Project Wonderful

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Did Doug Jones Win Because of Yard Signs? CampaignSick rates as "True but Misleading"

There are two articles that I've had posted on my Facebook, tweeted, texted and emailed to me at least a dozen times each in the past two weeks. One is about unionizing Democratic campaigns (more on that soon- so excited to post my interview with Campaign Workers Guild.) The other is this provocatively titled "How Yard Signs Helped Beat Roy Moore and Could Elect Red State Dems."

For the uninitiated, yard signs are the bane of every Field Director and Campaign Manager's existence because they suck up an inordinate amount of resources and are generally considered ineffective. Every time an article like the one about Doug Jones is published it is cited by hacktivists and candidates alike who believe it to be proof that their terrible gut instincts are now backed by scientific data.

Let's look at what the article actually says. First, it's important to remember that no actual test was done. If Jones' campaign had utilized yard signs in only some precincts but not in others with similar makeups we might be able to draw more reliable conclusions about what effect if any the yard signs had. Second, no one, even proponents of this strategy are claiming that yard signs are responsible for Doug Jones' win.

Of course, he doesn’t think Jones won because of yard signs. No campaign is won or lost because of a single decision, especially in a race with circumstances as unique as the Alabama special election, in which Moore, the GOP candidate, was accused of child molestation.

Rather, the philosophy behind employing yard signs was that it would help convince traditionally Republican Alabamans that it was socially acceptable to vote for a Democrat.

Their realization: the campaign needed to show Republican voters — some of whom hadn’t voted for a Democrat in decades — that it would be OK to support one this time around...“I remember sitting with Giles and talking about neighbor-to-neighbor legitimization,” Perry told McClatchy. “And how this race was different in that signs were going to matter.”

In that regard the move totally makes sense. Let's be honest, Doug Jones won because Roy Moore is a cartoon parody of a dumpster human. (Unlike Donald Trump, Moore did not have the benefit of running against a woman who had already been publicly maligned for the past 20 years.) People needed permission to break the assumed social code and vote Dem. So yes, yard signs work if your opponent is an actual pedophile/child rapist.

The final important point in the article is how the yard signs were distributed.
Perry was most proud of how the campaign handed out its signs, a process he says was never-before-done in Alabama politics. Anybody who wanted one first had to give his or her name, address, telephone number, and email address. The Jones supporter could pick one up from a neighbor, too, but only if he or she could also supply contact information.

To Perry, this was the yard signs’ most important contribution. The data became a resource for the campaign, helping it organize and then mobilize its dedicated supporters and volunteers.

Which supports what operatives have always said, which is that IF yard signs are distributed they should be used to collect volunteer support or information.

So there you have it: yard signs can be used to motivate supporters or defeat pedophiles. But the main point that even the campaign manager in this article would agree with is that they are not a substitute or even a valid supplement for good old fashioned voter contact.


Sharing a Powerful Message From Heather Colburn


News broke yesterday that yet another Democratic/progressive consulting firm is in hot water because of sexual harassment.

Although I absolutely love the men I work and have worked with (so much so that I married one) I've been finding myself overwhelmed by the maleness of our industry lately. Not just the brogressives who attend women's marches but deride "identity politics" and fail to identify the hypocrisy in the incidents like the one at Revolution Messaging but the very paradigms on which our industry is based. When I read Heather (who is EMILY's List's chief fundraising trainer and partner in her own firm)'s Facebook post on the matter it so perfectly articulated something I've been wanting to say that I asked if I could share it here. Please read below:

I need to get something off my chest. This is the second digital firm in two weeks to have women come forward about terrible acts of sexual misconduct by male partners in firms. There is no way that we will ever have more power if we just change the faces in Congress, we must change who has power in politics in this country and Congress is just the beginning .

Women managers, fundraisers, staff and consultants are the ones who weigh in on how messaging should be done, what legislation we should prioritize and what women say on the campaign trail. When they are surrounded by men, how can decisions that reflect our values be presented? The bottom line is they can't. But if you read this and work in politics, this is on YOU to solve. Does your consulting team have women on it? And not the fundraiser, who is typically a woman. I mean a decision maker.

