Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What Does a Campaign Manager Make?

This blog comes up a lot on google searches by people wanting to know how much a campaign manager makes. I don’t have any definitive answers, but clearly it would be helpful for me to take a stab at this.

As with any salary question, there are a lot of variables that hinge on such issues as the size of the campaign (how much money is the candidate raising) and the experience of the individual campaign manager.

The salary history of a campaign operative is also not a steady upward climb on the x/y axis (money/years of experience). It is the sort of up and down life that drives stability loving parents, spouses and boy/girlfriends absolutely crazy. I was once in a relationship where I had the awkward duty to explain why I was moving across the country for a ten percent pay cut (the short answer was for a more prestigious but less well paying job – we often face variations of the question that John Milton posed in Paradise Lost, would you prefer to serve in heaven or rule in hell? – the answer isn’t always clear cut).

For smaller races, ranging from low dollar races for the state legislature to city and county races the numbers tend to run from $0 (volunteer campaign staff) to about $2500 or even $3000 a month, with perhaps $1500 being the average if there is any pay at all. The higher numbers usually mean that the state party has come in and is taking responsibility for the salaries of campaign staff (which is frequent here in Florida). We have seen a lot of expensive legislative races here, but in other parts of the state or in states like Kansas or Iowa, $25,000-$50,000 per candidate is a strong showing in competitive legislative race – hardly enough to hire Paul Begala to come take over.

Congressional races and big state senate races, where the money gets into the high six figures and low seven figures, are a big bump up. A million dollar race is easily worth $5000 a month. Sometimes a negotiation is made to have differing scales in the primary and general elections – with the manager and staff receiving $1000-$2000 more per month in the general election. This level (and it can also include large county and municipal races) is also when you start seeing win bonuses included.

Win bonuses are a tricky issue. They can range from the equivalent to two weeks to two months salary. Sometimes campaigns use them as a way to backload the salary structure – paying below market rates in return for a monumental win bonus. I met with a consultant who wanted to hire me for a race that would effectively end after the primary (it was a safe Democratic seat), but who didn’t believe in win bonuses. My argument was that a win bonus was not so much an incentive to try harder, but a basic tool to help me pay my bills following the primary (there would be other jobs for the general, but most of the better paying, prestigious ones would already be gone).

At the upper levels (well above my pay grade, I confess), managers can make $10000 or more a month

One other strategy used by managers is to manage multiple races (this applies only to smaller legislative and local races – and a better title might be “lead consultant” than campaign manager). Others will take their manager salary on the backend – essentially taking most of their salary as a win bonus, but make their money by also being media consultants – they might only get $1000 a month during the election for their management services, but they are also recipient of the money spent on direct mail and other media services, which is paid upfront. If they win, they get more. If not, they aren’t driven back into their parents’ garage because of their work as a vendor.

We aren’t exclusively driven by money. For example, it is far easier to hire me a smaller, less well-paid race in Tampa Bay than elsewhere. A targeted race that the folks at the DCCC are paying close attention could be worth more to one’s career in the long run than a better paying race that receives less national attention. And never forget that a good candidate, someone you believe in, who is a hard worker and a smart campaigner is worth his or her weight in gold.

If the money seems high, keep in mind that there is an element of structural unemployment in the profession – when the election ends, so does your paycheck. We are all always preparing for December and January, when the bills still come but the money isn’t always.

If there are any questions, gripes or polemics disguised as questions (“How does someone like yourself, who is clearly lacking talent and possibly mentally retarded, find work?”), please put them in the comments and I will do my best to answer them there.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Samm Simpson Called My Mother

Samm Simpson is already spending her meager resources on robo-calls.

I don’t have a landline myself, but my mother, who lives in the district, does and was gracious enough to save the message so that yours truly could listen.

It was a pretty basic message – we need to change Congress.

Robo-calls are a very inexpensive way to reach voters, but I have always doubted their ability to carry a persuasion message (though I concede they might have some use in delivering GOTV messages).

That said, with Simpson’s limited resources, what is she doing spending money on robo-calls in July? Unless she is expecting a sudden influx of $500,000 between now and September, she desperately needs to be husbanding her cash on hand for a late push. Because she has run before and because many Democratic primary voters will have voted for in November 2006, she does have a shot of winning this primary – but not if she is spending money she doesn’t have this early.

The other possibility is that Simpson personally phone banked my mother. This also doesn’t bode well. While it is a lovely, personal touch to call voters, what Simpson needs to spend every last waking hour doing is calling donors and attending fundraisers

Sunday, July 20, 2008

How Do We Know Florida Is in Play?

