Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Fundraiser Review: Beyonce, Gators and Guns

On the last day of 2013, it seems appropriate to review the year's political fundraising events, with some raising more eyebrows than cash. An AlterNet.com article by Kurt Walters took a party-agnostic approach in choosing its categories for "The 7 Weirdest Political Money Raising Events of 2013." One popular trend was the high-priced concert fundraiser: At up to $5,000 a ticket, no wonder Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) were happy to whoop it up with Beyonce at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., for example. Several events played to the new national fascination with swamp folk, some successfully like a bayou weekend with Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) and some stepping into media jaws like Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott's $25,000-per-person private gator hunt, which was cancelled when questions arose over how he intended to get legal hunting licenses. Illinois wins the prize for doing more with less, with a $1,000-hot-dog party thrown by Rep. Mike Quigley (D) and a "Teeni Weeni Bikini Martini" bash by State Rep. Barbara Wheeler (R), where a "one piece" rated $250, a "Speedo" merited $1,000, and bikinis (suggested guest choice) ran for $500. Notable among the 110 gun-themed fundraisers in 2013 was the BYOG (Bring Your Own Gun) target practice event (but no shotguns, please) of Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.). But the greatest irony in voters' eyes may be fundraisers held by the National Marine Manufacturers' Association PAC aboard a boat dubbed "Unfinished Business" to benefit seven members of a Congress called "the most unproductive in modern history." Unfinished business, indeed. For more political fundraising bashes and busts, see http://www.alternet.org/7-weirdest-political-fundraisers-2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

2013 Elections Provide Political Direct Mail Lessons

While the spotlight was on digital politicking in 2012 and 2013, direct mail continued to be one of the most potent weapons in the campaign arsenal, with more money spent on direct mail by candidates, parties, and outside entities than on any other medium except television. Candidates and causes gearing up for 2014 direct mail appeals should take a look at a review of 2012-2013 political mail tactics by Paul Bobnak, research director of Who's Mailing What!, which tracks direct mail and e-mail in over 220 categories. Bobnak notes that colorful outer mailings are the rule not the exception now; no more sedate white No. 10 envelopes. Four-color, get-out-the-vote self-mailers are another favored tool. Meanwhile, fundraising efforts are borrowing new ideas from other channels to rev up direct mail appeal. For example, both Obama and Romney fundraising efforts used posters and palm cards, copying retail marketing tactics. Borrowing from the Internet, campaigns also have latched onto the "infographic" to persuade donors. On the theme of "everything old is new again," some old direct mail gimmicks have resurfaced. Back in vogue is mailing a penny or a live stamp clipped to the reply form, for example. Outer envelopes that look like FedEx, Priority Mail or interoffice mail also are being deployed, reports Bobnak. Direct mail's ability to add a personal touch may mean even more in the age of Big Data: Both the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Democratic National Committee have enclosed old-fashioned index cards in their appeals to the party faithful, implying that vital members and donors are being personally tracked via file cards, instead of targeted by impersonal databases. For some more examples of compelling mail and copy, check out Bobnak's post at http://www.directmarketingiq.com/article/direct-mail-lessons-2013-2012-political-campaigns-elections/1

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Online Politicking: Versatile Must for 2014 Campaigns

Every savvy candidate and advocacy group in 2014 is going to do some Internet politicking. But do they know how to maximize their online power? "How to Use the Internet to Win in 2014: A Comprehensive Guide to Online Politics for Campaigns and Advocates" offers itself as one guidebook. As summarized by Colin Delany, founder of Epolitics.com, for the Huffington Post, a winning strategy includes both online fundraising, for repeat pushes of those donate buttons, and online recruiting, for donors and volunteers who will become viral emissaries in turn. Campaigns are advised on mobilizing supporters to participate in e-mail efforts, virtual phone banks and digital rallies. Grassroots organizing is given a digital spin, too, with iPads, tablets and other mobile devices used as on-site donation takers (via mobile credit card readers) as well as dispensers of maps, videos and canvass talking points. Digital advertising, meanwhile, can be made more effective with improved analytics and targeting. The Internet is also a great way to quick-test, from A/B subject-line splits to complex positioning. Worried about the high cost of a shotgun mass media effort? Online geographic selection can offer cheaper and more precise targeting. Finally, the Internet is a rapid-response weapon in case of attacks and unfavorable coverage. For more, go to the blog post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/colin-delany/the-internet-in-politics-_b_4420094.html

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

New Media Market Maps Offer Unique Look at Voters

Successful political ad strategy needs to go deeper than red and blue states to match voter demographics and views with media markets and costs. How does that redraw the American political map? Now, as reported in a recent Washington Post article, leading Democratic media firm GMMB and Civis Analytics have crunched 2012 election data to create that kind of mapping for the first time. Their mapping shows every U.S. media market in terms of political leanings, voter demographics, upcoming 2014 races and likely ad costs, and even the percentage of uninsured, which may influence how markets line up on the health-care debate. Their maps deliver some surprise results. Looking back on the Obama-Romney presidential race reveals that President Obama’s best media market wasn’t in a liberal enclave like San Francisco but rather in tiny Laredo, TX. Obama beat Romney by 54 points along that stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border. Why? More than 90% of voters in Laredo are Hispanic, a particularly pro-Obama group. In contrast, Romney did best in north Texas, in the Abilene-Sweetwater market, where he beat Obama by 60 points. Looking to 2014, when the Affordable Care Act may be a hot issue, both parties and independent PACs will be paying attention to media markets with large portions of uninsured. Since the political map shows that more than 20% of the population remains uninsured in large swaths of the West and Southwest, along with chunks of the South, watch for ACA-related ad spends there. For a chance to look at the GMMB-Civis maps in detail for different variables, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2013/12/03/the-2012-election-results-by-media-market/

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Data-Fueled Targeting Is Redefining TV Political Ads

Data-centric political ad targeting -- which transformed digital politicking -- began redefining TV ad campaigns in 2013. Traditionally, political campaigns buy TV spots based on ratings data, such as the demographics of the core viewers of a show. Now, by combining voter data with set-top box data, campaigns can better segment TV audience voters. Firms are sprouting up to serve the new age of voter-data-fueled TV, especially since TV buys take the lion's share of political ad budgets. A recent Ad Age article surveyed some in the forefront of TV targeting, including Rentrak, a firm that provides local and national TV data on 12 million households from its partners in cable, satellite and telecom, and which worked with the Obama for America campaign last year. Rentrak claims it actually did more political business in 2013 with just a handful of gubernatorial, mayoral and down-ballot races. Using an outside firm (Experian in 2013), Rentrak matched TV-subscriber data to voter-file data from the campaigns and their parties to produce anonymized audience segments that categorize voters according to interests, likelihood to vote and political leanings. An example of the new trend in TV ad buying: Democrat Terry McAuliffe's winning Virginia gubernatorial effort spent around 25% of its persuasion-ad budget (ads intended to sway voters rather than generate fundraising) on ads targeted via voter-file matching and purchased through exchanges and automated TV-buying platforms, as opposed to ads with traditional behavioral or demographic targeting. For more, see http://adage.com/article/news/data-redefining-political-tv-ads/245286/

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hot 2014 Races to Fuel TV Ad Spending

If you're campaigning in states like Michigan and Arkansas next year, get ready to compete for attention with big TV political ad spends, per analysis by TVB, the local broadcaster trade association. Overall, political ad spending on local TV is projected to be $2.4 billion next year, according Kantar's Campaign Media Analysis Group, which is an increase of more than 4% from the $2.3 billion mid-term elections of 2010, the first election to see the effect of unlimited outside group spending enabled by the Supreme Court's "Citizens United" decision. Arkansas and Michigan are forecast to draw the hottest spate of political ad activity in the 2014 mid-term elections because of competitive House, Senate and governor races. Other states that will see heavy TV advertising include West Virginia, Georgia and Iowa--where there are open Senate seats--and Alaska and Kentucky, where incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Begich and Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are being targeted by Senate campaign groups. Two wild cards may impact TV ad budgets, however: the influx of money from independent groups and "big data" analytics, which could temper TV mass-audience buys in favor of micro-targeting specific groups. For TVB's state-by-state political ad market projections, see the USA Today article at http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/11/13/2014-political-ads-michigan-arkansas/3498023/

