Q: Is it permissible to use stock footage in our TV ads? It would save us a lot of money.
A: It’s certainly permissible, and it’s often advisable and cost-efficient. But it’s not something to do consistently. When using stock footage, beware of using the wrong state, or even the wrong country. And make sure you warn your consultants of that danger. Recent real-life examples include New Zealand subbing for Alaska, English farms faking it as U.S. homesteads, and French photos masquerading as the American Midwest. Each and every one of them was flagged by opponents—all were embarrassing, and most importantly, all were avoidable.
Q: Can you offer an example of targeting radio ads at specific types of music fans?
A: Pandora, the online radio service, matches election results by zip code with subscribers' musical preferences and then correlates those preferences with likely Democratic, Republican, or independent voting habits—and bingo, a targeted ad is coming your way. As Pandora's director of product management noted in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, “We can infer parenting if you're registered as a female in your thirties and have a children's music station.” There are countless more examples, and not just for radio, but also TV, which is why optimizing paid-media targeting is the new, nifty, and genuinely essential thing.
Q: Do we need to file our campaign finance reports electronically?
A: Yes. Most political candidates and political committees, including groups making independent expenditures, must file reports electronically, specifically when their receipts exceed certain levels—$50,000 in a calendar year for federal candidates and groups, for example. Check with your campaign attorney or CPA. Many regulatory agencies provide the software and, if they do not, will provide format specifications for non-official software.
Q: I feel it’s my calling to increase public participation in elections. I love to discuss politics and I think people deserve a larger voice in elections. How can I help people achieve that and fulfill my calling?
A: Here’s the deal: it’s great to “discuss” politics, that’s one of our rights and benefits as American citizens. But if you want to “fulfill your calling” and change things for the better, you need to jump in—volunteer, go to town halls, drive voters to the polls, learn how the system works, and hold your elected officials accountable, regardless of their political party. As Teddy Roosevelt said, the greater glory is to enter the arena and be willing to make mistakes, because there is no success “without error and shortcoming.” Translation: if you’re serious, stop talking, get some experience and go for it.
Q: Is it possible to use our old campaign funds to pay for temporary storage of both political and official documents?
A: Yes, if it’s a federal campaign. According to an FEC advisory opinion last year, “A retiring officeholder may use campaign funds to pay costs associated with the temporary storage of officeholder and campaign materials. These costs are ordinary and necessary expenses of a federal officeholder and are not personal use of campaign funds.” State and local laws vary, so be sure to ask the appropriate authorities how to handle non-federal campaign accounts.
Q: Can our supporters with children bring those children inside the voting booth, or do they need someone to care for the kids when they vote?
A: Most state laws permit voters to bring one or two children under 18 years old with them when they vote, as long as the children do not disrupt or interfere with normal voting procedures.
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.