Thursday, January 19, 2006

Suldog For State Rep, Part IV

You know what I'm liking about writing this? It's the first time I've ever written anything that took more than two parts. I get to use roman numerals, just like the Super Bowl!

Other than that, it's kind of a pain.

OK, I don't mean that, really. It's sort of fun dredging up the old memories and remembering the good people who helped me in my quest. It was certainly fun to drag out the scrapbook I kept and getting to see all of the silly crap I wrote - that is, position papers and press releases (none of which were ever released by the press after I released them to them, of course.) And it's turning out to be a fairly entertaining series of entries, I think, although you're the final judge of that. However, I'm of the Oscar Madison school - I hate writing, but love having writ.

(That may be a quote from someone else, but I heard the character of Oscar say it once, so that's my source.)

I suppose I'll amend that just a bit, by saying that I don't hate writing, but I much more enjoy reviewing the finished product than I do working on it.

Anyway, that's pretty much how I feel about having run for office, too. I'll probably never do it again, but I'm glad that I did once. Now, onward we go! If you're here for the first time, what kept you? You can catch up here and here and here.

Now it was time to raise some money. This had to be done in order to then waste it in a futile attempt at familiarizing folks with the fact that I was running.

Oh, that's a sour grapes comment made from hindsight, of course. At the time, we were full of optimism and figured that I might have a small chance of actually winning. Of more importance - since we knew that winning was definitely a longshot - was the goal of letting folks know a bit about the party philosophy as a whole, thus setting the stage for future candidates to have a better chance. Also, we wanted to let people see that an actual living breathing Libertarian wasn't some sort of political Frankenstein monster to be driven out of town with torches.

The larger political parties have relatively little trouble getting funds. I say this knowing full well that it's still a pain in the ass for the individuals involved, no matter how large the parent organization, but the main point is that Democrats and Republicans can count on reliable specific sources for a great deal of working capital. For instance, Democrats can generally rely on organized labor, and the folks padded onto the government payrolls, to kick in a few bucks. Republicans have the religious right, major oil corporations, and, well, other Republicans. Various PACs are willing to align themselves with both parties, knowing that they'll get their payoff no matter which one holds power.

See, the thing is that Democrats and Republicans both, when holding power, dole out the goodies to their constituents. The only difference is the constituency, and sometimes not even that. This makes it very easy to raise funds; it's only a business transaction. Group A gives Politician B some bucks. Politician B, in return, votes benefits to Group A, if and when he is elected. Not clean, but certainly simple.

On the other hand, a Libertarian can't go around promising to be an IRS-funded Santa Claus. All a Libertarian has to offer is an honest effort at increasing freedom. Our big sales pitch is a true reduction in government power, and this certainly wouldn't make for more goodies. A dollar benefit might be realized in lower taxes, since we are generally for that, but since we have elected relatively few to higher offices, we don't have a long track record to point to which would help to pry open an otherwise penurious contributor's wallet. Anyway, the Republicans generally have that market cornered, although they've really made little actual reduction in government when they've had the power to do so.

(If you doubt this - if you hold the general opinion that Republicans dismantle government and cut programs - all you have to do is look at the budgets that have been approved when Republicans have held both the Presidency and a majority in Congress. In many instances, spending has risen at an even greater rate than when the supposed tax-and-spend Democrats have held similar power. As I said before, it's just a matter of which constituency gets the favors.)

One other thing - most Libertarians will not accept government-granted matching funds, as a matter of principle. While most Democrats and Republicans have no problem with lining their pockets at the expense of the taxpayer, in order to run campaigns that perhaps 50% or more of those taxpayers aren't in agreement with, Libertarians feel that theft, by any name, is still theft. Your mileage may vary.

Anyway, I had no track record and neither (for the most part) did my party. This pretty much limited my fundraising activities to friends, family and party members. I made some attempt at interesting a few PACs in my campaign, by answering their questionnaires and making my own personal appeals to them, but no go. No matter that I held views and expressed opinions which were more strongly in favor of the PAC's positions than my opposition did; he was the incumbent and he had the power, so the money flowed to him - or, at least, not to me.