Second- where there is smoke there is fire. Please stop defending these men. WHY are these men anonymous in these stories? I know their names. You should too. You know why they are? Because they have lawyers- lawyers you paid for when you hired these firms or contributed to these candidates. Lawyers who know this is true and are trying to contain the damage.

Third, this isn't about you, male consultant, who I love. You should be prosperous and I hope you are. But we paid for this table, its our goddam table and we're going to sit at it. So hire a female consulting firm, promote women managers, mentor females and make them named partners, do sexual harassment trainings at your workplace and stand with us. And never, ever, decide what's best for a woman, without a woman in the room.

Thank you.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

NGP That Works Like VAN? Yes please! (Interview about NGP 8 with Lou Levine)



When I learned there was a way to make NGP work like VAN I was all YES PLEASE. Then my finance director came on and made me change it back. Nevertheless, I am stoked about this new development and couldn't wait to share it with you! See below for my interview with NGP's Lou Levine about the new, great NGP 8!

First things first tell us about yourself. What's your position at NGP VAN and what were you doing beforehand?
I’m the Sr Vice President and General Manager for Political Fundraising and Compliance. I’ve been at the company for 18 years now, and started back when it was just NGP. I wear a lot of hats, but my main role here is to be the person generally in charge of the traditional "NGP" side of our business. Before joining the company, I was in college at Claremont McKenna in California. [Editor's note: Dang. 18 years in the same job is a campaign person's eternity.]

Okay now tell us about NGP 8. What is it and why should we be excited?
NGP 8 is the latest iteration of our industry-standard fundraising and compliance toolset, and it's the culmination of years of work. There is a ton to be excited about in NGP 8. We've already added a lot of new functionality around call time, including custom call sheets, enhanced mobile call time, and the ability to run call time from within the application. It works seamlessly with our amazing digital tools - Digital 8, allowing you to have an full view of your supporters both online and offline, and interact with them the way that best works for them.

And of course, NGP 8 still has a tightly integrated compliance functionality, so you can take care of all aspects of the campaign from one place. The thing i'm most excited about is that we've built it on top of the same underlying database as VAN - the Action Platform. So what that means is that as we've been making improvements to NGP 8, we've also been making improvements to VAN. And when someone learns how to use VAN, that means that they can look at NGP 8 and immediately know the basics of how that system works. And over the long term, we expect that to be a big win for the progressive movement as a whole. (Click here to listen to more of why Lou’s excited about NGP 8.)

What has the reception been so far?
We've seen a lot of positive reaction so far to NGP 8, especially from down-ballot campaigns. I'm pretty excited to say that in the few short months that we've had it up, we have over 300 campaigns already using it. We've also acknowledged many people’s fear of new and different things, and that change can sometimes be challenging. That said, we always try to listen and respond to our users' feedback.

As a field person turned manager I love NGP 8, but I know some finance directors and compliance firms still prefer NGP 7. Are there some things 7 can do that 8 can't or are these just growing pains?
A lot of it is growing pains on the part of the user and the fact that changing your workflow is hard. It's not an exaggeration to say that many finance and compliance directors spend the bulk of their day in NGP, so naturally any change is going to be a disruptive one, and take some getting used to.

I'm hard-pressed to think of things that NGP 7 can do that you can't do in 8. In general, when building features in NGP 8, we used the criteria of "the user needs to be able to do what they were able to do in 7". But as you said, there are some users that still prefer 7, and it's just going to be a steady process of listening to their feedback and winning them over. Having been around here as long as I have been, we've successfully navigated that process with users a number of times, and i'm confident we'll be able to do it again.

Is the plan to eventually only have this NGP or is the old NGP here to stay?
Generally, we've taken the approach that we don't force people off a platform they are happy using. We still have people using NGP Classic, and we still have folks on NGP 7. I'd really like to retire NGP Classic in the coming years, and we'd like for the overwhelming majority of people to move to NGP 8 as soon as they’re ready. The long term plan is for there to be only one NGP. In a perfect world, I'd wave a magic wand and everyone would be using the most recent version of our tools.

