SapphireWire Podcast – Episode 4

By Posted 02 October 2014 | Comment

In this episode, Lisa & Kyle discuss the most recent poll results in the aftermath of last week’s strippergate story, the Democrats claim of Brownback selling sex toys, our take on the latest developments in the US Senate race, and a new the 3rd District Congressional race, featuring a flashback to Kevin Yoder’s skinny dipping escapades.

Listen to this episode now:
[podcast]http://www.sapphirewire.com/podcasts/episodes/sapphirewire-004-polls-sex-toys-and-skinny-dipping.mp3[/podcast]

Get The SapphireWire Podcast To Go:
Download Episode (mp3) | iTunes | RSS | Stitcher Radio

Links to topics covered in this episode:

October 1st Suffolk University/USA TODAY Kansas poll results
KC Star coverage of the attempted response to Strippergate: Sex toys to be auctioned to pay business’s delinquent Kansas taxes
Kansas First News’ coverage of the court decision in the US Senate race: Court rules Kansas Democrats don’t have to put name on US Senate ballot

Videos: John Oliver’s Segment on Kansas’ Sex Toy Auction, Orman’s “answer”, and Kelly Kultala’s new ad, “The Naked Truth”

SapphireWire Podcast – Episode 3 – Strippergate

By Posted 23 September 2014 | Comment

In this episode, Lisa & Kyle discuss Strippergate – the big news this week in the Kansas Governor’s race. Also, another Gubernatorial debate, with the debut of the Libertarian candidate.

Preview this episode now:
[podcast]http://www.sapphirewire.com/podcasts/episodes/sapphirewire-003-strippergate-preview.mp3[/podcast]

Listen to this episode now:
[podcast]http://www.sapphirewire.com/podcasts/episodes/sapphirewire-003-strippergate.mp3[/podcast]

Get The SapphireWire Podcast To Go:
Download Episode (mp3) | iTunes | RSS | Stitcher Radio

Links to topics covered in this episode:

The Politico story that started all the fuss: Kansas gubernatorial candidate addresses 1990s strip club incident

Video of the September 19th Gubernatorial debate in Overland Park

SapphireWire Podcast – Episode 2

By Posted 17 September 2014 | 1 Comment

The SapphireWire PodcastIn this episode, we listen to and dissect political ads from the Kansas Gubernatorial and US Senate races. As promised, all of the ads we discuss in this episode are embedded below.

Preview this episode now:
[podcast]http://www.sapphirewire.com/podcasts/assets/sapphirewire-002-preview-lets-dissect-political-ads.mp3[/podcast]

Listen to this episode now:
[podcast]http://www.sapphirewire.com/podcasts/episodes/sapphirewire-002-lets-dissect-political-ads.mp3[/podcast]

Get The SapphireWire Podcast To Go:
Download Episode (mp3) | iTunes | RSS | Stitcher Radio

Watch the ads discussed in this episode:

SapphireWire Podcast – Episode 1

By Posted 17 September 2014 | Comment

The SapphireWire PodcastIn the inaugural episode of the SapphireWire Podcast, Lisa & Kyle discuss the week in Kansas politics, including a recap of the Kansas Gubernatorial and US Senate debates at the Kansas State Fair – who won, who lost, and missed opportunities.

[podcast]http://www.sapphirewire.com/podcasts/episodes/sapphirewire-001-this-week-in-kansas-politics.mp3[/podcast]

Download Episode (mp3) | iTunes | RSS | Stitcher Radio

A Better Way Forward

By Posted 21 February 2013 | Comment

Reviewing problems is a useful exercise but channeling this information into recommendations is the key to progress. This is my focus today. While this post does not include an exhaustive list of all improvements that we should consider as a party, I have outlined some of the most critical that I feel deserve immediate attention.

End “Friendly Fire”

When it comes to backing candidates, we could learn a thing or two from our competitors. They will support candidates who have made ridiculous, over the top statements (e.g., Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock). They will support folks who are barely old enough to serve (e.g., Jacob LaTurner who was 24 during his campaign for Kansas Senate District 13). They can have an extraordinarily nasty, hard-fought primary and come together behind the winner (e.g., Moran vs. Tiahrt in the 2010 U.S. Senate race).