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

L.A. Mayor Race Brews Potent Microtargeting Potion

A Los Angeles-based digital ad firm recently revealed to Fast Company magazine its microtargeted data strategy in support of successful first-time L.A. mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti. Consulting for a PAC, the Engage:BDR agency's goal was to target a demographic of 500,000 English-speaking and Spanish-speaking Latinos aged 18-46. The agency says it combined 120 data points from offline household consumer statistics, "hyper-local IP data sets," census data and voter records to microtarget its online ad campaign. The campaign implemented an ad schedule of display and video ads, for both desktop and mobile users, with timings most likely to deliver response according to behavioral data. Mobile ads also were geo-specific down to the GPS coordinates of a given block, so ads could direct voters to their local polling places. The results, per the agency, included more than 7 million impressions in just two weeks and 10% to 17% better click-through rates for the target Latino demographics. For more, see the Fast Company article at http://www.fastcompany.com/3021092/yes-political-campaigns-follow-your-browser-history

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

HealthCare.gov Mess Has Lessons for Campaigns

What can the Obamacare website debacle teach a political marketer, or a brand marketer for that matter? A recent online post by David Heitman, president of a Colorado branding and PR firm, lays out some cogent lessons for campaigns and causes. The first obvious lesson, he writes, is that it's better to launch late than launch badly. The second lesson is to put a premium on critical feedback. Apparently, pre-launch issues with the HealthCare.gov website didn't get to the top, or the top didn't listen. Next, when something goes wrong, remember that the media and the voters can forgive a mistake but not a cover-up. Trying to deny or hide the truth only incites the media and sours supporters. And don't underestimate the intelligence of your audience by trying to mislead in a world of click-speed data sharing. As Heitman points out, when HHS boasted that 15 million visits showed the popularity of HealthCare.gov, Pew Research could quickly counter that 70% of those visitors had insurance and were not serious shoppers. The impact of technical errors on the Obama administration's credibility also underscores the vulnerability of candidates and campaigns to their high-tech advisors. Make sure your campaign has invested in a proven, trustworthy technical team! But perhaps the toughest political lessons are how failure in the details can undermine the larger vision, and how a launch stumble can risk the race. See the full post at http://www.bcbr.com/article/20131108/EDITION0806/131109942/-1/DigitalEdition

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

E-mail Fundraising: Learning From Obama's Success

E-mail fundraising, where a faulty subject line can cost millions of dollars in donations, can be a daunting prospect. Luckily for 2014 political campaigners, the successful Obama 2012 presidential bid blazed a path with extensive A/B e-mail testing. A recent econsultancy.com interview with Amelia Showalter, Obama's director of digital analytics, provided some tips based on that testing. To see how much it matters, consider that the difference in effectiveness of the best-performing test subject line and the worst-performing test subject line was estimated at over $2 million in donations. So take advantage of the lessons learned by the Obama team. No. 1: Test everything, because your "gut" and conventional wisdom are often poor predictors of what works with the electorate. The Obama digital team was consistently wrong in predicting which would be the top-performing test e-mails, Showalter says. In fact, "ugly" designs often beat "pretty" designs; the Obama team found a design with strident yellow highlighting trumped more subtle appeals, for example. And keep on testing! Create a testing culture immune to marketing and political egos, include columns for "tests" in all short-term and long-term e-mail campaign calendars, and constantly compare test results to prior performance (not just industry standards). Don't let the digital team perform in a bubble, however; spread the word about test results internally to get buy-in and generate new ideas from the wider campaign effort. Finally, make your e-mails both personalized and personal. For example, subject lines that are shorter and less formal perform better, per the Obama experience. A subject line that just said "Hey" was consistently most successful! Don't be afraid of mild curse words now and then as well; "Let's win the damn election" worked for Obama. For more on the lessons from the Obama digital team, read http://econsultancy.com/us/blog/63672-seven-lessons-obama-s-digital-team-learned-from-a-b-testing-emails

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Democrat Fundraisers Get Windfall in Shutdown Fight

So far, the Capitol Hill standoff over the budget, the debt ceiling and "Obamacare" has clearly benefited Democratic fundraisers, according to the Federal Election Commission and reports from independent and party-affiliated groups. In September, before the government shutdown, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which funds campaigns of candidates for the House of Representatives, raised $8.4 million, topping the $5.3 million of its Republican counterpart, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). Similarly, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) raised more in September than the Republican National Committee (RNC) for the first time in 2013, with the Dems raking in $7.4 million, up from just $4.3 million in August, compared with the GOP's $7.1 million. The Democrats got some encouragement for their Senate hopes, too; the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) raised more than its Republican counterpart in September, with $4.6 million to the GOP $3.6 million. Meanwhile, the "Obamacare" controversy benefited independent fundraisers at both ends of the political spectrum. Organizing for Action, the group that grew out of Obama's successful re-election campaign, raised more than $7.7 million from July through September to promote Obamacare. In opposition, the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF), co-founded by former South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, a leader in the Tea Party movement, brought in $2.1 million in September, up from $1.5 million in August. The allied conservative Club for Growth's political action committee raised almost $127,000 in September, and its Super PAC, an independent group that can raise unlimited amounts without disclosing contributors, tallied another $282,000, which it added to $683,770 collected in August. The independent conservative fundraising isn't good news for some Republicans in upcoming elections, however. For example, the SCF has endorsed Matt Bevin, a Tea Party challenger to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. See more details at http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-10-23/news/sns-rt-us-usa-fiscal-fundraising-20131023_1_obamacare-fight-shutdown-healthcare-law

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Did Starbucks' Social Politicking Miss the Mark?

Starbucks recently waded into the churning political waters of the federal government shutdown and debt ceiling deadline with a social-media petition drive dubbed #ComeTogether. Over 2 million voters signed the petition to tell Congress to reopen the federal government, pay its bills and craft a bipartisan long-term budget by the end of the year. The campaign started Oct. 7 with a Tweet and ads in major newspapers, followed by an Instagram video, a Facebook campaign, more Twitter requests, and a Pinterest post. The petition delivery to Congress and President Obama was set for Oct. 16. Starbucks has been involved in advocacy before, including support of marriage equality, and has been criticized for using its commercial market for cause marketing. However, a recent article for ClickZ highlighted a different problem with Starbucks' most recent social media politicking: The petition campaign missed opportunities to engage beyond a one-time click, noted Boyd Neil, senior vice president of Hill+Knowlton Strategies, in an interview. Boyd suggested tactics such as using supporter zip codes to send contact info of Congressional representatives to incite more targeted voter pressure, as well as gathering e-mail addresses for followup, action-oriented advocacy e-mails. The increased engagement would have made the campaign more powerful and less open to charges of "slacktivism." Neil is quoted: "It's the responsibility of people who organize opposition to move people from where they are now to a place where they take more action. If I sign the petition, it's not my fault I don't do something else. It's the weakness of the person who's posted the petition." Political campaigners, take heed. For the full article, go to http://www.clickz.com/clickz/news/2301109/how-starbucks-cometogether-social-media-petition-could-have-been-better

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

California Campaigns Must Report Paid Social Posts

California's Fair Political Practices Commission, the state's campaign watchdog agency, has ruled that political campaigns must report when they pay people to post favorable or unfavorable content on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media sites. The commission said it acted out of concern that the public might be deceived into thinking paid content on blogs is objective political commentary. A Los Angeles Times news story quotes Commission Chairwoman Ann Ravel: "The public is entitled to know who is paying for campaigns and campaign opinions, so the weight to be given to the views can be evaluated by voters." The new rules require disclosure by campaigns that pay someone $500 or more to post favorable or unfavorable content on Internet sites not run by the campaigns. The campaign’s periodic finance report would have to identify who is paid, how much is paid, and to which website or URL the posting was made. That reporting is not required if the blog or website itself identifies the content as paid for by a campaign. The new rules, which follow the lead of Maine, are unpopular with some in the "blogosphere" but were endorsed by open-government groups, including Consumer Watchdog, as a way to bring “sunshine” to a growing field of political communications. See the L.A. Times story at http://www.latimes.com/local/political/la-me-pc-state-adopts-new-rule-campaigns-must-say-when-they-pay-for-web-posts-20130919,0,1576392.story

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Facebook 'Like' Ruled Protected by 1st Amendment

A federal appeals court in Virginia has ruled that the act of "liking" a political candidate's campaign on Facebook is protected speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In the case before the appeals court, former employees of a sheriff's office said they lost their jobs as a result of supporting a political opponent of their boss by endorsing the opponent's campaign page on Facebook. “Liking a political candidate’s campaign page communicates the user’s approval of the candidate and supports the campaign by associating the user with it,” U.S. Circuit Judge William Traxler wrote in the appeals court decision. “It is the Internet equivalent of displaying a political sign in one’s front yard, which the Supreme Court has held is substantive speech.” The ruling was also a win for Facebook, which had argued before the appeals panel that the “Like” feature is vital to 500 million people who share ideas on the social network and must have free-speech protection. For the actual court opinion, go to http://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/Opinions/Published/121671.P.pdf. For a Bloomberg news report with background and reaction, see http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-18/facebook-like-is-protected-speech-appeals-court-says.html

