Union IE Update: Micro-Targeting Voters is Key
Below, you can read the story we posted Monday when it was announced that three influential union leaders will be chairing California Working Families 2010 — a pro-Jerry Brown/anti-Republican independent committee.
But after talking later to California Labor Federation ramrod Art Pulaski, it’s clear that how this IE will target voters is at least as important, if not more so, than who makes up the coalition.
According to Pulaski, California Working Families will be using micro-targeting technology developed by the Obama presidential campaign and expanded on by the Labor Federation’s Committee for Working Families. The technology makes it possible, Pulaski said, “to identify non-union voters who share our values” in ex-urban areas, places where there are few unions and weak Democratic parties.
Earlier versions of the technology allowed organizers to identify some 600 variables that distinguish voters and voter groups. Now, Pulaski said, the number of variables is virtually unlimited. Moreover, instead of just reaching people with a traditional communication sandwich — phone, mail, phone — now the Fed can use email, social networking, online advertising, local spot advertising (like signs on a bus stop bench), cable ads and more to place a message before sympathetic voters.
What message will that be? Will it be mostly a negative hit on the Republican (whom most people are assuming will be Meg Whitman)? Or a positive message in favor of Democrat Jerry Brown?
Said Pulaski: “Voters are only getting one perspective on Meg right now so this committee is going to give people another perspective on Meg.” In addition, the IE will be “reminding people about Jerry Brown and what he can do for the state.”
Calbuzz is betting that most of the effort will go into the former, not the latter.
Big Union Leaders to Chair and Fund Pro-Brown IE
SAN JOSE — Leaders of the second* major independent expenditure committee supporting Democrat Jerry Brown’s campaign for governor on Monday said their group will be chaired by representatives of the influential firefighters, construction trades and public employees unions.
The union leaders, operating as California Working Families 2010, were in San Jose Monday for a meeting of the California Labor Federation where they agreed on leadership and a strategic plan to coordinate research, polling, focus groups and a paid television and media campaign to drive the message “about why billionaire corporate CEOs with no government experience and other Republican candidates are bad for California’s future.”
“What distinguishes us,” said Larry Grisolano, chief strategist for the group, “is that these are folks coming to the table with the expectation of making serious commitments . . . An IE cannot replace a campaign or a candidate but we can give people important information for when they make their choice.”
Chairmen of the group, announced Monday, will be Lou Paulson of the California Professional Firefighters, Bob Balgenorth of the California State Building and Construction Trades and Bill Lloyd of Service Employees International Union.
Each of them told Calbuzz on Monday they will contribute at least $1 million to the effort which is modeled, as a coalition, after the drive that defeated Proposition 75 (“paycheck protection”) in 2005 with a $35 million unified campaign.
“Our number one goal has to be to elect Jerry Brown,” said Lloyd of SEIU. “The IE will compare and contrast” the Republican candidate with Jerry Brown, added Balgenorth. Paluson, too, said the goal would be to “improve the quality of California.”
But if past is prologue, the union-backed IE is likely to be mostly a vehicle for sharply attacking the Republican candidate — most likely Meg Whitman — especially for her Wall Street connections and her avowed desire to fire 40,000 state employees and cut spending on state services.
In addition to union support, the coalition expects to add environmental, women’s and other progressive groups and have been promised support from billionaire Democrat Ron Burkle, CEO of Yucaipa Companies, whose representative, Frank Quintero is serving as the IE’s treasurer.
Operatives who will run the IE have close ties to the Obama administration and former Gov. Gray Davis. Among them:
— Grisolano, a partner in the Chicago-based political firm AKPD, where Obama political strategist David Axelrod is a partner. Grisolano also ran Davis’s re-election campaign and has worked closely with SEIU.
— Roger Salazar, principal of Acosta|Salazar consulting and former press and communications meister for Davis, in whose operation Quintero and Jason Kruger of SK Impact also first cut their political teeth.
— David Binder, of David Binder Research, is doing polling and focus groups; Marjan Philhour of the California Group is doing fundraising and Link Strategies is doing research.
Another pro-Brown IE already is up and running – Level the Playing Field – with is own cluster of Democratic operatives and strategists and an active online and social media presence. While it has been a constant thorn in Whitman’s side through its online activities, LTPF has yet to put together the resources for a serious television ad campaign.
The California Chamber of Commerce, through its political arm, is likely to be part of an IE effort to counter the unions and oppose Brown. Its first effort in that regard however – an anti-Brown ad masquerading as an “issues ad” — was aborted last week because instead of being run through the Chamber’s political action committee, it was funded, crafted and placed by the non-partisan Chamber itself.
* There’s actually a third group operating independently if you count the California Accountability Project of the Democratic Governors Association.
It is a hopeful sign for California that Lou Paulson, Bill Lloyd and Bob Balgenorth are willing to bring their considerable resources to the table. But considering that even if they were able to muster $10 million it would still pale in comparison to what Meg-lomaniac is spending each month (and soon will be spending each week), the outlook for Democrats is grim.
This is mainly because of the U.S. Supreme Court, as evidenced by California’s two top-of-the-ticket races this year.
As the power of unions to help Democrats has declined, and the costs of campaigns have soared, the ever more conservative Supreme Court has continually shifted political power to the wealthiest Americans. Their decisions from 1976 through 2009 have tilted the playing field so far to the right that it reasonable to assume that California will never again have a Governor from the middle class.
Exhibit A is Meg Whitman, a product of the absurd “Buckley v. Valeo” case in 1976 which held that wealthy people are exempt from the most important provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act — essentially creating two systems of campaign finance: a system which prohibits limits for the ultra-rich, and a system of severe limits for Jerry Brown and everyone else. You can be absolutely certain that without Buckley, Whitman wouldn’t even be running for Governor today.
Exhibit B is Senator Barbara Boxer, who will be the canary in the coal mine for implementation of the Supreme Court’s bizarre 5-4 opinion in “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.” This case held that wealthy corporations — the court had earlier defined them as “persons” even though they exist only for the creation of shareholder wealth — enjoy the same unlimited campaign privileges as the wealthy CEOs. Thus, in boardrooms across America, corporate treasuries are being tapped to bounce the pro-consumer Senator Boxer, and replace her with…you guessed it: a wealthy CEO.
Dinosaurs like Jerry Brown and Tom Campbell can muck up this transition from democracy to aristocracy for only so long. Eventually California will run out of genuine public servants who worked their way up the ballot the old fashioned way. Term limits (also upheld by the Supreme Court) guarantee that no state official can ever be around long enough to earn a good reputation with the voters. And in the Warholian era of 15 minute politicians, wealth can buy the reputation that was previously the result of years of hard work.
(In 1995 a slim 5-4 majority of a more liberal Supreme Court barely prevented term limits for Congress, but who knows how long that decision will stand.)
Sadly, in the new political order the left’s only hope may be that rare breed of candidate, like Kathleen Connell and Chris Kelly, who combine extreme wealth with a Democratic registration.
“As the power of unions to help Democrats has declined…”