign Strategies tomorrow!





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"Let's hang the last king with the guts of the last priest."

Voltaire


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