A media consultant famous for producing TV ads that derailed the Clinton administration’s healthcare agenda in the 1990s and keeping an office with a view of the southern California coast is being mourned by industry colleagues.
Ben Goddard, who died June 15, was still working candidate campaigns when he moved to Malibu from Phoenix in the late 1980s.
But a string of “unlucky” candidates — Gary Hart, Jimmy Carter, Bruce Babbitt, Jesse Jackson and Mo Udall were among his clients — combined with other professional snafus to leave him deep in debt and under threat of having to close the doors of one of the few national Democratic firms then operating outside of New York or DC.
With the help of his partner, Sacramento lobbyist Richard Claussen, Goddard pivoted his firm, First Tuesday, toward advocacy campaigns.
After they produced the “Harry and Louise” series of ads in 1994, C&E ranked the partners as the most effective consultants that year.
“‘Harry and Louise’ leapfrogged K Street and went directly to the voters via television to lobby against the Clinton health care plan,” said Rick Ridder, a consultant specializing in ballot initiatives.
“It was the first of its kind and changed the way the public affairs industry communicates to voters about specific issues and legislation. Today, few major, well-funded issue advocacy campaigns would be without a component of cable TV, and perhaps broadcast.”
When the Clinton White House’s healthcare reform push died, First Tuesday’s partners became the “go to” operatives on ballot initiatives, according to Ridder.
At the same time that his domestic work in advocacy was taking off, Goddard went abroad to work pro-bono for Boris Yeltsin during Russia’s first post-communism election. His international work later included helping set up the Global Alliance for Zimbabwe and a stint leading the IAPC.
Nancy Todd, the IAPC’s current president, remembered Goddard as a “prince.”
“I found him to be accessible and caring with genuine concern for our business and how it was changing and evolving,” she said.
Felipe Noguera, an Argentina-based consultant and former head of the IAPC, said Goddard was a filmmaker at heart. "I was always impressed by the breadth of Ben’s work, and saw him as an international consultant who happened to do most of his work in the U.S.A.,” said Noguera.
In 2014 in Rome, the IAPC awarded Goddard its “Democracy Medal” for working “courageously to foster, promote and sustain the democratic process anywhere in the world.”
Still, Goddard faced criticism in his career. Some practitioners on the left considered his transformation into an advocate for corporate interests to be the equivalent of a sitting member crossing the floor.
In an interview in May 1995, Goddard, who considered himself a Robert F. Kennedy Democrat, told the Los Angeles Times about his work fighting the Clintons’ healthcare reform: "Just because the President is a Democrat doesn't mean I have to support all his positions.”
In fact some issues Goddard worked on did fall into the pantheon of liberal causes. In 2011, he was scripting ads for a marijuana legalization effort in Colorado. On ad, called “Coffee Shop,” stood out, recalled Ridder, who also worked on the effort to legalize pot in the Centennial State.
The “Coffee Shop” spot featured a middle-aged mom speaking about the potential benefits of marijuana legalization. It featured the opening line: “It’s not that I like it personally, but it is time for a conversation about legalizing marijuana. …”
“[It] was brilliant for creating a non-threatening dialogue about a hitherto taboo subject,” said Ridder, adding that the message has become a template.
“The structure, language and the setting of ‘Coffee Shop’ have been featured in marijuana legalization campaign spots in at least three states and a foreign country,” said Ridder.
A celebration of Goddard’s life is set to be held June 24 at his family home in Virginia.