Kansas Democrats, on the other hand, often fall too far toward the other end of this spectrum. We should not be disingenuous but we should avoid undermining our own candidates. During primaries we can have differing opinions about the best candidate for the party nomination. But once the primary is over, we need to support the nominee. Sour grapes and backstabbing after a primary doesn’t get us anywhere in the general election.

However, much of the internal hostility that undermines candidates is not related to primary elections. Differences of opinion about campaign strategies, fundraising, staff or volunteers, and supporters can create a stream of backchannel attacks and gossip that undermine candidates. We need to recognize that candidates are people who have different personalities and working styles. They won’t do everything exactly as you might. Judgmental, unilateral viewpoints only hurt us. Often, there is more than one legitimate way to approach various tasks within a campaign. Moreover, there are instances in which a novel, unconventional approach may work better. It seems that certain individuals in the party have a “do it our way or we’ll take you down” attitude. This has no place in our party.

We always need to remain mindful that in most cases, we are choosing between a Democratic candidate who likely shares many of our same values and a Republican candidate who may share little to none. We are shooting ourselves in the foot if we undermine the person that would be a better public servant over petty differences of opinion about campaign minutia.

Recruit for Merit and Eliminate Candidate Hazing

We should not fall prey to Royal Family Syndrome and Perfect Candidate Syndrome (discussed in Part 2). Those with party connections should not be discriminated against but also should not be prioritized based solely on connections. Moreover, candidates who express an interest in important races should not be dismissed. We should encourage everyone who is willing to stand for public office to consider all suitable races, including the race with a theoretical “perfect candidate”, since our perfect candidate may not be interested.

New candidates who are charismatic, knowledgeable, articulate, attractive, and are dedicated to representing Democratic values should be embraced, encouraged and rewarded for stepping forward to run. Too often, enthusiastic candidates with merit draw negative reactions from the old guard or party leadership. In some circles, there seems to be a desire to knock these folks down a peg or two and a view that “the young whipper snappers are too big for their britches”.

You would think that instead of a political party we were a fraternity or sorority – hazing our new recruits and trying to force them to debase themselves to “earn” a place in the group. Unfortunately, this type of treatment is completely unacceptable to many individuals, especially those in Generation X (approximate ages 33–50) who as a group are much less open than Baby Boomers to kowtowing to arbitrary traditions or respecting those who don’t behave respectably. This generation is our rising leadership group in society and if we offend and scare away talented people from this age group, we are weakening our party for many years to come.

In order to cultivate a more welcoming dynamic, we need party leaders at all levels (county and state) who are secure enough in themselves to embrace new talent and to welcome these individuals as future leaders of the party rather than scaring off people they see as potential competition.

Honesty and Transparency

We must not convey misleading messages or keep the vast majority of candidates in the dark. Just be honest. Tell candidates that resources are available to support a specific number of candidates and explain in detail the benchmarks that will be used to determine support. If the qualifying group is too large, note the procedure for ranking the candidates to determine those who will be prioritized. Any criteria for determining support late in the election cycle should also be noted.
Additionally, if it is unlikely that a candidate will receive support because of the district they are running in, this should be stated upfront, prior to the filing deadline. Conditions for receiving any support should be clearly stated. We should not manipulate people into wasting their time. We should also not give anyone the impression that they will be receiving more support than they will be able to obtain. It’s not fair to anyone.

Support Candidates – Rising Tides Can Lift All Boats

Every candidate should have the chance to earn a spot in the slate of “supported candidates” instead of party leaders hand-selecting and pre-determining the priority candidates. Of course, in order for the playing field to be level, party leaders must refrain from backchannel communication to party donors about priority races, since fundraising is usually one of many benchmarks for support. Some former candidates have confided in me privately that harsh statements from either party leaders or those who work for the leadership essentially sabotaged their fundraising in county party circles. This is unacceptable. We should be letting the chips fall where they may based on candidate merit and effort rather than anointing some and neglecting or sabotaging others.

“The more the merrier” should be our attitude when it comes to both the coordinated campaign as well as the lesser known alternative – managed mail programs/campaign services through the KDP. As more candidates participate in the coordinated campaign, print pricing improves and everyone benefits. While not everyone may be able to afford the buy-in costs, everyone should be offered the chance to join the coordinated campaign.