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Disclaimer Exemption Sought for Mobile Political Ads

A digital political advertising firm is asking the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to exempt banner ads for mobile devices from the disclaimer language required for most political advertising, according to a report in The Huffington Post. Revolution Messaging, a digital advertising firm founded by Scott Goodstein, who was external online director for President Barack Obama's first presidential campaign, is making the exemption request, arguing that mobile devices are too small to ensure that the disclaimer naming the group responsible for the advertisement would not "dwarf the ad entirely," the story says. All public communications by political committees are required by federal campaign finance law to state, in a "clear and conspicuous" manner, the name of the responsible political committee and whether it was authorized by a candidate. In previous opinions, the FEC has ruled that text message ads under 160 characters qualify for the disclaimer exemption, as do Google and Facebook ads, so long as the disclaimer appears on the landing page reached by clicking on the ad. Revolution Messaging is hoping the FEC will extend those precedents to mobile advertising. See the full story at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/11/mobile-advertising-fec_n_3908020.html

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

House Members Slash Direct Mail Spending

Congressional mailings, those glossy fliers and officially stamped letters using taxpayer-funded postage, are experiencing a rapid decline. Members of the House spent 68% less on mailers during the first half of this year compared with the same period of 2012, according to an analysis by POLITICO of the House’s quarterly disbursement reports. In the first six months of this year, House members spent $4,139,890 to send direct mail to their constituents, compared with $12,901,782 in the first six months of 2012. The nation's politicians aren't giving up on constituent communications, however; they are switching the medium of their message, mainly to digital channels. With an eye on sequester budget cuts, Facebook ads and e-mails are seen as costing less for quick and targeted contact. In the first half of 2013, House members spent $3,578,105 on digital communications, including Facebook and online ads, which is up from $2,177,547 during the same period of 2012. Some House members have dropped direct mail from their budgets entirely; 247 sent out mail in the first six months of 2012, but only 172 did so in the first half of this year. Direct mail still has its fans, of course, including politicos whose districts have a large senior population. Republicans lead in direct mail usage, with 13 of the top 20 direct mail spending slots. For more, see the POLITICO article at http://www.politico.com/story/2013/09/bye-bye-franked-mail-96096.html.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Campaign Message Control Tough in the Twitter Age

The days when a political campaign could control its message by catering to the journalist "boys on the bus," with handouts, press briefings and prepared sound bites, has vanished. Now every campaign must face a blogging, tweeting, sharing mass of professional and self-appointed reporters everywhere, all the time -- which makes it hard to sustain a controlled narrative. A recent New York Times article sums up: "Because of the relentlessness of the schedule, the limited access and the multi-platform demands, many of the boys and girls on the bus are in fact boys and girls. And the bus they ride is Twitter." The media has become "one giant, tweeting blob," in the words of Peter Hamby, a political reporter at CNN. "With Instagram and Twitter-primed iPhones, an ever more youthful press corps, and a journalistic reward structure in Washington that often prizes speed and scoops over context, campaigns are increasingly fearful of the reporters who cover them," Hamby wrote in a report quoted by the NYT story. Mitt Romney's campaign failed to handle this social media-driven journalism by trying to fence off the candidate and alienating the young, inexperienced reporter "embeds." The Obama campaign did better with a proactive social-media-attuned approach. It's an important lesson for campaign marketers looking to the next elections. For the rest of the story, see http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/02/business/media/campaign-journalism-in-the-age-of-twitter.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

2013 Has Unusually Low Number of Ballot Measures

Just 26 ballot questions were certified for a spot on five statewide ballots as of Sept. 5. It's an unusually low number given that, going back to 1989, the average tally of ballot measures in an odd-numbered year is 43. Indeed, 2013 has the lowest ballot initiative total in the last two dozen years. The states with ballot initiatives in 2013 are Colorado, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas and Washington. All of the signature petition deadlines have passed, so no new initiatives can appear on ballots. The targets of the measures include business regulation, health care, minimum wage, and taxes, including Colorado proposals for a 15% excise tax and a 10% sales tax on marijuana sales in the state. For more detail by state, see http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/2013_ballot_measures

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Dead Can't Vote, But They Can Donate

The dead can't vote, but they can give to political parties and candidates. In fact, 32 people listed on federal campaign records as "deceased" contributed more than $586,000 to Congressional and Presidential candidates and political parties since Jan. 1, 2009, according to a recent USA Today analysis of Federal Election Commission filings. Federal campaign rules allow individuals to make candidates and political committees the beneficiaries of their estates, just as they can leave money to charities. In first place among recipients of gifts from the grave is the Democratic National Committee, which garnered $245,000 from deceased donors. At the top of the list of dead donors is Raymond Groves Burrington, a Tennessee man who left more than $217,000 to the Libertarian National Committee. Current federal rules require political giving by the deceased to comply with applicable contribution limits. So an individual's estate cannot donate more than $5,200 to a federal candidate during an election cycle and no more than $32,400 to a political party each year. But a case pending before a federal appellate court in Washington, D.C., seeks to overturn limits for deceased donors. The Libertarian Party is arguing that it should be able to receive Mr. Burrington's money as a lump sum, rather than in annual installments, since "a dead person can't corrupt someone," reports USA Today. See the full story at http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/08/04/campaign-contributions-from-the-dead/2616245/

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New GOP Digital Effort Hopes to Leapfrog Dems

Republican operatives have launched a digital enterprise they hope will "leapfrog" the Democrats' 2012 high-tech data-mining success, according to a recent story by the National Journal. The new Media Group of America (MGA) LLC includes a digital consulting firm, a center-right news site with over 3.5 million monthly visitors, and an online technology tool called the Central Organizing Responder (COR). COR can merge data into one platform to create detailed targeting profiles of voters and supporters. GOP campaigners will be able to integrate canvassing lists, phone banks, fundraising reports, event sign-ins and social networks with outside data for real-time insights. Democrats interviewed expressed skepticism about the potential of the Republican digital initiative, but some experts saw a key advantage: The GOP digital technology will be for sale. The Obama campaign developed a proprietary machine whose operatives have since split up into various lobbying, party and for-profit efforts, but the GOP system is built for continuity and adaptability, to be shared online by multiple campaigns with different systems and budgets. MGA is already signing clients, ranging from the Republican Congressional Committee to the Boeing Company. For the full story, see http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/why-democrats-are-laughing-at-the-republican-digital-strategy-and-why-they-shouldn-t-be-20130729

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Celebrating 30 Years As a List Professional

Today marks my 30th consecutive year as a list professional. I began my apprenticeship at Mike Wilson List Council, Inc. on August 22, 1983. Now, as CEO and president of AccuList, Inc., parent company of AccuList USA and Beyond Voter Lists, I can look back on a career that has grown with the direct marketing industry, expanding from traditional direct mail list and insert media brokerage and management to include e-mail marketing, online advertising, mobile marketing and social media. Today the Direct Marketing Association refers to me and a few others as "Data Innovators" or "List Leaders." My thanks to the thousands of clients and direct marketing industry colleagues who have made my 30-year journey so rewarding! For a synopsis of my career highlights, see my LinkedIn profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/dkanter

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

2016 Hopefuls Provide Useful Campaign Checklist

A checklist of campaign tasks derived from 2016 presidential hopefuls provides useful insights for any candidate or campaign. An article by Associated Press journalist Calvin Woodward recently summarized the tasks: get to know donors, get the public to know you on TV and social media, visit big primary states (or top cities or neighborhoods in the case of more local campaigns and candidates), network with the activists and ideologues, produce a vanity book, polish a record, deflect personal baggage, take a stand, develop a world view (or a state or local view), scout for advisers and political organizations that can power up a campaign team. Then the article shows what national political players are doing: For the Democrats, Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley; and for the Republicans, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal; Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. There are some nuggets to mine from these major political players! Take a look at the full article at http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/08/19/5090573/2016-campaign-checklist-whos-doing.html

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Social Media Politics: Get There Ahead of the Pack

Since social media is a required component in today's political campaigning, candidates and campaigns readying for 2014 may want to look at a recent socialmediatoday.com post for tips on effective social media politicking. And at the top of the recommendations is to "Get there first."  An example of how effective it is to get your message out ahead of the noisy pack is provided by Congressional Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, who made news, and gained fans, by being the first-ever Congressman to broadcast his vote using Vine, Twitter's video-sharing app. The six-second clip showed Swalwell voting “nay” to what he deemed a GOP attempt to decrease health protection for women. Swalwell garnered more than normal attention simply because he posted impactful content in a low-competition area. Ten Senators also have posted on Vine since the Senate officially approved its use. For other tips on politically savvy use of social media, see the article at http://socialmediatoday.com/anqicong/1650081/how-use-social-media-your-political-campaign

