Political consulting

Political consulting

Political consulting, beyond the self-evident definition of consulting in political matters, refers to a specific management consulting industry which has grown up around advising and assisting political campaigns. This article deals primarily with the development, and nature, of political consulting in the United States. Though its most important role is probably in the production of mass media (largely television), political consultants advise campaigns on virtually all of their activities, from research to field strategy. Consultants conduct candidate research, voter research, and opposition research for their clients.


The practice of consulting has several early antecedents. President William McKinley's closest political advisor Mark Hanna is sometimes described as the first political consultant. In California in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, Whitaker and Baxter established and grew the first true consulting firm, Campaigns, Inc. However, political consulting blossomed with the increasing use of television advertising for campaign communications in the 1960s. It was in that period that Joseph Napolitan claims to have become the first person to describe himself as a political consultant (Perlmutter, ed. "Manship Guide to Political Communication", pg19).

In the subsequent years, political consulting has grown in importance and influence and extended its reach to campaigns at all levels of government in the United States, and beyond. Many consultants work not only for campaigns, but also for other political organizations, including parties and political action committees, sometimes through independent expenditures; some also do public relations and research work for corporations and governments.


Personal benefit

As political consulting became more prevalent, political consultants increasingly were personally in the spotlight, with journalists devoting considerable attention to their activities. Many successful political consultants, such as James Carville, capitalized on their fame to become professional or semi-professional pundits. Such political consultants routinely appear on television news programs, write books, and are treated as media celebrities.

Some people accuse media-centric consultants of putting their own interests and images ahead of their clients.Fact|date=October 2007 Even some political consultants allege that too many consultants put their financial interests ahead of the campaigns they are hired to serve, taking on too many clients and focusing too much energy on building their reputations.Fact|date=October 2007

tyle of modern campaigns

Critics also blame political consulting, at least in part, for a variety of ills of the modern election process. In part because broadcast media consultants are often paid on commission, they are blamed specifically for the rising cost of political campaigns and the increasing reliance on paid media. A successful candidate running a low-budget campaign would be a serious economic threat to the political consulting field; such candidates, however, are rare.

Some activists, particularly within the Democratic Party, charge that political consultants are a major obstacle to participatory democracy, political reform, and electoral success for the Democrats. In a much-publicized e-mail on December 9, 2004, the online activist group MoveOn.org wrote, "For years, the Party has been led by elite Washington insiders who are closer to corporate lobbyists than they are to the Democratic base. But we can't afford four more years of leadership by a consulting class of professional election losers."

Lastly, there is growing professional opposition to what is called a "cookie cutter campaign", where the themes and strategies of one campaign are transferred to another campaign, despite what may be major differences in political context. Brian Wright, president of Democrasource, LLC (an Ohio-based national political consulting firm specializing in enhanced campaign data strategies and micro-targeting), believes that "...campaign communications techniques are evolving so quickly—anyone sitting on the sidelines or clinging to the last presidential campaign’s strategies is done. The book’s been rewritten."

Trade organizations

The American Association of Political Consultants is the major trade association for political consultants in the United States, with thousands of members. Like similar professional organizations, it propagates a code of ethics and gives out awards (the much-coveted "Pollies").
* [http://www.iapc.org/ The International Association of Political Consultants]
* [http://www.apapc.com/ The Asia Pacific Association of Political Consultants]
* [http://www.alacop.net/ The Association of Latin American Political Consultants]
* [http://www.eapc.com/ European Association of Political Consultants]

Magazine of Record

The magazine of record of the political consulting industry is Campaigns & Elections.

ee also

* Political campaign staff

External links

* [http://www.completecampaigns.com/article.asp?articleid=2 "How to Choose the Right Political Consultant"]
* [http://campaignline.com Campaigns & Elections magazine]

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