LOS ANGELES, CA – As a community organizer who tends to support conservative candidates, I have been given an inside view into many campaigns on the ground. The trend of expensive campaigns and poor ROIs has been consistent enough I’ve decided to share this publicly so we can all improve and address important pain points. For a generation, conservative consultants have directly attacked good faith volunteer efforts instead of playing well with others.
What’s the bottom line? Until the last election, California Republicans had not won any seats back on a Congressional or Assembly level for over two decades. Yet, consultants are not paid by performance. They charge set fees, regardless of results. And with California Republican campaigns, no matter how sloppily they are run, defying all tenets of common sense, they will justify why they lost and explain it away without it ever being their responsibility. They certainly know better than you. If they had just a little more money to spend on another mailer, that would’ve tipped the election. Meanwhile, every subsequent election gets more expensive, far exceeding inflation.
Contributing to the fault are the political parties controlled by the incestual consultant class that keeps the cash circling to the same favored few. Now, with the near endless stream of special elections to backfill appointed seats the amount of money being spent in an “off year” is staggering, but great for those consultants.
But we have 25 years of data now. You couldn’t beat the odds of Republicans losing virtually every election. It’s almost like they’re trying to lose. Let’s start with the mailer racket. Granted, I have no problem with those in the political world getting paid and there are certainly good ones out there. But the vast majority of ones I have seen from Orange County are recycling the same campaign flyers from 1996, with no updates and no accountability for their lack of results. The consultants don’t even try. Because they get kickbacks on mailers, they keep pushing them, and they’re lazy enough to not even put any effort in customizing per candidate. The result is the obscuring of good conservative candidates and causes, making them look lifeless and “cookie cutter”. The consultant mailer pieces have such a clear brand, you can sniff it from a mile away: “lower taxes, etc.”, ending up in landfill after being completely tuned out.
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It took the successful candidacy of a few minority candidates winning congressional elections last cycle and the impact of significant grassroots support of ballot propositions exceeding the classical support by the Republican Party to vastly overperforming as they did, namely Prop 16 and Prop 25 where grassroots efforts and non-traditional teams of newer consultants have shown money is no longer king in politics. I was Director of Outreach for the “No on 16” campaign and got to see the grassroots work their magic, when certain members of leadership in my campaign attacked good faith volunteer efforts, out of their desire to control. Thankfully, those outside “competitor” groups continued their great work and through the different efforts out there, we were able to convince the greater society to shoot down race-based preferences by a 14-point landslide, 57-43.
Another campaign, my friend Marjorie Taylor Greene, a businesswoman by trade, understands what it means to spend wisely, relying more on natural grassroots support, even within her own internal campaign. She says, “All the ‘Republican’ consultants who have been running their mouths telling elected Republicans and candidates to distances themselves from Trump are the poison in our party. They can’t relate to real Americans and are [themselves] too stupid to comprehend that America First is the future”. That means, hiring consultants that are mission first, money second. This is much rarer than you may think, but the result for Greene is a brand and depth of support, which most politicians don’t have.
I am now seeing this pattern again with the Recall DA Gascon effort in Los Angeles. I serve as the Recall Gascon Now campaign as a co-chair. The District Attorney in Los Angeles has not been prosecuting hate crimes and has completely disregarded gang enhancements. The result of this activist DA is more crime on the streets. Yet, while the people hurting and public safety is threatened, our campaign has been attacked more by the Republican consultants working on a similar campaign, than by those who are pro-Gascon.
Our committee formed in a necessary response to one of those controlling personalities alienating so many people the PAC under such control, we had to save the overall effort. However, armed with money, the first PAC has spent more energy attacking us than engaging in friendly competition to work together towards a common cause, and squandering money in the process. In a recent open letter by a volunteer who has worked with both campaigns, he highlights the squandering of funds by the other more well-funded PAC, with consultants paid their high salaries, paying for out-of-state signature collectors where volunteers already are collecting signatures (cannibalizing efforts), spending more energy attacking an “unofficial” group on the same side with lies that somehow the petitions are not legitimate. However, besides this one typical political personality, a group of consultants are enabling the attack on efforts outside the campaign, because their desire to control supersedes their desire to win for the cause. In addition, politics makes for strange bedfellows. A former DA and prominent politician backing the first PAC and these attacks is working with the PAC despite the PAC’s strong ties with cannabis related businesses, even when he himself made it a cornerstone of his campaign to fight that industry. Regardless of whether you’re on the left or the right, the hypocrisy is quite alarming.
But this is actually par for the course. The California Republican Party has been frivolously wasting money for decades, with no desire to win. They are now wasting money on an unnecessary gubernatorial candidate endorsement. If recall success was really the goal, rather than lining consultant pockets, they would not endorse. The new governor is automatically the top-vote getter. It doesn’t require everyone to align behind one candidate, and by not endorsing, there would be a broader chance for more yes votes.
Will we change the way we do political campaigns on the right, and actually seek results, now that there is grassroots momentum? Or will the consultant class continue its stranglehold on the political process, attacking efforts, because they know better than us?