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

More Reasons Than Ever to Champion Political Mail

With most political marketing stories focusing on digital and TV targeting, it's refreshing to see an article reminding campaigns and candidates of the power of direct mail. A recent Campaigns & Elections piece cites several reasons "why political mail is more indispensable than ever." After all, the revolution in political "big data" analytics has improved the targeting ability of direct mail as well as digital channels, including enhanced voter files, use of commercial data, and issue-specific modeling. Meanwhile, mail creative can now leverage variable data printing to translate that targeting into personalized, individualized and issue-specific content. Targeting efficiency also has been enhanced by improved data quality, with better change of address technology as well as improved deceased and deliverability hygiene. With digital, broadcast and phone messages fighting for attention in noisier channels with increased filtering, the ability to put a targeted, eye-catching statement into an individual voter's unique mailbox is more attractive than ever. For more on the topic, including mailing success stories, see the article at http://www.campaignsandelections.com/magazine/us-edition/386667/why-political-mail-is-more-indispensable-than-ever.thtml

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

'Obamacare' Attacks Forecast to Pump TV Ad Dollars

Leading up to the midterm elections, TV stations are forecast to reap $500 million in political ads mainly devoted to attacks on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or "Obamacare" as opponents dub it, reports Advertising Age. Per the Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG), part of Kantar Media, ACA-related ads already have put $500 million in TV station pockets from 2009 to date, and another $500 million will be spent this year and early next year. The majority of the ad spending will be aimed at attacking the ACA. The $1 billion spent on a single issue breaks all previous records, and opponents of the ACA have outspent supporters by 5 to 1 in terms of TV ads, according to CMAG. Many anti-ACA ads won't be aimed at influencing Congress but at influencing voters in next year's midterm elections, with the PACs and GOP hoping to use the issue against Democrats, especially in the Senate where the GOP wants to regain control. See the full story at http://adage.com/article/campaign-trail/health-care-fight-generate-500m-advertising/243093/

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Obama's Former Data Team Sells Secret TV Formula

Now that some Obama campaign senior data whizzes have left politics to chase corporate cash cows with the newly formed Analytics Media Group (AMG) ad agency, they are pulling back the curtain on the campaign’s secret, technologically advanced formulas for reaching a target TV audience -- and political marketers will want take a closer look. Check out a recent New York Times article on AMG and the "secret sauce" that revolutionized television-ad buying, where over $400 million, or about 50% of the campaign’s budget, was spent. Previous campaigns made decisions on television-ad budgets based on hunches and deductions about what channels target voters were watching, partly based on broad viewership ratings of Nielsen and survey data, which typically led to buying relatively expensive ads during evening-news and prime-time viewing hours. The 2012 campaign combined its vast voter and social media data with advanced set-top-box monitoring technology to target voters, resulting in a smarter and cheaper — and potentially more invasive — way to beam commercials into homes. For more, see the New York Times article at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/23/magazine/the-obama-campaigns-digital-masterminds-cash-in.html?pagewanted=all

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Political Cash Ups Allure of Swing-State TV Stations

The continued allure of TV political ads, especially in close races, is being underscored this year by a series of media company purchases of local TV stations in last year's contested election markets, reports The New York Times. Gannett paid $1.5 billion for 20 stations in June, and the Tribune Company agreed to pay $2.7 billion for 19 stations in July, according to the recent NYT article, which predicted even more consolidation in the TV market later this year. The buyer appeal of the stations lies in their election-related political ad revenues as the 30-second TV commercial remains a key campaign tool despite growing digital alternatives. To see the impact of swing-state status, the article cited WBNS in Columbus, Ohio, which garnered $50 million in ad revenue in 2012, including at least $20 million directly from campaign spending, putting it ahead of comparable markets in less contentious election states. In fact, Ohio stations enjoyed a 38% increase in 2012 ad revenues overall, largely thanks to political buys, the story notes. For some states, the TV ad bonanza goes beyond presidential politics to include state and local races. For example, California was the top market for all political ad revenue last year, in part because of ballot proposition spending. For more, see the NYT article at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/08/business/media/with-political-ad-profits-swing-state-tv-stations-are-hot-properties.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Those Fundraising E-mails May Annoy, But They Work

Annoying, alarmist, pestering political fundraising e-mails are here to stay -- because they work. That's the conclusion from extensive e-mail testing in the 2012 presidential election by Obama's Digital Director Teddy Goff and his team. Looking at more than 400 e-mails, Goff's testing showed conclusively that the more that went out, the more money came back. The growth in the number of unsubscribers was much slower than the growth of cash. In his new book on the 2012 Obama campaign, The Center Holds, journalist Jonathan Alter notes: "Goff concluded that ignoring the human desire not to be annoying may have been the single greatest conceptual breakthrough of the campaign. It turned out to be worth more than $100 million." For more excerpts from Alter's book about Obama's successful e-mail strategies, see the Wired story at http://www.wired.com/opinion/2013/06/dont-dismiss-email-a-case-study-from-the-obama-campaign/

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Some Ways to Reach the Elusive Millenial Donor

Campaigns and causes are sometimes frustrated in their fundraising efforts to target the elusive Millenials, people born between 1980 and 2000. One reason is that they may be using the wrong marketing tactics and channels based on what worked well with previous generations. A recent article on npEngage.com by Emily Goodstein, herself a Millenial, provided some statistics that hint at how to find Millenial donors. First, note that 65% of Millennials prefer to learn about a nonprofit through its website and 55% prefer to learn about it through forms of social media. So you better have both an active website and an active presence on Facebook. Goodstein makes a second key point: Some 47% of Millennials prefer to support nonprofits with their time, while only 16% prefer to give exclusively through financial support. So develop an engagement strategy that goes beyond asking for financial contributions! Finally, Millennials prefer learning from peers, so it's time to investigate peer-to-peer fundraising tools. For more, go to http://www.npengage.com/fundraising/millennial-donors-please-stand/

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

In Online Giving, Some Cities Are More Generous

If you're looking to raise money for your campaign or cause, it's not only about who you ask but where they live. Blackbaud recently rated the most generous U.S. cities in terms of online charitable giving in 2012. The top four cities remained unchanged from the prior year. The top spot went to Seattle, WA, followed by Alexandria, VA; Washington., D.C.; and Minneapolis, MN. The Blackbaud analysis ranks 265 cities with populations of more than 100,000 based on per capita online giving. In 2012, more than $509 million was donated online in the 265 cities, 15% higher than in 2011. Regionally, the South dominated with nine out of the top 25 large cities, followed by the West (eight cities), Midwest (five cities) and Northeast (three cities). For more on the rankings, go to http://www.blackbaudnews.com/press-release/blackbaud-ranks-most-generous-online-u-s-cities-for-2012.htm

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Improving Your Cause or Campaign Website Ranking

If your campaign or cause has a website that isn't coming up near the top of listings for online searches, you could be missing connections to your voter base and potential online donations. Here are some basic tips from Online Candidate, a political website provider, on how to boost your search presence. Here's a no-brainer: Optimize your website with text that includes the candidate or cause name, your geographic target audience (such as state or municipality), and key topics or issues in the campaign or nonprofit appeal. Make sure that important search terms are used in your headlines and tags. Update frequently; search engines like fresh content. Focus on link building. Relevant, active in-bound links increase your search position. Some link suggestions: newspaper websites with relevant articles and online voter guides; other local candidates or causes; political party websites; supporter group websites; websites of groups campaigning for similar causes; and local or regional sites. Try to create links back to your site with varied link text, especially including names, locations and issues to boost your search relevance across more keywords; for example, go beyond links for "Smith for Mayor" to use "Smith for Happytown Mayor" and "Smith for Happytown Dog Park." For more, go to http://www.onlinecandidate.com/articles/getting-campaign-website-rank-search-engines

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What to Do When Direct Mail Misses Young Donors

What can a nonprofit do when its usual direct mail efforts aren't attracting enough younger donors? Chet Dalzell recently commented in Target Marketing Magazine on an interesting marketing strategy by Covenant House, a nonprofit helping homeless children. In 2012, Covenant House was disappointed in its direct mail results with younger prospects so it went hunting online, setting up a series of petitions through Care2, the online social action community, on four topics: child trafficking, emergency health care, aging out of foster care, and domestic violence. They received names and online contact information from tens of thousands and this year used those names in a three-part e-mail series relevant to each petition subject, seeking to turn digital fans into donors. Those who didn't respond to the e-mails got a telemarketing call. Early results are positive, per Dalzell, but direct mail hasn't been dropped as a result. Since multi-channel donors are more generous and sustained givers, the young digital donors should look to see a direct mail piece in the near future, and direct mail continues to be Covenant House's "workhorse" of acquisition, says Dalzell. Bottom line: The lesson isn't "to mail or not to mail"; it's about a smart multi-channel mix, segmentation and testing. For more, see the article at http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/blog/is-there-generation-gap-among-direct-mail-responders