Can a campaign go back and forth between the two?
Not really. We do offer a way to move online fundraising data from NGP 8 into NGP 7, but that's about it.

This is really exciting! What else exciting is on the horizon for NGP VAN?
We've got a lot going on right now! We're continuing to improve the NGP tools, coming out with further improvements to our fundraising and call time tools, and adding tighter integration with VAN.
We are on-boarding our first state party committees onto NGP 8 as well. We've got an improved, actual integration with ActBlue coming soon. Our EveryAction business has been growing rapidly, and pushing us to do even more innovation, which is really exciting. And we've been working with lots of the new companies that have sprung up out of the tech resistance. And let's not forget, we've got some big elections to win in 2018 and beyond - and we're already planning for that.

And the question I ask everyone on the blog. What is something you wish you had known earlier in your career?
I wish someone had told me just how long impressions, both good and not-so-good can last. I've been doing this for 18 years, and I've seen how good work that I did early on has continued to pay dividends now, and missteps over the years have been hard to get folks to forget. I've been fortunate in that the good has heavily outweighed the bad, but people at all stage of their careers should keep in mind that people have long memories.

Thank you so much, Lou! If you are not using NGP First of all what?! Second of all, you can learn more here.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

When Campaign Staffers Become Candidates: Meet Richard Becker


When I found out Richard Becker was running for office I about flipped over in my office chair, not only because I think he will make an amazing State Representative, but also because he was my intern in Iowa in 2008! Having known and worked with Richard in his younger days I was already all about his candidacy, but after reading this I donated to his campaign again and I think you should too. You can learn more about Richard at BeckerforKentucky.com



1.Who are you? Tell us a little about your life and career path up to now.

I live in Louisville, Kentucky with my girlfriend Jane, my dog Bernie, and a cat named Pancake. I work as a union organizer with Service Employees International Union (SEIU), based here in Louisville. I have been a union organizer for seven years. Prior to that, I worked on Democratic campaigns in Iowa, Kentucky, Arizona, and Ohio doing field organizing work at various levels. I'm a graduate of the University of Kentucky with a BA in History. I got involved in politics for the first time in 2004, volunteering first for Howard Dean and later for John Kerry in the general election.

When I got to college in 2005, my interest in politics really took off. I served as president of the UK College Democrats and later as state co-chair of the College Democrats of Kentucky. In 2008, I took a semester off from school to work in Ohio for the Obama campaign. I often tell people that I learned more about politics and life during that semester off school than I learned in all my other semesters combined. After finishing school in 2010, I worked briefly in Arizona for the Democratic Party before returning to Kentucky to work for Attorney General Jack Conway on his campaign for U.S. Senate against Rand Paul.

That campaign left me feeling deflated about electoral politics. I knew I needed to try something new. I’d interacted with labor unions a lot during my years on political campaigns, and it seemed to me like I could take my skills as a campaign organizer and put them to work on behalf of a cause, on behalf of a movement, rather than on behalf of a person on the ballot. So I made the leap into union organizing, working for AFSCME in Louisville and later, joining SEIU where I remain today. I love my work. Getting to help empower workers to make positive change in their workplaces and communities is so rewarding. All of the Democratic Party’s post-2016 talk about “connecting with the working-class” is not an abstraction for me. It’s literally what I do every day at my job. And I believe it’s made me a better candidate now that I’m running for office.



2.Have you always wanted to run for office? What made you want to run? Why now?

I often tell people that if you’d asked me a year ago if I’d ever be running for office, I’d have dismissed the notion outright. And that’s the truth. But I was there a year ago, in January 2017, when the new Republican majority in Frankfort passed their extreme raft of anti-worker, anti-woman, anti-public school legislation. I was there, with my union brothers and sisters, locked out of the committee rooms, when Gov. Bevin testified in support of so-called “right to work” in front of a room packed with lobbyists and donors from Americans for Prosperity. I’ve watched as Bevin has waged a war on workers, a war on women, and a war on my city of Louisville. I’m mad. And so are countless thousands of other Kentuckians. I believe that our current political moment demands that people of good conscience with progressive values must enter the fray. That’s why I’m doing this. As for why now?