Managed mail programs (as one aspect of broader campaign services packages) have been one of the party’s best kept secrets but should be available to all candidates. This approach provides an option for candidates who may only have the resources for one or two mailers as part of the package but not enough to buy into the coordinated campaign. It is also a good alternative for those whose district may require something a bit different from the standard coordinated campaign approach.

An anonymous commenter of unknown background or experience rabidly commented on my previous post insisting first that managed mailers were illegal but then backed off to say there could be a problem with the not-for-profit mailing standards. Neither of these ridiculous claims are true. It is perfectly legal for state parties to coordinate with candidates and offer campaign services packages. The managed mailing aspect of state party campaign services has existed for years. In fact, in light of this discussion, my print vendor called Carol Williams at the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission as well as the U.S. Postal Service to make absolutely sure this process was appropriate. Both sources confirmed that the process is legal and does not violate standards for using a non-profit postal indicia. So, I now have factual confirmation from the two agencies in question that this method is completely legitimate.

The only question that I have seen raised about this approach was during the 2012 primary for the 2nd Congressional District nomination. Rev. Tobias Schlingensiepen bought into a managed mail/campaign services program through the KDP and this was called into question because there are limitations on what state parties can do during a competitive primary. The Topeka Capitol Journal ran a story about the questions that had been raised. So, those who think I’m ruining the party playbook by discussing this approach are delusional since mail programs were covered in the aforementioned news story.

Strengthen the Coordinated Campaign

First and foremost, the coordinated campaign needs to be well-managed. For example, we cannot have the first mailers for a candidate arriving late in October. We need to get out front and define our opponents early on. Late mailers are much less effective as the opposition may already have reached voters several times. Additionally, mailer design is just a crucial as messaging. This will be discussed in more detail in the next section about the visual nature of messaging.

Given that the state party can legally coordinate with candidates and coordinated mailers are sent out by the KDP, mailers should be more individually tailored to maximize positive impact. In this way, the coordinated campaign and managed mail approaches should be more similar than different (to whatever degree election law will allow). Some candidates I’ve spoken with felt certain mailers hurt them much more than they helped them. Identifying core messaging is fine but there are vast regional differences across the state and we must tailor our messaging to address these differences.

We need to work toward much more local input and control over aspects of the coordinated campaign. I understand that there has been great variability in the involvement of county parties from election cycle to election cycle. However, in terms of mobilizing boots on the ground, local and regional involvement becomes a key to success. We need to cultivate a dedicated group of volunteers and keep them consistently engaged.

Both support for candidates and Democratic GOTV efforts are essential. However, while they are necessary, they are not sufficient. I was pleased to see some movement toward voter persuasion in the most recent campaign cycle. This should become a core aspect of the coordinated campaign as most Democrats in Kansas must persuade both Unaffiliated and Republican voters that they are the better choice in order to win their race. We also need more statewide emphasis on voter registration. As the minority party, we need everyone who shares our values to be registered to vote and to understand the importance of voting in each election.

Messaging is Visual and Branding is Important

We are very focused on polling and the information that it can provide. However, we are missing a very important aspect of political communication. The quality or salience of your message does not matter if it is presented in a way that is visually unclear or unappealing. Sometimes engaged politicos make the mistake of thinking that everyone will read everything on a mailer. Usually this is not the case. Typically you have a few seconds at best unless you have a design that really draws people in. Therefore, the visual presentation is equally important to the message itself. A mailer with an excellent message may have little to no impact if the design is poor.

Yard signs are another area where we must carefully scrutinize visual impact. All candidates should ask their designer to mock up a life size template of their yard sign (often just 8 X 11 panels taped together) in the colors they have planned. Then, place the template in a couple locations during the day and at night and drive by to check for readability. It is important to have a yard sign that is readable day or night in 2–3 seconds passing by at road speeds. Far too many candidates have type that is too small to read or colors that make the content difficult to see. Don’t waste money on signs no one will notice or that cannot be read while driving.

Additionally, we have recently begun to attempt to define and brand the Democratic party. These efforts are commendable and should be continued. We must find the best way to appeal to and persuade Unaffiliated and moderate Republican voters as this is critical for winning more races across the state.