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Foundations Seek to Reflect 'Changing Face of America'

Appeal to America's changing demographics was considered a key factor in President Obama's recent re-election. Everyone talks about the "changing face of America" -- with a growing Latino population and more same-sex couples, for example -- but have the leaders and constituencies of philanthropic associations and foundations changed to match? A progress report on the successes and challenges of increasing diversity, equity and inclusion in the philanthropy arena was recently released by the D5 coalition. Launched in April 2011, D5 is a coalition of leading philanthropic associations and foundations with a five-year diversity project. By the end of 2015, D5 hopes to achieve goals such as recruiting of more diverse foundation leadership, increasing funding for diverse communities, and improving data collection to measure diversity progress in philanthropy. Among positive moves highlighted was the April meeting of 26 leaders of major foundations -- including the California Endowment, Annie E. Casey Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and Open Society Foundations -- to form an alliance for action on issues affecting youth of color. For more on D5 and its progress report, go to http://www.d5coalition.org/2013/05/new-report-offers-lessons-for-philanthropic-field-to-keep-up-with-changing-face-of-america/

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Environmentalists Hit Facebook CEO's Advocacy Ads

When corporate leaders decide to take public political stands, they sometimes are surprised by the "blowback" for their brand. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook co-founder and CEO, may soon find that out with his new advocacy group Fwd.us. Created in April,  Fwd.us promotes policies designed to keep the United States and its citizens competitive in a global economy, including comprehensive immigration and education reform. But the organization also recently paid for television ads that supported two conservative politicians seeking expansion of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, drawing criticism from progressive and environmental groups and even a small group of protesters at Facebook's California headquarters. The goal was to back the politicians, Democratic Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, in exchange for their support of immigration reform, but the environmental groups didn't see it that way. "The advertising, including the harsh and immediate counterattack from the climate change community, underscores the complexity of publicly traded companies and their CEOs frontally engaging in candidate campaigns," Democratic strategist Chris Lehane told the Los Angeles Times in a recent story. "Politics is a full-contact sport and when a company jumps into the arena, even if just through the actions of its leadership, it opens up the political brand of that company." See the full news story at http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-facebook-zuckerberg-20130502,0,5421214.story

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Donors Skittish As Enroll America Draws Scrutiny

The Obama administration’s efforts to raise private money to support implementation of its health care law have provoked such an uproar on Capitol Hill that potential donors are hesitant to contribute, according to a New York Times story citing people involved in the fundraising program. The partisan outcry in Congress began after it was revealed that Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius had made fundraising calls to business executives and nonprofit groups to assist Enroll American, a private nonprofit organization that will encourage millions of Americans to sign up for insurance this fall. Enroll America is led by veterans of the Obama White House and presidential campaigns. It plans to use campaign-style techniques to locate the uninsured. White House officials said that, while generally aware that Sebelius would be seeking support from outside groups, they did not sign off on the fundraising calls by Sebelius, per the New York Times story. Now two House committees have begun investigating the solicitations, and senior Republicans from the Senate and the House have asked the comptroller general of the United States to investigate the actions of Sebelius to determine if she was improperly circumventing spending limits imposed by Congress. One of the House panels, the Energy and Commerce Committee, has also asked health insurance companies to provide records of any contacts with administration officials seeking money or other assistance for President Obama’s campaign to enroll people eligible for subsidized insurance. For the New York Times story, go to http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/20/us/politics/potential-donors-to-enroll-america-grow-skittish.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Former Obama Campaign CTO Shares Lessons

Today's data-driven, social-media-heavy political marketing requires support of a skilled technical team for success. Who better to give advice than Harper Reed, former CTO of the Obama campaign? Reed was the keynote speaker at the Business Marketing Association Chicago's Fuel Keynote & Expo in May. Creating the right team was one focus: both hiring smart people and not being afraid to "prune" ineffective performers. "Practicing for failure" was another piece of advice, meaning anticipating and preparing for technical problems in advance. Reed said his team spent a month enacting myriad technological breakdowns so they would be ready for anything. When it came to choosing a mix of social media channels, Reed was inclusive rather than selective. The campaign had people dedicated to each of the various social channels, he said, including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and reddit. “There was no channel too small or too weird -- except Pinterest, because it just didn't work,” he said. See the BtoB Magazine report at http://www.btobonline.com/article/20130515/MANAGEMENT05/305159996/at-bma-fuel-reed-on-lessons-learned-as-obama-campaigns-cto

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Turn Facebook Fans Into an E-mail Donor List

Your cause or campaign is getting lots of "likes" on its Facebook page, but how do you transform more of those fans into donors? One way is to get Facebook supporters to move from one digital stage to another by joining your e-mail list, where they are more likely to donate in response to a private and focused appeal. Socialbrite.com, a website of "social solutions for nonprofits," has a good tutorial to help you do that. Step one is to come up with a way to make the value of joining the e-mail list outweigh the potential nuisance. Socialbrite suggestions include offering a free e-book as reward, or regular e-mails of relevant information, or a chance to sign a petition. The next step is obvious: Put an opt-in form on your Facebook page. You don't have to be a tech guru to do it; you can turn to a service like Aweber or MailChimp to create the form and then add it to your custom tab. Create an opt-in call to action that is simple, visual and compelling, and don't get pushy and scare away sign-ups: Ask for only the name and e-mail address. Remember to make that form mobile-friendly, too, to catch supporters on the go. Then promote your e-mail list sign-up with updates and ads. For easy to follow examples, go to http://www.socialbrite.org/2013/02/19/use-facebook-to-build-nonprofit-email list/

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Nonprofit Leaders Fear IRS Scandal Fallout

Nonprofit leaders are worried about the negative impact on all tax-exempt charities from the IRS scandal over 501(c)4 social welfare groups. A recent article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy laid out some of the potential collateral damage from the scandal. For example, charities have wanted the IRS to beef up oversight of tax-exempt groups and give clearer guidance on "political activities" by charities and advocacy groups for many years, but that's unlikely until the political storm passes. Nonprofit leaders are also concerned that 501(c)3 groups, which cannot engage in partisan politics at all, will be tarred with same brush as 501(c)4 advocacy groups that can do politicking as long as it is not their primary activity. "All nonprofits are being smeared as though we are engaging in political activity," fretted Tim Delaney, president of the National Council of Nonprofits, in the article. One unhappy result may be that the non-political charities, who file about 60,000 applications for tax-exempt status a year, will face significant delays in approval as Congress reviews treatment of the 3,500 annual applications from advocacy groups. Without tax-exempt status, charities are significantly impeded; they may not solicit donations in several states and are not eligible for lower postal rates or most foundation grants. Charities now are also likely to shy away from anything that smacks of advocacy, including lobbying Congress on budget issues that affect them. For the whole story, see http://philanthropy.com/article/IRS-Tea-Party-Scandal-Could/139233/

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Forecast: 2016 Election to See Social Data-Big Data Union

Social data drove the 2008 presidential election, big data drove the 2012 election, and the marriage of the two will determine the next President of the United States in 2016, predicts Gurbaksh Chahal, CEO of RadiumOne, in a Wired magazine blog article. So don't be surprised if spending for political campaigning climbs even higher than the record $6 billion spent on 2012 election ads across all media. Experts agree that Obama's 2012 win cemented the role of Big Data in campaigning, including get-out-the-vote efforts dominated by targeted messaging and digital behavioral tracking. Now big data has the opportunity to harness social media influence, mobile data and CRM databases for even greater power. New technologies, like hashtag targeting, custom ad re-targeting based on social interactions, mobile geolocation and CRM data can fuel 2016's ad campaigns and turn social sharing into paid media platforms, Chahal argues. With over 10 billion sharing events taking place each month over social media, there is definitely a wealth of new targeting information, if campaigns can figure how to efficiently sort through it. Social data feeding into big data strategies will change how political advertisers, all advertisers for that matter, approach marketing and will take targeting beyond simple impression and conversion metrics to an opportunity for a coordinated multi-channel, multi-touch approach across computers, mobile devices and tablets, concludes Chahal. And don't forget improved targeting of offline efforts like phone campaigns and direct mail, we would add. For more, see the article at http://www.wired.com/insights/2013/05/election-2016-marriage-of-big-data-social-data-will-determine-the-next-president/

