Ask the Campaign Doc: Never let your guard down

Ask the Campaign Doc: Never let your guard down
Damaging audio and video of your candidate can move fast.

Q: What do you think of these secret video and audio recordings of candidates? Is it a good or a bad thing?

A: Damaging audio or video of your candidate can move faster than you can say, “Google Glasses.” It can be more powerful than a smartphone on steroids, and it has the ability to destroy careers in a single YouTube posting. Secret recordings of all types already permeate politics, entertainment and citizen journalism. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if they are “good” or “bad.” They just are. So get used to it.

According to filmmaker Dennis Michael Lynch, “You gotta watch what you say and what you do every second of the day.” The Financial Times recently warned, “We will soon live in a world where much is recorded and nothing is deleted.” Still, developing variables include the legality of secret recordings, what really constitutes “secret” and the potential backlash against people and groups that pay for or actually make these recordings. If you haven’t factored this phenomenon into your campaign plan, it may already be too late.

Q: Should the candidate approve all of our TV ads?

A: In a multi-market, statewide campaign, probably not. Although the candidate deserves to know the overall strategic direction of the campaign, should always be kept apprised of core message components, and should most certainly approve the first negative ad of the race given that he or she will be asked about it and must defend its content and purpose. On smaller campaigns, with only one or two TV ads—single markets, mayoral or council races—the answer is an emphatic yes. The candidate must be given the opportunity to approve ads before broadcast.

Q: Can I ask my employer for time of to vote?

A: Yes, in most states. In California, for example, employees are eligible for a maximum of two paid hours if they do not have sufficient time outside of working hours to vote. Employers do have the right to require employees to give advance notice and may require time of to be taken only at the beginning or end of the employee’s shift. In Texas, employees are entitled to take paid time of unless they have at least two consecutive hours to vote outside of the voter’s working hours. Check the secretary of state’s website in your state to see what’s permissible where you live.

Q: How do we obtain software to file our campaign finance reports electronically?

A: Some jurisdictions require, and others just encourage, electronic filing for campaign finance reports. Due to state and local fiscal crises, many agencies no longer provide software free of charge to campaigns. Fortunately, the purchase of this software is an allowable expense for campaigns and political committees. Be sure to call your local or state regulator, or check online, for authorized and recommended vendors in your jurisdiction.

Q: I just recently moved to our state capitol after managing a state legislative campaign in my hometown. I’ve always been fascinated with independent expenditures and would like to work on one in my home state. What are my options?

A: Famous last words, but independent expenditure efforts often prefer staffers with long-term campaign experience who can anticipate the moves of candidates and campaigns without actually coordinating in any way with those on the other side of the wall.

Point being, independent groups generally, but not always, steer clear of staffers with a light resume, other than in purely support or administrative positions. You might consider working directly for a candidate or campaign that anticipates independent help or opposition in order to directly observe what works and doesn’t. You can then use your newfound knowledge of Super PACs to market yourself in “independent world.”

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.

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