County-by-County Democratic Engagement Program

We need to strengthen our network of Democrats statewide. In order to do this, we need county parties to begin an outreach and engagement program as soon as possible. Ideally, members of county party groups should touch base with every Democrat in their county either by knocking doors or making calls. We need to educate registered Democrats about how their participation can make all the difference. Frankly, some individuals probably need a short tutorial about the importance of down ballot races. It would also be helpful to share an example of a race in their area that would have had a different outcome if Democratic voter turnout had been greater. Democrats get demoralized and feel that their vote will not make a difference, which is why many do not vote. This sense of hopelessness stems in large part from the fact that, as a red state, our electoral votes virtually always go to the Republican Presidential candidate. However, I think we could increase turnout dramatically through an education campaign that explains how a small number of Democratic votes can make a huge difference in some very important races.

As county parties connect with Democrats, we should gather an email address from every individual possible and disclose that these emails will be used Democratic communications of all varieties including upcoming election reminders, messages from area candidates, and county party events. This email list should be made available to all party leaders and candidates – free of charge. We do have a statewide email list available through the VAN (Voter Activation Network) system. However, most candidates cannot afford the steep charges that come with using this system. We need to empower our candidates and county parties by providing an easy and free mechanism for communication.

Moreover, we should also attempt to implement the small donation strategy that I outlined at the end of Part 3. For example, a county party in an area with only 1,000 Democrats could raise $12,000 a year if everyone agreed to donate $1 a month. These funds could make a huge difference in local efforts to support candidates. In order to achieve the maximum benefit, we would need to make it as easy as possible for individuals to make regular repeating contributions online. This would require some work to set up but the payoff could be tremendous.

Beyond Polling and Demographics

Polling information and voter registration demographics are important and should be considered. However, our focus should not be so narrow that we neglect other important considerations and ignore winnable races that are “outside the box”. An excellent example of this premise is Melody Saxton who lost House District 65 by only 17 votes. I understand that a number of individuals encouraged party leaders to consider investing in this race, as those who were familiar with the district felt this could be winnable. The final result clearly shows that a small investment could have made all the difference and given us another House seat. Sometimes dynamics exist that cannot be quantified with strict demographics or polling. We should supplement empirical data with experiential, historical, and regional considerations as polling does not always tell us everything that we need to know. We should not close our minds to the possibility that candidates can succeed in districts that may seem like unlikely contenders based solely on demographics.

Embrace Our Young Democrats

Over the years, I have attended a number of meetings of the KC Young Democrats. Most recently, I attended a meeting last October and found that morale was quite low. Many of our young Democrats feel disenfranchised and under-utilized by the party. This is so unfortunate given the level of skill and enthusiasm of our young Democrats. There was also a sense of hopelessness from some about the issues and problems that we have as a party. We cannot afford to discourage future leaders. We must make a better effort to bring younger Democrats into the fold and make use of their talents through meaningful contributions. We should think of our young Democrats not as “young” but just as Democrats.

Bring Fragmented Groups Together

In some counties, we have many different Democratic groups. For example, in Johnson County we have the Johnson County Democrats, the Johnson County Democratic Women, the KC Young Democrats, and now a new group of Northeast Johnson County Democrats. We need to move away from these internal subdivisions and bring everyone to the table as part of a larger, stronger group. Naturally, these groups can have their own meetings but it would be wise to find a way to bring all groups together into a mega-group on a regular basis so that we can operate as a more united force as a party.

Secure 2014 Candidates ASAP

This is probably one of the most obvious needs. Far too often our candidates have started out too late to gain significant traction against the Republican opposition. We need candidates very soon for high profile races such as Governor (and all statewide races) and for our four Congressional Districts plus U.S. Senate. We also need these individuals to start actively campaigning immediately. These folks need to start traveling the state or district now and build support within county parties across the state.

One of the biggest mistakes candidates in higher profile races make is failing to visit Democrats across the state and not building visibility in the maximum number of counties possible. People will work much more passionately for a candidate who has made the effort to connect with their county group and to become visible in the community via parades, festivals, or forums. I traveled the state extensively during my 2010 campaign for U.S. Senate and was told repeatedly how excited and appreciative the Democrats in each county were that I had made the effort to visit them. Many county parties during that cycle were disappointed that they had not been visited by more of our statewide candidates. Put simply, we can’t neglect to fire up our base early if we want to have a chance to win.