In early November 2017, my state representative, Jim Wayne--for whom I have an enormous amount of affection and respect--announced he would not seek re-election in 2018. The day the news broke, I happened to be at a convention of the Kentucky AFL-CIO, surrounded by my labor union family. Word spread that I lived in the district, and one-by-one, leaders from our Kentucky labor movement approached me and urged me to run. After some consideration and some planning, I decided to file.

3.Tell us a little about your race

I’m running in a Democratic primary with two Democratic opponents, in a district that is about 60% Democratic by registration. I was the first candidate to file, and we hit the ground running from day one. Our message is simple: “our district deserves a fighting voice for working people in Frankfort, someone who will take the fight to Matt Bevin and not back down when the going gets tough.”

I respect both of my Democratic opponents and fully intend to support the nominee if I don’t win the primary. But primaries in districts like mine, where registration numbers suggest that a Democrat is favored for the general election, offer us the opportunity to decide who we want representing us. There are any number of good people who run for office who we can count on to vote the right way for the most part, or even to say the right thing from time to time. But with one-party rule in Frankfort that’s hellbent on destroying workers’ rights, dismantling our public schools, and implementing all kinds of backwards policies on women’s rights and immigrant’s rights, I believe our current political moment demands more. I believe we need bold, outspoken, fresh leadership in Frankfort. We need a new kind of politics that’s not afraid to speak up and speak out, and bring the people to Frankfort with them to fight for progressive values. In short, I think we need more organizers running for office!

4.What's the biggest difference between being campaign staff and a candidate?

Great question! I think the biggest difference is that when you’re the candidate, the buck stops with you. There’s no higher authority to turn to when a decision needs to be made. There’s no one to fall on their sword if something goes wrong. There’s only you. That can be intimidating at times, but it’s also a great opportunity to sharpen my instincts in a way that will hopefully help me once I’m elected.

I have marveled at how much of my experience and training as a campaign staffer translates to being a candidate. From recruiting volunteers, to developing a winning message, to targeting persuadable voters, all of the skills I’ve gleaned over the years have helped me tremendously in this new chapter of my political life.

Now if I could just get my campaign manager to use FreeConferenceCall.com...

5.Is there anything you've realized as a candidate that would have helped you when you were a staffer?

To be honest--there have been times on campaigns where I have had criticisms of my candidate that in retrospect were a bit unfair. I’m not running for president or U.S. Senate by any means, but running for state representative is still a demanding job, and realizing that, I can only imagine how stressful it must be to run at those higher levels. I think that it would’ve helped me as a staffer to have the full context of what being a candidate really means, because it might’ve made me more forgiving of the missteps and shortcomings of some of the candidates I’ve worked for over the years.

6.What's been the biggest surprise so far?

The biggest surprise so far has been seeing how many people are coming out to knock doors for our campaign, or give donations of five, ten, or twenty bucks, who I don’t even know. You expect your friends and family to pull out all the stops for you. You expect your former colleagues to chip in. But when people start investing themselves in your campaign simply because they’ve heard your message and believe you’re the right person for the job...that’s an incredible thing.

7.What are you most proud of when it comes to your candidacy?


I said to my team on day one that I wanted to run a campaign that we could all be proud of, a campaign that lives our values. That’s why we are paying our campaign intern. That’s why we’re using union vendors for all of our printing and merchandise. And that’s why when I talk to voters at the door, I tell them the unvarnished truth about my positions; I don’t equivocate or sidestep. It turns out that living your values is not only the morally right thing to do, though. It’s also good politics. People appreciate candor and honesty, and integrity. Even voters who disagree with me on a particular issue generally leave the conversation feeling good about our campaign. And that makes me proud of what we’ve built, and confident that we are going to win on May 22nd.