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Data Debunks IRS Rationale for 'Tea Party' Scandal

Top Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials have been saying that a “significant increase” in applications from advocacy groups seeking tax-exempt status spurred its Cincinnati office in 2010 to filter those requests by using politically loaded phrases such as “Tea Party” and “patriots.” Officials have cited an increase from about 1,500 applications for 501(c)(4) “social welfare” group tax-exempt status in 2010 and to nearly 3,500 in 2012. But the data doesn't bear out the IRS explanation, notes Doug Donovan in an article for The Chronicle of Philanthropy. The IRS scrutiny of conservative applications began in March 2010, before an uptick could have been observed, according to data contained in the audit from the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration. Plus, the number of 501(c)(4) applications for all of 2010 was actually less than in 2009: According to the audit, 1,735 groups applied for 501(c)(4) exemption for the federal fiscal year that ended September 30, 2010 -- six months after the IRS began its scrutiny -- which was actually down slightly from 1,751 the prior year. The applications total did grow to 2,265 during the fiscal year that ended September 30, 2011, and to 3,357 for 2012, but by then the criteria the IRS was using to flag groups had changed to include searches for groups with names that contained “Bill of Rights,” “educating on the constitution,” and “limiting/expanding government.” For more, see the story at https://philanthropy.com/article/IRS-Rationale-for-Tea-Party/139277/

Thursday, May 23, 2013

When Holiday, Campaign Mailings Vie for Attention

Heading into autumn election periods, many marketers worry about how to time their messages so that they don't fight for attention in mailboxes stuffed with holiday offers and election mail. Catalog consultant Stephen Lett addressed this point during the 2012 election year. He argues that it is not necessarily a disadvantage to be in-home during an election week. Since many other mailers are avoiding that week, there actually should be less competition in the mailbox! Today, many consumers who are glued to the television during an election are also watching results online or on their mobile devices, meaning they can shop or donate while they keep tabs on what is happening. Lett cited data from the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections to make his point about timing. In 2004, approximately 22% of the sales for the period came in during election week, with about 84% of the circulation for the period in-home prior to the election. In comparison, the 2008 mailing was in-home the actual week of the election, and 20% of sales came in during election week. With only a 2% difference in election week sales despite the differing mail dates, he concluded that moving the in-home to election week had little impact on the response pattern. See the Chief Marketer story at http://www.chiefmarketer.com/direct-marketing/planning-holiday-mail-patterns-in-an-election-year-06032012

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Learn From Hillary: Turn Your Names Into Cash

Your database of supporters can be a money-maker without fundraising appeals. Just ask Hillary Clinton. In 2009, then-Secretary of State Clinton hauled in nearly $3.5 million in less than a year by selling access to the donor database accumulated in her unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. The names and addresses of her supporters were rented at least 60 times to a range of groups, including the Democratic Party, other Democratic politicians and advocacy groups. If your campaign or cause hasn't already done so, you should explore cashing in on the value of your names via rentals or list exchanges. The demand for quality mailing lists remains strong, and an experienced list management professional can help with both generating interest and safeguarding your names from overuse or misuse. To see how Hillary benefited, check out the story at http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/secretary-state-hillary-clinton-huge-success-rent-a-name-business-article-1.413677

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Did Some Dollars Count More in 2012 Campaigns?

A fascinating analysis by Tom Edsall for The New York Times Opinionator blog recently looked at the new landscape of campaign finance after the McCain-Feingold reforms and the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United. It seems all the more timely now that campaign finance reform has become embroiled in the IRS scandal. His data shows that, with today's political fundraising, some dollars are worth more than others to candidates, and political parties and candidates are not necessarily aided by the flood of super PAC and 501(c)4 money. Edsall notes that, in the last presidential election, Republicans not only outspent Democrats in total, but pro-Romney super PACs and independent groups doled out over $426 million, compared with the approximately $138 million that PACs and independent groups spent to support Obama. But Obama won. Why didn't dollars tip the scales? The answer isn't simple, but Edsall's figures do highlight one key factor: Dollars did count --if you're talking about the amount of money effectively controlled by each candidate's campaign. The Obama campaign had full control of 61.4% of the $1.11 billion in total Democratic presidential campaign spending (over $683 million) and designed a strategically coherent, micro-targeted, multi-channel campaign with the money. The Romney campaign controlled only 34.8%, or about $433 million, of the GOP team's larger $1.24 billion in spending -- the majority of the dollars were under the aegis of the national party and PAC/independent fundraisers. So the Romney staff actually had direct control of fewer resources at the same time that they faced spending on a contested primary and competition from sometimes inconsistent messaging by well-heeled independent support groups. Edsall predicts candidate-oriented PACs will pop up in coming elections -- further siphoning control from the parties and candidates themselves. For Edsall's detailed analysis of presidential campaign spending, go to http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/10/in-political-campaigns-do-you-get-what-you-pay-for/

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Will IRS Mess Undercut Campaign Finance Reform?

The scandal over IRS targeting of conservative and Tea Party nonprofits has at least one consequence so far: It has thrown the charge for campaign finance reform into disarray. Democrats in the Senate had planned on pushing for a new round of campaign finance reporting reforms aimed at limiting the impact of Super PACs and 501(c)4 "social welfare" groups, such as Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, which proliferated after the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision in 2010. Now Senate subcommittee hearings planned for June are on hold, so that, as Subcommittee Chair Carl Levin, D-Mich., explained, senators can prepare to investigate the IRS issue as well. Officially, Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insist that the IRS bias against conservative groups only underscores the need for campaign finance reform to clarify tax-exempt rules. But that is a position unlikely to win bipartisan support in Congress now. For more quotes from the politicos, check out the BuzzFeed article at http://www.buzzfeed.com/johnstanton/irs-scandal-could-blunt-potency-of-campaign-finance-reform

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Chatter Revs About 2016 GOP Presidential Hopefuls

Chatter about the 2016 presidential race has already started. Note the excited buzz over New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's weight-loss surgery. Now The Washington Post The Fix blog has debuted its top 10 contenders for the GOP nomination. Too soon? Political campaigning for the presidency begins years before the election, argue the bloggers, noting, "If you don’t think the candidates prominently mentioned as potential 2016ers aren’t already thinking about that race, well, you are wrong." Here's The Fix list of Republican presidential options, ranked by their likely chance at the nomination: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal; former vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul; Indiana Gov. Mike Pence; Ohio Gov. John Kasich; Ohio Sen. Rob Portman; and South Dakota Sen. John Thune. The list of top Democratic presidential contenders hasn't been revealed, but, spoiler alert, Hillary Clinton is going to be on the roster. For more, see http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/02/08/the-fixs-first-rankings-of-the-2016-republican-presidential-field/

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Super PACs Forming to Back Hillary Clinton in 2016

Super PACs are popping up to back Hillary Clinton for president in 2016, even though the former secretary of state and former First Lady hasn't announced her candidacy. Of the three super PACs formed to date (none with the formal blessing of Ms. Clinton), the largest and most successful is Ready for Hillary, set up in February. It collected almost 60,000 Twitter followers and over 55,000 Facebook fans even before its website launched, and it even earned supportive words from former Democratic strategist James Carville in a recent e-mail campaign. Its founders haven't disclosed any fundraising numbers, however. Meanwhile, other super PACs for Hillary include HILLARYCLINTONSUPERPAC and HillaryFTW, both launched by politically amateur but ardent supporters of Ms. Clinton. If Ms. Clinton decides to run for the presidency, fundraising is likely to quickly eclipse such early efforts. Her Democratic and corporate connections will create a strong, readymade donor base for a Clinton-sanctioned super PAC. Polls show Ms. Clinton leading potential opponents in voter interest, too. Other possible presidential candidates certainly aren't attracting such early PAC attention from fans -- or foes. There's even an anti-Hillary super PAC just formed: Defeat Hillary. For more, see the Politico story at http://www.politico.com/story/2013/03/pro-hillary-clinton-super-pacs-not-so-super-89479.html

Thursday, May 2, 2013

SEC Pressed to Require Political Donation Disclosure

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is being pressed by a coalition of Democratic officials, shareholder activists and pension funds to require publicly traded companies to disclose to shareholders all their political donations, according to a New York Times story. Per the report, SEC officials indicated that they may respond with a rule proposal very soon, while powerful business and conservative groups have already begun to fight a move they see as regulatory overreach. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Business Roundtable have all joined in a stand against requiring businesses to disclose political spending. House Republicans have hurriedly put together a bill to make it illegal for the SEC to regulate company political disclosure. Even the SEC is divided along political lines. The SEC has three Democratic and two Republican commissioners, and the Republican commissioners have publicly voiced their opposition to a disclosure requirement. But it will be hard for the SEC to ignore the issue; the petition for an SEC ruling on political donation disclosure has already received almost half a million comments, mostly pro, which is more than any petition in the agency's history, noted the news report. For more, see http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/24/us/politics/sec-is-asked-to-make-companies-disclose-donations.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Campaign Finance Reform Just Doesn't Rouse Public