Insofar as family and friends were concerned, I didn't push it. If they offered, I accepted graciously. However, I've never looked upon my personal relationships as a source of money, especially not for something as self-serving as a political campaign. I know, I know. If you really believe in yourself and in your political goals, then it isn't really self-serving and you're trying to do something for the common good, blah, blah, blah. Hey, I knew in my heart of hearts that I didn't have a snowball's chance in Hell, so I wasn't going to push my loved ones into an uncomfortable situation. That's just me, and probably another reason why I wasn't cut out to be a successful politician. Anyway, I'm saving my relatives and buddies for when I'm truly destitute and can use them totally for my own personal gain and not have to split the takings with anyone else.


Fundraising within the party faithful was what remained, after I had collected what I reasonably could from my own circles. This was accomplished through a few judicious phone calls to those who might be larger contributors and a nice fundraising letter to others less well-heeled. The results were, I was told by those with more experience at these sorts of things, about average.

There were some misgivings concerning the fundraising appeal which I penned. However, I was adamant about some particulars. I knew what turned me off from appeals I had received, so I wanted no part of those things within my appeal. For instance, I immediately trash any letter I receive that shows me a series of checkboxes next to a series of pre-determined amounts, wherein one of the amounts (usually the second lowest) is circled in red, with the words "This amount would really help!" printed in a font resembling a handwritten appeal. God, that pisses me off! Do you mean to say that if I give a lower amount, it doesn't help? Fuck off, letter, and go live with my coffee grounds!

I also wanted it to be short. The industry standard for fundraisers is four pages - that is, two sheets printed front and back. And it usually contains two or three postscripts (PS's) after the signature, used to hammer home the most persuasive points already given in the body of the letter. I made my letter one page, no PS.

I also wanted to drop the bullshit completely. Everybody knows that, when they receive unsolicited mail, it's a pitch for their money. The very first line of my letter was "Please contribute money to my campaign." I then went on to explain that I was told, by experts, that this was a horrible way to start a fundraising letter, but I wasn't out to bullshit anyone (I used nicer language) and I would always treat my contributors with honesty and respect. I included specifics concerning the campaign, outlined a few ideas we had concerning advertising, etc., and threw in an emotional appeal at the end about how our liberties were being eroded every day and that this was an opportunity to stem the tide, at least a little bit.

As I said, the results were about equal to the usual fundraisers which included the things I didn't like, so nothing lost. It might have been a small gain, when all was said and done, since the printing costs were less for my shorter letter.

As with all aspects of my campaign, I am still thankful to those who contributed in any way - time, money, ideas or just plain sweat. I don't know if I can stress that enough, but I never want to leave the impression that I'm ungrateful. I know my writing is sometimes flip, but that shouldn't be taken to mean that I feel anything less than gratitude for help received.
And now, having raised some money for such things as the handouts seen at the top of this entry and above, we're on to some other advertising strategies and the actual grunt work of getting out and talking to folks.

(By the way, I know. I know I should have ditched the hat, shaved the beard, worn a suit, and twenty other mistakes. I can only plead ignorance, which in my case is certainly a believable defense. I wanted to portray myself as a regular neighborhood guy, no better or worse than the folks that I thought might be voting for me. I've since come to the realization that most people want to vote for someone just a little bit better than themselves, whether economically or socially. File it under "Lesson Learned Too Late To Do Any Good".)

[continued on Monday]

Go to Part V

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Funny that you mention image. That was my thought. I graduated from film school, and for a while I shot indie films and really, really was immersed in the entire study. I really got a great feel for how to use images, light, symbols, etc, to affect the psychology of a viewer. I mean that's what media is, or half of it. So immediately, I was thinking of all the things in your photos that could have affected someone seeing it and having nothing to judge you by, save for that. And the funny thing about even a "natural" or "regular guy" image: it needs to be finessed so that it has the right "natural, regular, untouched" feel. Ha!

Welcome to the new telescreen brain, eh? The universe-self as seen through the lens, where actual life is but a glare on the screen of "reality."