Who says Florida is in play? Polls say we're in play (Sen. McCain's camp can't be happy with that trend line).

The almighty Larry Sabato says we're in play, noting that McCain's margins here are "weak to nonexistent" (and if you don't know who Larry Sabato and his crystal ball are, I suggest your scroll down the list of helpful links to the right until you find them).

More importantly, we know that Florida is in play by the campaigns' actions.

Sen. Obama has been aggressively establishing field offices and hiring staff in Florida and also advertising in our very pricey media markets.

McCain has also been advertising in Florida - including some Spanish language ads to shore up his tanking support among our Cubano voters.

To my mind, though, the biggest "tell" around is the fact that Gov. Charlie Crist appears to be in the running.

Crist's flip flop on drilling was a shameful lack of spine - even for a man whose bedrock principles are about as deep as the cheap beige carpeting in my first apartment after college.

And let's face it - getting engaged was the wrong move for the tan man. Instead of reassuring conservative voters, it simply served as a reminder that for years we've basically assumed that, yeah, he's gay. I don't know that he's gay. I have no first hand knowledge. But, c'mon... don't we all just sort of assume that he is?

Chris Cilliza of The Fix (another must read with a handy link to the right) wrote a whole column laying out the case against Crist (which handles the question of sexual orientation with far greater delicacy than I have). I should also note that he also wrote out a "case for Crist" as well.

So why consider the tan man at all?

Well, there can be only one reason McCain would even consider tapping Crist to join his ticket - he is afraid of losing Florida.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Overdue Report on July 10th CD10 Democratic Debate

The three Democratic candidates vying for the right to challenge Rep. Bill Young debated each other on July 10th.

After the debate, it became clear that the dynamics haven't really changed.

Samm Simpson is a fiery and passionate advocate, but hasn't shown the sort of political sophistication necessary to unseat an entrenched incumbent like Young. Her easy money economic ideas (no, we cannot just print more money) and thoughts on nutrition (eliminating aspertame?) are not going to win her much in the way of serious earned media. She needs to start raising serious money and get some policy advisors to work with her on the issues.

Max Linn was surprisingly strong - a good speaker and came across as a good candidate, though I was surprised by the anti-immigrant strain of thought running through his ideas. He still has a lot too prove - mainly whether he can turn his theoretical advantages into a strong, well-run and well-financed campaign.

Mayor Bob Hackworth neither overwhelmed nor slipped up. His ideas were very much in the mainstream of American thought (universal healthcare, reasonable path to citizenship for immigrants, alternative energy rather than drilling off Clearwater Beach, etc.)

Hackworth's money for the cycle - $55,504.78 was less than political observers might have hoped. I was looking for him to have raised at least $100k.

Linn only raised $7240 this last quarter, but still has the ability to self-finace.

Simpson's report for the most recent quarter is not yet online.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Overturning of Millionaire’s Amendment Has Big Implications in CD10

The Supreme Court recently ruled against an element of McCain-Feingold, specifically, the so-called millionaire’s amendment.

The millionaire’s amendment was created so that if you were running against a self-funding millionaire, you would not be at such a potentially crippling disadvantage.

The amendment did not give you money out of some magical campaign kitty, but it did allow you to raise money in larger amounts than under normal circumstances.

In a congressional race the threshold was $350,000 in self-financing. Once that threshold was crossed, the less wealthy opponent(s) was allowed to raise $6900 per person – triple the usual limits of $2300 (primaries and generals are considered separate – a Republican who spends big in the primary does not necessarily trigger increased spending limits in the general election). The additional $4600 per person could be raised until the amount of money raised under the millionaire’s amendment equaled the amount the wealthy candidate had given to his or her campaign.

What does this mean nationally? It means that wealthy megalomaniacs have just been handed the keys to the cookie jar by our ever so wise Supreme Court. Personally, I found the majority opinion specious (leveling the playing field does not in any way restrict the “free speech” of the wealthy candidate) and hope that Congress passes legislation to address the court’s ill-founded concerns and bring the amendment back in some fashion.

Locally, this shakes things up a bit. Rep. Bill Young’s years on the appropriations committee have given him access to a great many lobbyists, lawyers and executives who would be more than willing to cut him $6900 checks – something he was no doubt counting on if wealthy businessman Max Linn becomes the Democratic nominee. Unfortunately for Bill, he will be reduced to collecting the same $2300 checks as other mere mortals, no matter whether Linn drops $5 or $5 million of his own money in a general election match-up.