The majority of Americans support campaign finance reform -- but not ardently enough to pressure politicians into doing anything about it, according to a recent article in The Washington Post's The Fix blog. A March 2012 Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 69% of those surveyed, across political affiliations, supported banning Super PACs, for example. A CBS News-New York Times poll in January also found that 67% of respondents thought groups unaffiliated with a candidate should not be able to spend unlimited funds on advertisements. Yet voters don't seem to care deeply enough to put pressure on politicians. Campaign finance was ranked 21st in priority out of 22 political issues in a January Pew Research Center poll, edging out only global warming, the blog article points out. Without a sense of urgency on Capitol Hill, the chances for passage of campaign finance reform bills were seen as "slim" by experts interviewed. As a clear sign of the back-burner status of campaign regulation, the article notes that, as of its publication date, all the members of the Federal Election Commission were serving on expired terms. For more, see http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/04/30/why-dont-americans-care-more-about-campaign-finance-reform/?wprss=rss_national

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Nonprofit Political Spending Under New Scrutiny

Senate hearings, a watchdog lawsuit, an IRS questionnaire and SEC deliberations are placing nonprofit spending on political campaigns under the microscope, according to a recent Bloomberg news story. Nonprofit 501(c)(4) "social welfare" groups, such as Obama-supporter-founded Priorities USA and conservative Karl Rove-inspired Crossroads GPS, have proliferated and spent more than $300 million on the 2012 election campaign, a 280% bump from the previous presidential election, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Now the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations is querying Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials on their failure to check nonprofit spending on partisan politics, reports Bloomberg. At the same time, the Washington-based watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics is suing the IRS to force a ban on 501(c)(4) nonprofit political spending. Current federal law requires these nonprofits to be operated exclusively for social welfare activities, but IRS regulations require only that such groups are "primarily engaged" in promoting social welfare and "the common good." Some organizations have interpreted this IRS language to mean they can collect donations and spend on political action as long as the expenditures make up less than 50% of their outlay. The IRS is moving carefully on the issue, according to the Bloomberg story. It recently asked about engagement in political campaigns on a questionnaire sent to 1,300 nonprofits claiming tax-exempt status. Meanwhile, the Securities and Exchange Commission is considering a rule requiring publicly traded companies to disclose donations to nonprofits, including those channeling big dollars into partisan issues. The issue is definitely heating up, so watch for more legal challenges of nonprofit spending on politics and failure to disclose donors, predicted experts cited in the story. For more detail, see http://www.campaignlegalcenter.org/index.php?option=com_content&id=2099:april-16-2013-bloomberg-senate-scrutiny-of-nonprofits-spurring-disclosure-taxes-&Itemid=62

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Donors Aren't Flocking to Obama Advocacy Group

Organizing for Action, the advocacy group launched in January to support President Obama's second-term agenda on issues like immigration and gun control, has attracted just a fraction of the donors from Obama's re-election campaign so far. OFA, which is a nonprofit social welfare group and so without the strict limits placed on individual contributors to an election campaign, raised $4.9 million in the first quarter of this year, an amount dwarfed by the more than $1 billion drummed up by Obama's re-election effort. And it may be an interesting comment on the post-election fundraising challenge that Obama's generous Hollywood supporters, like Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, have not yet turned out for OFA.  Meanwhile, the new advocacy group claimed "grassroots" strength and reported 109,582 donors and an average donation of $44 for the first quarter; it also voluntarily released the names of the 1,428 donors who gave $250 or more. For more, see the USA Today report at http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/04/12/organizing-for-action-president-obama-fundraising/2077201/

Thursday, April 18, 2013

ATTN Obama Twitter Followers: It's Not From Obama

Barack Obama, the first sitting President with a Twitter account, has over 29 million Twitter followers, but do most of those fans realize that the account is no longer run by the President and his staff? Shortly after the recent election, Barack Obama's campaign handed over management of social media accounts, including Twitter and Facebook, to a newly formed entity called Organizing for Action, a 501 (c)(4) nonprofit. Like its conservative counterparts, such as Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, Organizing for Action (OFA) can't advocate or seek donations for a particular candidate, but it can independently advocate and raise funds for social issues and public policy, such as gun control legislation, or even causes not supported by President Obama in theory. Nonpartisan OFA should not to be confused, despite the similar initials, with Obama for America, the campaign organization that managed social media communications during Obama's first campaign, first term, and second run for office. It's all legal, but some may wonder about the gray areas introduced by political use of social media. Is it ethical to quietly hand over a valuable political online identity to a nonpartisan outside group? Is it ethical that @BarackObama Twitter followers may think they're hearing from the Oval Office when they are really getting messages from an independent nonprofit? For an in-depth discussion, see the recent story by Philip Bump for The Atlantic Wire at http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2013/04/youre-not-following-barackobama-twitter/63930/

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

GOP Warns Against FCC Political-Ad Disclosure Rule

GOP senators warned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in an April letter that the agency should avoid passing new rules requiring disclosure of those funding political ads. The letter to the FCC commissioners was in response to a Senate Commerce Oversight hearing last month in which Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson (Fla.) urged the commissioners to do via rule-making what Congress has failed to achieve legislatively. The FCC letter was signed by more than a dozen GOP members of the Senate Commerce Committee, as well as minority leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.). After the Citizen's United decision by the Supreme Court, which lifted a ban on corporate and union funding of campaign ads, Democrats responded by introducing the Disclose Act in 2010 and reintroducing it in 2012, but the bill failed to pass. Converting the bill's intent into an FCC rule would take the the agency beyond its statutory role to "weigh in on a partisan political dispute," which would "seriously undermine the integrity of the commission and imperil its independence," the GOP letter argued. For the news story, see http://www.adweek.com/news/television/gop-fcc-dont-take-political-ad-disclosures-148531

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Political Power: Ads That Toppled a Dictator

If you doubt the power of astute political marketing, you need to see the Oscar-nominated film about the "No" ad campaign that led to the ouster of Chile's General Augusto Pinochet and his violent military regime. A recent Direct Marketing News article -- titled "Best Political Marketing Campaign Ever?" -- calls attention to that story. Although the film can be criticized as a fictionalization rather than a documentary of the campaign, anyone in the business of marketing a candidate or a cause may find its tale, including actual ad footage, instructive. The event that inspired the movie occurred in 1988, when Pinochet bowed to international pressure after 15 years of oppressive rule and agreed to hold a plebiscite vote on the legitimacy of his power. Each side was allowed 15 minutes of free airtime a day to make the case for or against the Pinochet junta. Pro-Pinochet ads focused on fear (including fear of Marxist enemies), while the "No" campaign used a rainbow logo, upbeat images and music, and the tagline “Chile, happiness is coming!” The anti-Pinochet campaign ending up winning 56% of the vote. Of course, more was involved than advertising to accomplish this bloodless coup, but even jaded marketers may find inspiration in the power of positive political branding. For more, see the article at http://www.dmnews.com/best-political-marketing-campaign-ever-the-ads-that-ousted-pinochet/article/285979/#

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

2012 Nonprofit E-mail, Online Fundraising Grew

Nonprofit fundraising via online and e-mail showed strong growth in 2012, according to new research by M+R Strategic Services and Nonprofit Technology Network. Its "2013 eNonprofit Benchmarks" study found that 2012 e-mail lists grew by 15% over the prior year and online revenue grew by 21%, with monthly online giving up 43%. Social media followers soared, too, as nonprofit Twitter followers increased by 264% and Facebook fans went up by 46%. Still, social media impact was dwarfed by e-mail contacts, with only 149 Facebook fans and 53 Twitter followers for every 1,000 e-mail subscribers in 2012. But here's the bad news for nonprofits: E-mail response rates also declined by 21% last year compared to 2011, due to a 27% dip in click-through rates. For more on the study, see the AdvisorOne report at http://www.advisorone.com/2013/04/01/nonprofits-online-fundraising-grew-21-in-2012

Thursday, April 4, 2013

PayPal to Release New Mobile Giving Platform

PayPal-enabled nonprofits will soon benefit from a new mobile-optimized donate screen, according to a recent Huffington Post story. Donors via PayPal will be prompted by the new screen, which aims at making the mobile-giving process smoother, cleaner and more user-friendly. It is doubtless a response to a 242% growth in the value of mobile donations processed by PayPal between 2011 and 2012. The new PayPal feature is in beta test and slated for release this year, per the report. For more, see the story at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/26/mobile-giving-ebay_n_2958521.html

