Q: Some local campaigns have been attempting online fundraising. Is that something we should consider too, or is it still just for national campaigns?
A: Some local campaigns are trying to figure out how to do it, but it has not yet reached critical mass. That being said, here’s a great story to remember for next cycle.
Sean Tevis, a Kansas Democrat running for state representative in a Republican seat, created an online cartoon strip as a last-ditch fundraising ploy using stick figures to represent himself and his opponent. As Tevis told the Los Angeles Times, he hoped to raise “a few thousand dollars, at most.” In 12 days through PayPal, he raised—you gotta love it—$95,000.
To his credit, incumbent Arlen Siegfreid countered with his own online fundraising program, noting that “just 1.8 percent” of Tevis’ donations were from Kansas and exhorting backers to fight this “out-of-state onslaught” by donating “online today through PayPal.”
I’m not going to comment on other tactics and messaging by these two candidates, or who is likely to win. But, wow. This is a great online innovation by a challenger, followed by a solid recovery and pushback by the incumbent. A sign of things to come.
Q: Should we use a professional announcer for our radio ads?
A: For third-person ads, yes, so long as the voice isn’t an over-the-top “voice of God” narrator. For testimonials, as noted before in this column, no. There’s no substitute for real people.
Q: How should absentee voting, vote-by-mail and early voting change our field and GOTV plans?
A: Early voting means earlier persuasion ads (positive and negative) and earlier, more intensive field and GOTV. And that frontloading means bigger budgets and even more fundraising. Not what the good-government folks expected when they made it easier to vote early, but it has increased voter participation throughout the country. And that’s good. Problem is, for field and GOTV, the devil is in the details. Early-vote methods vary by state (e.g., mail ballots vs. polling places), as does voter eligibility (e.g., unrestricted vs. age or health requirements). In any case, get a copy of the rules, applicable dates and a voter file with early-vote history. Also, get your consultants to model voters likely to vote early, such as senior citizens, shift workers and people who travel a lot.
Q: Is it necessary to file congressional finance reports electronically?
A: According to the FEC rules that took effect in January 2001, “Any committee that receives contributions or makes expenditures in excess of $50,000 in the current calendar year, or that has reason to expect to do so, must submit its reports electronically. Any filer who is required to file electronically, but instead files on paper, will be considered a nonfiler and may be subject to enforcement action under the administrative fine program.”
But there’s a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do exception: “These requirements do not apply to Senate candidate committees (and other persons who support Senate candidates only), who file with the Secretary of the Senate.” And there’s this interesting sidebar: “Committees that are not required to file electronically are strongly encouraged to do so voluntarily. Once a committee begins to file its reports electronically, on a voluntary basis, it must continue to file electronically for the remainder of the calendar year.”
If all that is unclear, guess what: That’s why there are election-law attorneys to guide you through the compliance mine fields.
Craig Varoga has run local, state and presidential campaigns for the past 20 years. He currently specializes in independent expenditures as a partner at Independent Strategies. E-mail questions to email@example.com.