8. The thing I ask everyone...what do you wish you'd known earlier in your career?

I wish I’d known just how disappointing and cynical politics can be when the wrong people are in power. I started my career in politics at a young age, working first for a gubernatorial candidate in Kentucky, and later on two presidential campaigns in Iowa and later Ohio. I was “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,” as they say. I thought that electoral politics was the Alpha and the Omega of how political change happens in this country.

Then I left electoral politics to become a union organizer.

I watched as politicians in both parties left working-class people behind in order to further the agenda of their millionaire backers. I watched as a movement dedicated to improving the lives of working-class people was beaten down by politicians bent on consolidating power for the 1%. And yet, through all of this, in spite of how demoralizing it can all be, I watched everyday, ordinary working people keep getting up and going to work in the morning. I watched them get involved in the process and fight for a better world in spite of politicians with a different agenda. And that has inspired me.

So the answer to your question is: I wish I’d known just how disappointing politics can be, but also wish I’d known just how inspiring it can be when you break out of the day-to-day of cable news and campaign chatter, and actually connect one-on-one with people on the ground. For candidates and campaign staff, politics is often talked about like it’s a game; but for working people, it can quite literally be life or death. And that’s a powerful lesson to learn, and one I know carry with me as I wage this campaign.


To donate or learn more about Richard's campaign visit BeckerforKentucky.com

Sunday, February 4, 2018

You're Doing It Wrong: Are You Underutilizing Your Consultants?



Consultants are more than just product producers. They are there to do what their name implies, consult. Both because they are campaign professionals and because it's good for business your consultants want you to win. As one pointed out to me recently they are making the most money on the campaign while spending the least amount of time on the ground so you may as well make them work for it. Here are five things to ask your consultants to make the most of your relationship and run your best campaign:

1) Ask them to help you find staff. The campaign world is replete with informational interviews, many of them with political consultants. Consultants are often adjunct professors in various PoliSci programs (which means students) and work on several campaigns at once all ending on different schedules. All of this means access to resumes. Helping place staff on campaigns is not only the right thing to do and good for the client, it also helps build a brand. If a consultant has helped place you on a race you are more likely to reach out to them when you are looking to hire a consulting team on that or future races. Plus consultants tend to be friends with other consultants and former colleagues who also have resumes and an interest in placing people as well. It's a win-win-win-win. Networking is the helping economy that makes our world go round and you should not be shy about playing your part in it.

2) Ask them o back you up. It's a good thing my candidate doesn't read my blog because I use this one all the time. Sometimes when I can't convince my candidate of something I know I am correct about, (call time is necessary, yard signs are stupid, you can't go on vacation during a candidate forum) I call my consulting team and talk to about it, make sure we are on the same page, and then bring it up on our consultant call. Consultants want you to win so they are usually more than happy to be your advocate and it often helps a candidate to hear it from more that one source-especially one they don't see every day. NB: Definitely make sure you check in with your consultants first so that you can explain your point of view/present a united front when the subject is broached.

3) Ask them teach you new skills. One of the best parts about managing a campaign is that you get work directly with and learn from experts. Consultants want informed clients and future colleagues so don't be shy about asking why they give you a specific piece of advice or how part of their process works. If you're looking to get experience in a particular consultant's area ask if you can take on a task like crafting a press release or an email. As long something is not particularly intensive or time-sensitive they are usually more than happy to have it off their plate.

4) Ask them to weigh in outside their own purview. Just because someone happens to be a pollster or fundraising consultant doesn't mean that this is their only area of expertise. Most consultants are long-time campaign people and its very difficult to get this far without having a variety of experience and working on a lot of different campaigns. Don't be afraid to lean on your consultants for advice even when it has to do with a project they aren't necessarily involved in.

5) Ask them to help YOU find a job. See number one. Consultants perpetually have their hands in a bunch of different campaigns and they love to embed staffers who they know will be loyal to them. Once your campaign is over, assuming you've done a good job, don't be afraid to reach out about next steps.