Hiding campaign debt: making sure electronic votes are counted fairly

Hiding campaign debt: making sure electronic votes are counted fairly

Craig Varoga

Do I have to show debt on our campaign finance reports?

Only if you want to honor your obligations and obey the spirit and letter of the law. But if you have an irrational fetish for bad press, self-inflicted political wounds and official investigations into possibly criminal activity, then sure, scoff at the reporting requirements and take your chances.

How do you minimize/eliminate electronic vote fraud when running an insurgent campaign when the election machinery is in hostile hands?

One, publicize the problems of electronic voting and the potential for abuse (e.g., machine malfunctions, misconduct by vendors, inaccurate voter-roll purges, poor training for poll workers and an insufficient audit trail to verify results).

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Two, document voting rights irregularities involving your opponent and his or her political allies (e.g., voter intimidation, voter fraud, ballot exclusion, etc.) and any malfeasance by the same individuals (e.g., political favoritism, allegations of contract rigging, fines, investigations, etc.).

Three, demand a transparent and extensive outreach campaign to train voters and election workers on how to use the election machinery. Be sure that news reporters and your attorneys have unfettered access to these training sessions, including preparatory meetings.

Four, raise hell if the election supervisors remain “hostile.” Hold news conferences, call talk shows, send e-mail and use phone trees to spread the word that the bad guys might be trying to steal the election.

And five, have a legal team ready on Election Day (and for early vote and absentee voting) in order to monitor the ballot process and catch any irregularities. Your legal team should remain available until the results are certified.

Is it hare-brained to think I can run for Congress next cycle after losing a state representative primary this year in a district that overlaps a lot of the congressional district?

May be not hare-brained, but daunting.

You will be labeled a loser, especially since you didn’t even make it past the primary. People who supported you for state representative will not necessarily be on board this time. You will need more money, and it will be harder to raise.

So understand your loss and fix your mistakes. Get your friends on board, then talk to your former opponents.

Finally, determine how much money you need to be competitive. In 2002, the average House winner spent $898,184.

Does it make sense to ask political consultants to contribute to our campaign?

Not really. Most consultants are takers, not givers, so hitting them up for money would be a waste of time. Your fund raising calls will produce more if you target individuals and groups with a long-term civic or economic interest in your district (e.g., business, labor, lawyers, real estate agents, etc.).

We have a silver bullet on our opponent. Should we use it now or closer to Election Day?

Depends on the election calendar (e.g., deadline for candidate filings, schedule for printing ballots, etc.) and likely news environment (e.g., political, local and even world events competing for attention).

Early release: damaging information theoretically will harm your opponent’s ability to raise money, go on TV, recruit supporters, etc. However, early release could also give your opponent time to get off the ballot and be replaced by a more viable candidate. In the 1990 Minnesota governor’s race, for example, the GOP challenger withdrew after allegations of sexual improprieties. The Democratic incumbent lost to the undamaged replacement challenger 51 percent to 47 percent.

Late release: your opponent–again theoretically–will not have time to respond and will therefore lose control of the election. Problem is, late-breaking scandals often get lost in the shuffle. In October 1964, aides to Barry Goldwater thought they had LBJ on the run after the arrest of a politically influential staffer. Goldwater’s campaign worked overtime getting bumper stickers and buttons out the door to capitalize on what they thought was a silver bullet. But as author Rick Perlstein writes in “Before the Storm”: “The cause for optimism lasted until the newspapers landed on their desks the next day. In the previous 24 hours, China had detonated its first nuclear weapon; Harold Wilson was ousted as British prime minister; and Khrushchev was removed as Soviet premier, with no heir immediately apparent.”

ADVICE BY CRAIG VAROGA

Craig Varoga is CEO of the public affairs firm Varoga & Rice (http://vrsconsulting.com). E-mail questions to cvaroga@VRstrategies.com or fax to 713.522.0040.

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