Look Beyond Desperate Measures to Preserve the Status Quo

Thanks to all who have taken the time to read and consider the party problems that led to my political hiatus and this installment of suggestions for a better way forward. As we move forward, please keep in mind that the current system works very well for a select few and these individuals will be highly unmotivated to consider change. Some individuals have already begun attacking me via comments because they do not want rank and file Democrats to know about some of the things I have shared and do not want future candidates to be fully informed about their options.

I believe that Democrats deserve to know the truth. My motivation is to prevent future candidates from enduring the frustrations and disappointments that I experienced and to move us toward electing the maximum number of Democrats possible. If you happen to read or hear dismissive remarks regarding the points I have raised, I ask you to carefully consider the source, what their motivation might be, and what suggestions they are putting forth to improve our dynamics and win more elections. As I said in one of my responses to a commenter who was encouraging me to forget about discussing party issues, too many Democrats have held a defeatist attitude about the futility of addressing party problems for far too long. Yes, organizational change is extremely difficult. However, we cannot improve via apathy or silence.

Regarding comments, I am sad to say that I am limiting discussion to Facebook for the time being. While I have pointed out many things which I find unacceptable and counterproductive, I never accused anyone of illegal behavior. I cannot condone those who choose to anonymously accuse the KDP of illegal activities. If anyone wants to continue to make this disproven accusation, they can put their name and face with it on Facebook.

My Political Hiatus and Our Party Problems (Part 5)

By Posted 13 February 2013 | 33 Comments

Before I launch into Part 5, I want to say I truly appreciate the supportive calls, emails, and messages I have received. It is clear that many individuals share some of my concerns but do not feel they can speak out publicly. Additionally, I appreciate those who have spoken out to add alternative views as vigorous debate is important for working through any issue. I also want to give a special thank you to those who have publicly shared their own thoughts and examples that echo my concerns. This is not easy and I appreciate your courageous candor.

Once again, as with all of my posts, Part 5 represents an honest account of my own experiences, my opinions and reactions to these events, and an inquiry into questions I feel are important for us going forward.

“Quiet Rooms” Attitude

Many of you may remember that Mitt Romney said income inequality should be discussed in “quiet rooms”. Ironically, there are some within our party who feel our issues should be discussed in these same quiet rooms. The problem with discussions in quiet rooms is that often nothing comes of them and those who need to know about the issues continue to be left in the dark. As I said in Part 1, sunshine is the best disinfectant. Moreover, information is power. Members of our party cannot lobby for change unless they have a complete understanding of our problems. Those who continue to believe in the quiet rooms approach need to ask themselves why they are unwilling to discuss what goes on behind the scenes. Often those who are uncomfortable with open discussion resist because they do not want questionable practices to be revealed.

Misleading Messages

I have heard from candidates who felt they were misled by party leaders. Unfortunately, I had my own experience with this during my most recent campaign. Before the August primary, I spoke with State Party Chair, Joan Wagnon. During our conversation, she told me, “we can filter a lot of money into your race if Tim Owens (moderate Republican) loses the Republican primary”. This gave me the impression that my race would become a significant priority, if Jim Denning (the conservative candidate) was the Republican nominee. Shortly after the primary election, I contacted Joan to follow up as Former Senator Tim Owens was unsuccessful. I reminded her that she indicated money could be filtered to my race. However, she suddenly had no discernible plan to direct contributions to my campaign.

Technically, I cannot claim her statement was dishonest as she used the word “can” which conveys an ability to do something. I would have to say her statement was 100% accurate – the KDP and party leaders do have the ability to ensure that contributions are directed to particular candidates. However, making the statement in this context certainly creates a misleading impression, which I find to be completely unacceptable.

For the record, I was not expecting Joan to offer to filter money into my race. However, statements like this clearly create expectations for those hearing them. As a party leader, if you don’t mean it, don’t say it. Candidates do not need to hear insincere, misleading statements. This achieves nothing but anger and resentment.

