I received the third copy of an email today from a former Presidential candidate, and it reminded me of the frustration I felt in 2009/2010 when I was Director of Communications for the Nevada Republican Party (and, also, the Clark County Republican Party), a frustration that stems from out-of-state candidates and campaigns “poaching” for money in our local turf. This probably goes on all over the country, but it seems to be prevalent here in Nevada, and that’s what I’d like to address.
In 2009/2010, my frustration was with the national Republican Senatorial Election group, which was trying to raise funds in Nevada to support Senatorial election campaigns around the country. This was frustrating because we had a shot in 2010 of defeating Harry Reid – which certainly seemed to be a national priority for Republicans and Conservatives, but one that was very much dependent on our ability to raise funds to go head-to-head with the man Rush Limbaugh calls “Dingy Harry.” In fact, we never did raise enough money to defeat the well-funded and media-backed Majority Leader, and I have to wonder how much of that could be ascribed to the financial drain that came from out-of-state groups poaching on our fund-raising ability here in Nevada.
At the time, I wrote to the National Republican Senatorial Committee suggesting that they limit their fund-raising to the the states which didn’t have a contested senatorial campaign needing local support – not surprisingly, I never got even the courtesy of an answer. When it comes to fund-raising, there is no party loyalty, there is no “professional courtesy,” there is only “gimme, gimme, gimme …”
Which brings to mind what triggered this blog. I am represented by a one-term Congressmen, Dr. Joe Heck (R-NV) who, as with all low-seniority Congressmen, is more vulnerable than others who might be running. In addition, my Senator, Dean Heller (R-NV) was named to fill the remainder of the term of disgraced former Senator John Ensign (R-NV), who resigned “one step ahead of the sheriff” for – while married – having an affair with a staffer (who was also the wife of a staffer) then having his wealthy Casino-owning parents pay off the irate husband, in what is clearly an ethics violation as well as a betrayal of the voters (like me) who’d worked hard to put Ensign in office.
So I’ve got two short-tenure, highly-vulnerable Republicans representing me in the House and the Senate, and – logically – if I have any financial resources I’m willing to invest in electing people to Congress, you’d think I should focus on my own representatives. Right?
Well, apparently not according to one-time Presidential candidate and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachman (R-MN). It appears that Congresswoman Bachman is being Gerrymandered out of her Congressional seat – her district has been redrawn so that she no longer even lives in what’s left of the District she’s served – she now lives in a District represented by a six-term Democrat. So she’s ignited a flurry of fund-raising efforts to raise money to help her remain in Congress.
I’m sorry to hear that the Congresswoman got Gerrymandered, but I’m not surprised. Redrawing districts every ten years is the reward for winning control of the state legislature in every election year which coincides with our every-ten-year national Census, as mandated by the Constitution. In her email (below) she blames Liberal judged, and I suppose there could have been a legal challenge that went against her, but it’s the state legislatures that redraw districts, and I can only assume that Minnesota went Democrat in 2010, giving that party the Constitutional right to redraw the districts.
It appears that the Congresswoman is running in her old district, without (apparently) moving to live in that District. That’s legal, but not optimal, and I’m not sure I’d even vote for a Congresswoman who didn’t live in my District, no matter how much I like her politics – it’s both traditional and important, in my opinion, for a Representative to live in the District she represents. As someone who’s managed media and strategy for Congressional and Senatorial campaigns for many Republicans, I would have advised her to move her legal residence – but I’m not advising her, and she didn’t ask me for my opinion.
But she did ask me for money – a lot of money – and this is why I’m writing this blog, why I’m concerned about Electoral Hubris. It has gotten more and more common for candidates for office to reach out – outside of their districts or states (or, as Obama did in 2008, outside of their country) – to raise money for their campaigns. Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) did that very effectively when he ran to replace Ted Kennedy’s hand-picked successor in the US Senate – I even contributed to him (but it was an off-year election, and he didn’t siphon money I would have given to a local Republican, so I have less of a problem with that). And Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has done so, in his own off-year battle over recall. Those made a kind of sense, since they were, in effect, off-year “national” elections.
But there are many more, “in-season” elections in which local or state candidates who seem to be able to reach a national following reach out for money. Rand Paul did this – not surprising, as he tapped into his father Ron Paul’s (R-TX) national base of passionate supporters. But so did Marco Rubio (R-FL), who’s got no real claim (yet) to a national constituency), and now we see Congresswoman Michele Bachman doing it. As you can see in the email below, which she’s sent me at least three times in the past week, she not only lays claim to being a “national candidate,” but she also asks me for $2,500 – three times.
As an aside, and speaking as a long-time political fund-raiser, I can tell you that this shoot-for-the-moon strategy ($2,500 is the most you can give to a candidate under Federal Election laws and regs – Super PACs are a different story) is not a sound one. As Howard Dean demonstrated in 2004 (thanks to the genius of Joe Trippe), $25 is a good number to ask for. Ten times that is going to scare off many more than it attracts, and that – along with poaching out of your district – is where my title, “Electoral Hubris,” comes from.
It takes big brass ones to ask strangers for that kind of money – no brains, but big brass ones. Michele, it won’t work, and frankly, it shouldn’t work. You ought to stick to your own district, or – if you’re going national, ask a lot of people for a small amount of money – a sum they can afford to ‘throw away” on a campaign that won’t really impact them, one way or another.
Take it from someone in Vegas – that’s a tip you can bet on!
PS – below is the email Michele Bachman sent me (four times!), and below that is the reply I sent to her. If she replies, I’ll post that here, too.
Ned Barnett – Nevada Conservative
Ned Barnett has worked in campaigns, and as a speechwriter to candidates and elected officials, since he was the “mascot” to the local Young Republicans in 1964 (Goldwater) – he has managed media and strategy for three state-level Presidential campaigns, and worked hand-in-glove with the legendary Lee Atwater in South Carolina in the Ford Campaign. In 2009-10, as an active Tea Party supporter, he served as both the Clark County/Las Vegas and Nevada Republican Party Communications Director. He owns Barnett Marketing Communications in Las Vegas, and provides a full range of PR, marketing, issues-management and fund-raising services for clients in Las Vegas, around the country, and in several other countries. He can be reached at 702-561-1167 or email@example.com …
Dear Congresswoman Bachman
This is the third time you’ve sent me this email, Ms. Bachman. Is there some reason why you thought that I’d respond the third time when I didn’t the first two?
I’m sorry you have been gerrymandered out of your district – that’s what happens to some Congressmen after each Census, and it’s unfortunate in your case. But thinking that I might care enough to send $2,500 to you is a bit much, and your repeated hammering of that price makes me feel that anything less won’t help. Since $2,500 is a lot of money, and since I’m self-employed, I’m afraid I’m not in your price range.
Since what I might be willing to contribute is below even your minimum request amount of $35, I guess all I can do is ask that you quit begging me for money I don’t choose to spare for your quixotic campaign to represent a district you don’t even live in. My contributions will go to helping to re-elect my own Republican Congressman and my own Republican Senator.
I wish you well, but I’m frankly far more concerned about electing someone to represent me in Congress – your supporters in Minnesota should do the same thing.
Good luck, but please quit begging me for far more money than I’m willing to contribute to another District’s Congresswoman.
Ned Barnett, APR
Marketing & PR Fellow, American Hospital Association
Barnett Marketing Communications
420 N. Nellis Blvd., A3-276 – Las Vegas NV 89110
702-561-1167 – cell/text
www.barnettmarcom.com – twitter @nedbarnett
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