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Facebook's Zuckerberg Starting Advocacy Group

Social media and online-tech leaders are flexing their political muscle. Clear proof is that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is starting a political advocacy group of technology leaders, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article. Per the WSJ story, Zuckerberg and group co-organizer Joe Green, Zuckerberg's former Harvard University roommate, have already received monetary pledges from other heavyweight tech executives, including LinkedIn Corp. founder Reid Hoffman. They have also enlisted savvy political operatives such as Rob Jessmer, former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Joe Lockhart, former press secretary under President Bill Clinton and former Facebook vice president of global communications. The advocacy group, which has not chosen a name, aims at raising $50 million to lobby for federal legislative reform on issues ranging from immigration to education, according to WSJ sources. The group plans to register as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit social welfare group. Stay tuned for an official announcement of this new incarnation of targeted online and social networking power. For the full story, see http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324105204578384781088854740.html

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Senate Seeks to End Political Mail Discounts

Here's some unpleasant news for political campaigners: The Senate has approved a budget amendment to take away mailing discounts for political campaigns and committees. The move is aimed at generating more revenue for the struggling U.S. Postal Service, and it is estimated that the end of nonprofit postal discount rates for political mailers would bring in at least $15 billion in additional revenue annually. That would be a boon for the USPS, which is losing $40 million a day, and a blow to small political campaigns forced to pay full postage. For the news alert, see http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/289997-senate-votes-to-end-mailing-discounts-for-political-parties

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Take Some Nonprofit Research With a Grain of Salt

We often pass along nonprofit research results to campaigns and causes, but here's a timely caution that all research is not equal. Some "studies" can mislead, and you should always look behind the curtain before you let any "findings" influence marketing strategy. In a recent opinion piece in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Phil Buchanan, president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, cited five basic questions to ask before you swallow a nonprofit research report hook, line and sinker. Watch out for faulty methodology (self-selecting participants instead of a representative sample); unwarranted conclusions (those oversimplified headline grabbers); collective opinion (informed expertise is not unbiased data); unreported prior research (new findings without context); and unidentified sponsors (yes, research can be biased by its funding). For the full article, got to http://philanthropy.com/article/5-Simple-Questions-to-Ask/137743/

Thursday, March 21, 2013

FCC Cites Robocallers for Cell Phone Campaigning

Regulators have responded to the many mobile phone users complaining about unsolicited political "robocalls" last year. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently cited two robocalling firms for illegally sending campaign messages to cell phone users in 2011 and 2012. Dialing Services, based in New Mexico and specializing in Republican campaigning, and Democratic Dialing, based in Colorado and largely a Democratic campaign tool, are both accused of placing calls to consumers without their permission and of failing to properly identify themselves to those called. Communications law generally prohibits robocalls and auto-dialed calls, including voice messages and text messages, to wireless phones unless the users have granted permission for the contact, or there is an emergency. The FCC warned the two firms to stop making illegal calls within 15 days. If they fail to stop, or restart the practice, the robocallers can be fined as much as $16,000 per call. For the whole news story, go to http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-03-15/business/37754326_1_robocalls-fcc-investigation-fcc-staff

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Obama Starts Fundraising; GOP Urged to Revamp

After only a brief pause, President Obama is returning to the campaign trail to raise funds for Democratic candidates in 2014 races. Obama's fundraising plans are reportedly more ambitious than previous second-term presidents. He has committed to hosting at least 14 fundraisers for House and Senate Democratic hopefuls this year. According to various news stories, he will kick off his effort April 3 in San Francisco. The Republican response? Well, after some party soul-searching about its 2012 database and digital lags, the Republican National Committee announced it will be going to San Francisco as well -- to open an office in the heavily Democratic city in order to better connect "with people who can improve the party's technology," per a quote from RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. The RNC is concerned with changing more than the GOP's tactical approach, of course. A recently released RNC analysis urged an overhaul of party message, warning that female, minority and younger voters have been alienated by what they see as the GOP's stale policies and image of intolerance. However, the report came up short on policy changes that might woo these voters. For more on the RNC report, see The Los Angeles Times story at http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-new-gop-20130319,0,4073628.story?track=rss

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Nonprofit Groups Track Pain of Sequestration

Two nonprofit groups are trying to track the impact of federal sequestration spending cuts on nonprofit organizations and the communities they serve. The National Council of Nonprofits (NCN) has launched the www.givevoice.org site as a "storytelling and data collection hub" to allow nonprofits to share their stories about sequestration. At the same time, The Center for Effective Government (CEG), formerly OMB Watch, had added a new page called "Sequestration Central" to its website www.foreffectivegov.org. The page will be dedicated to tracking "both projected and actual impacts on affected federal programs" through original reports and analyses by CEG, as well as links to media stories and other relevant organizations. Sequestration -- which will cut spending on education, national parks, air traffic control and consumer safety by about 5% and defense by almost 8% -- will put multiple new strains on charities. NCN President and CEO Tim Delaney explained to "NonProfit Times" recently that many nonprofits will be "hit by direct funding cuts to programs, hit again as state and local government cut their funding further to make up for their budgets being cut, and hit a third time as people who are furloughed or laid off as part of sequestration turn to nonprofits for help in unprecedented numbers." If your nonprofit is adversely affected, share the pain, urges Delaney, to push policymakers to fix the sequester and "stop hurting the American people." See the complete story at http://www.thenonprofittimes.com/news-articles/nonprofits-tracking-federal-sequestration-impact/

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Should a Consumer Brand Jump Into Politics?

What do most consumer brands gain when they publicly take sides in our divisive national political debates? Less market share would be the warning from Michael Jordan in a recent piece for the Beloved Brands blog. He cites the negative brouhahas when Chick-Fil-A's president publicly declared his support of traditional marriage, or when Whole Foods' CEO derided Obamacare as "fascism," or when Donald Trump championed any one of his more extreme attention-getters. Results? Chick-Fil-A's positive brand rating plummeted, and the company quickly sought to distance itself from its chief's personal opinions. Whole Foods was battered by a social media storm among its upscale clientele, and the CEO hurried to recast his comments. And Donald Trump is reaping lower ratings for "The Apprentice" as well as his mainstream political ambitions. Of course, if your product, service or industry is directly involved in, or affected by, legislation, then a public position can make sense -- although it may be seen as self-serving. For most consumer brand marketers, however, Jordan advises turning to "Sesame Street" for some basic wisdom: When Mitt Romney gave Big Bird a chance to speak out for government funding, the tall yellow fellow kept mum and thus kept true to an apolitical brand for parents all along the political spectrum. For the complete article, see http://beloved-brands.com/2013/03/02/politics/

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Use of Infographics Can Boost Fundraising Response

Infographics, those colorful visualizations of data, are now being used by some nonprofits to more effectively communicate with donors and activists by incorporating them in e-mail, direct mail, social media, presentations, video, and even decals. Wondering how infographics can help your fundraising campaign? Production Solutions, a production management firm, has come to the rescue with an infographic (of course) on nonprofit use of infographics. Among the persuasive factoids graphically displayed: The African Wildlife Federation increased its overall response rate more than 893% over comparable e-mail campaigns with standard text when it used an e-mail campaign with infographics -- and increased donations 252%. Nonprofit amfAR increased prospect response 13.5% and reinstatement program response 11% when it incorporated infographics in its direct mail. To get a look at the complete infographic, go to http://www.productionsolutions.com/infographics-a-powerful-tool-in-non-profit-fundraising/?utm_source=PI20130214&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=PS-Insider

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Politics Embraces Micro-targeting, Faces New Issues

Micro-targeted political advertising will continue to attract more candidates and causes now that its power and promise have been demonstrated in the 2012 election, according to a new study by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). It would be surprising if campaigners didn't rush to embrace it when IAB analysis concludes that micro-targeted digital advertising can make the difference between winning and losing in close elections, and when, at the recent IAB Annual Leadership Meeting, a data guru like Nate Silver, author of the best-selling "The Signal and the Noise," forecasts that the future of political campaigns will depend on micro-targeting and Big Data analytics. Besides looking back at the changes wrought by the micro-targeting trend, the IAB study also highlighted future opportunities and challenges. Among the opportunities are tweaking targeted ads by monitoring voter reaction, and combining "retail " door-to-door campaigning with microtargeting tactics. Among the challenges are some thorny privacy issues as well as use of mobile apps. For a summary of study findings or to download the whole whitepaper, go to http://www.iab.net/about_the_iab/recent_press_releases/press_release_archive/press_release/pr-022613_politicalwhitepaper