3rd District Failure

If the Johnson County Democrats (and other county parties) can scramble over the weekend after the redistricting maps were released to find candidates for many empty slots in Senate and House races, the KDP could have ensured that we would have a 3rd District candidate. I understand that Joan Wagnon had recruited someone who committed to run but later backed out. KDP leadership should have been closely monitoring the SOS filings and, when this individual had not filed the week before the filing deadline, we should have been moving to plan B or C in order to secure a candidate. Not having a Democratic candidate on the ballot in a district that we recently held for 12 years is outrageous and disgraceful.

The “Coordinated Campaign”

Some candidates are invited to buy into a coordinated campaign. These individuals write sizable “donation” checks (e.g., $5,000, $10,000, or $20,000) to the KDP from their campaign accounts. Most have direct mail sent out on their behalf. Selected individuals may receive other services such as GOTV calls, persuasion calls, and field operations. Candidates in the coordinated are at the mercy of the decision makers for their race and have no control over what they are given. Candidates are asked to make large donations from their campaign treasury and simply take what the party decides to give them. At any point, you can be dropped like a hot potato with no recourse.

As we learned last time in Part 4, there are some significant disparities from candidate to candidate in terms of who is given how much support from the coordinated campaign. Some candidates are given 200–300% of what they contribute. This means that the difference must come from somewhere else (e.g., other candidate’s contributions to the coordinated campaign, individual donations to the party or caucus, etc.). Democrats around the state need to be aware that resources are being devoted to a select group of candidates and may not be helping anyone in your area.

Moreover, in looking at the costs of some services, I wonder if we are getting the best value within the coordinated campaign. Print vendors typically offer discounts when a number of print jobs are ordered together. Compared to the cost of my own mailers, the mailers sent out for other candidates appear to be more costly than I would expect. Since our resources are limited, it is critically important to ensure we are getting the most for our money as this can help to support more candidates.

Unfortunately, we also had some execution problems during the most recent election cycle. We need to be sure the coordinated campaign is first rate and well-managed. I heard a range of complaints from those who participated about the quality of the photos, the quality of the mailers/design, and the timeliness of the mailings. For example, some candidate’s initial mailers did not start hitting mailboxes until late October and, in at least one case, two mailers were delivered on the same day. This is not an effective approach. I will discuss the coordinated campaign in greater detail next week in my post discussing a better way forward.

My Non-Coordinated Campaign

I was never asked to join the coordinated campaign. I was asked to spend $5,000 on a poll but was told that nothing would be promised. I was told that the polling results would be used in determining support but, when I asked about the benchmarks for receiving support, I was not given a direct answer (i.e., “we’re not sure”, “we’ll have to see”). So, I was being asked to turn over $5,000 of my campaign contributions with absolutely no information about how support would be given during the campaign. From my perspective, this is like being invited to invest in a mystery fund offered by an investment firm who cannot provide any information about the level of risk, the composition of the fund, or the historical rate of return. I would not hand over my money under such ridiculous circumstances as it sounds like an excellent way to lose it all.

To complicate things further, party officials were saying vastly different things. The day after I was invited to spend $5,000 on polling by Senate leaders, I spoke to Joan Wagnon who said it was too early for polling and $5,000 was unwarranted given that a local pollster had agreed to do polling for $500. So, Senate leadership was recommending one approach and the KDP was encouraging another. It doesn’t seem very “coordinated” for different leaders in the party to be giving candidates contradictory messages.

I have recently been informed that this polling opportunity was my chance to buy in to the coordinated campaign. However, this was never stated during the campaign. When I asked why this was not stated directly, I was told that I could not be informed I would be buying into the coordinated because of concerns about campaign ethics violations. What? So, candidates are supposed to buy into the coordinated without being told they are buying into the coordinated? It seems rather unbelievable that candidates are expected to guess or assume that a large chunk of money they are turning over will make them part of the coordinated campaign. Moreover, other candidates seemed to be informed about the buy in and my experience in 2010 was vastly different as the buy in amounts for specific races were explicitly and clearly communicated. Put simply, it is ludicrous to ask candidates to make mystery investments.

