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/