Unclear Benchmarks for Support

Most candidates are aware that the party identifies priority races and that support is given to these races. However, it is less clear exactly what factors are considered and what the benchmarks are for prioritization and receiving support.

After reviewing the July reports for both the Senate Democrats Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, I attempted to obtain some information about benchmarks for support. I noticed a handful of candidates had been issued $1,000 checks from these accounts. I inquired about the benchmarks for disbursing these funds. At first, I was told that fundraising was the basis for the decisions. When I pointed out that some candidates received these contributions shortly after the filing deadline (which was not enough time to raise much money), I was then told that discussions about fundraising commitments drove the contributions. Following this remark, I pointed out that when you stripped away some of the artificial inflation in the numbers (such as the aforementioned $2,000 that some received from these committees in addition to one large loan made by an individual to the campaign), my totals for the period were not much different from at least two individuals who received these checks.

In the end, I was given no definitive answers and no information that I could use going forward in either this discussion or the aforementioned exchange about polling. This is ridiculous. All candidates should be told about the benchmarks for support. But, I am not convinced that definitive benchmarks always exist. These decisions sometimes seem to be personal in nature and may relate to some of the issues discussed in my previous posts.

However, I recently learned from a comment on Part 4 that some candidates (and their staff) were very well informed about benchmarks. According to the comment, they were told what they needed to do and by what date they should meet various goals. How nice. Why would one Senate candidate be informed about benchmarks and another would not? The only explanation that seems plausible to me is that the second candidate is kept in the dark because no one wants them to expect support if they meet the benchmark. If they don’t know what the benchmark is, they have no grounds upon which to request the support that others are receiving. This is a very effective strategy if your goal is to block candidates who you believe have the potential to meet your benchmarks but who are not part of your group of “chosen” candidates that you are trying to get elected.

The “Secret” Alternative to the Coordinated Campaign

Some people believe that the coordinated campaign is the only avenue for mailers to be sent out by the party. This is not true. The KDP can serve as the vendor for a candidate’s mail program as part of a larger package of campaign services. The KDP works with and pays the print vendor directly for the printing/mailing costs and bills the candidate for campaign services which include mailers as one of the many services provided. I used this method during the 2012 cycle and I heard that one House candidate did as well. This approach can create the inaccurate impression that the KDP is footing the bill for a candidate’s mailers but, in fact, candidates are covering the costs when they make payments to the KDP for the campaign services provided.

Most candidates do not know about this option. I found out about it by asking KDP Executive Director, Jason Perkey, after a print vendor I was speaking with mentioned the approach. (Jason was extremely helpful in explaining the approach and assisting us in using this process which I appreciated very much.) I was lucky to have stumbled upon this very helpful information. However, there is no reason for this option to be a secret. All candidates should be allowed to take advantage of this possibility. It does require a chunk of resources from the candidate and many candidates would only be able to afford one or two mailers but that is better than none. Why would we not give our candidates every possible advantage to strengthen their campaign?

The Myth of “Personal Responsibility”

It is obvious that if you want to win as a candidate you need to work hard. Surely no one is foolish enough to believe that you can sit around with your feet up and just wait to be elected. So, yes, substantial effort is required to have a chance to win a race and, in this sense, personal responsibility, investment, and dedication are important.

However, it is very aggravating to hear those who received tens of thousands of dollars in party support or those who acted as gatekeepers to receiving support tell others who didn’t win that the loss comes down to “personal responsibility”. This reminds me of rich Republicans (who were often born into family money) trying to convince people that they could be just as rich if they had only worked hard enough. Yeah, right. Gatekeepers use this approach to deflect criticism and avoid taking responsibility for any questionable decisions. This is also a psychological game used to try to make candidates who were not invited into the inner circle feel that they just weren’t good enough and didn’t work hard enough. Nothing is more ridiculous than those who received all the advantages acting as if they were on a level playing field with those who had none.

Those who truly believe this load of crap (i.e., that those who did not receive $40,000–60,000 in party support could simply work harder to make up the difference) should switch parties and go work for a wealthy Republican. You’ll feel much more at home. To everyone else, remember that we are supposed to be the party who believes in equal opportunity and fights for the best interests of the people. Let’s start acting like it.

Next Time: I will be offering my recommendations for a better way forward.