Campaign Solutions News

Think Twice Before Dismissing Media Bias

Last week, published a two-part series investigating George Soros’ media influence, bringing back memories of the “Media and Politics” course I took in college.

Whether you choose to consume news from Fox’s “fair and balanced” reporting, head to CNN because it’s the “most trusted name in news,” or look elsewhere, you’ll probably agree with me that every journalist and media personality adds his or her own slant to coverage. But whether or not the majority of news coverage slants to the left or right is an entirely different story.

I’m on the side that believes there is a liberal bias in the media. Now I don’t go around blaming the “Lame Stream Media” for everything, but it does irk me that when George W. Bush fell off of his bike it made headlines for days, but Barack Obama said there were 57 states and news outlets didn’t bat an eyelash! Still examples like this do not prove anything.

However, a little background on one very influential man brings into question the fairness of the news reported by the majority of the mainstream media. That man is George Soros. You probably already know that Soros gave National Public Radio $1.8 million and spent $27 million trying to defeat George W. Bush in 2004. But did you know that he has ties, both financial and personal, to more than 30 major news organizations?

According to the report, Soros has given more than $48 million to various media organizations. And his ties are much deeper than ABC, NBC and the New York Times. He’s spent money to develop journalism schools! In fact, the level of funding George Soros has provided the media is so complex that it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint an exact number.

I’ll let you come to your own conclusions. But next time you’re looking for news, keep George Soros in the back of your mind.

Playing The Trump Card

America is fascinated with Donald Trump.

In public opinion polls, as a constant media presence, and on NBC’s The Apprentice, Trump seems to have been cornering the media with talk about his future political prospects. In fact, a recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that Trump is ‘trumping’ the GOP field in media attention. In the last week of April, voters reported seeing or hearing more media coverage about Donald Trump than the entire Republican field combined. As cited by Pew: “Trump is standing out in a contest that has yet to draw much public interest or media coverage.”

Several national opinion polls taken during April focused in on Trump, demonstrating that the public was seriously considering him as a contender for the Republican nomination. That was in spite of the repeated barrages of dismissive pundit ramblings struggling to downplay his prospects at the time. In a field of contenders that (depending on whose counting) includes close to a dozen candidates, Trump was the one standing out without ever being a declared candidate.

His popularity rise had a lot to do with the fact that Trump, a master of modern media, was doing everything and anything he could to engage in relevant debate with direct, frank communication tactics with the American people.

Now, with the news that he’s not planning to run for president, what does this mean for other candidates?

At their core, elections are about choices. And choices are defined by contrasts. Regardless of your opinions of Trump, one thing is certain; with every single comment, he painted a clear difference between himself and the status quo. He wasted no time linking every problem to its cause and reminding people in no uncertain terms how he’s the polar opposite. The result was that people understood his positions; they were identifying, and responding. The choices were clear.

Tough talk and transparent opinions helped Trump appeal to voters that desperately want change. Republican primary voters are close to revolt over what they’re seeing in Washington, and the Obama administration has them steaming over bailouts, healthcare, spending and deficits. His clear positions on hot issues are engaging their support by eliminating ambiguity. While you may question where others stand, Trump’s position has been crystal clear in comparison.

What’s shocking has been the relative absence of other messengers countering Trump’s rapid rise. The same polls that have showed Trump surging also reveal a mostly tuned out electorate. More than half of the people Pew surveyed “could not name anyone when asked which GOP candidate they have been hearing the most about.”

But just last week, a poll emerged telegraphing the first Trump slip, sliding behind more known quantities like Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, though Huckabee himself has also stepped out of the ring. It’s a reminder that short term popularity doesn’t always translate into long term gains. In the end, voters have to like what they find to stay on board.

Donald Trump’s short, energetic rise is a lesson to all candidates in the power of effective communication. While Trump’s competition avoided sharp distinctions between themselves, Obama and the status quo, Trump did the opposite. The result was a rapid increase in popularity, buzz, and support.

Elections are about contrast and explaining clear choices for voters. Voters will gravitate towards candidates who communicate clearly defined differences.

Does your campaign offer a clearly defined choice? If it does, it could be your ‘Trump card’ on Election Day.

Early Voting Trends Reveal How Elections Are Changing

In a opinion piece following last year’s historic midterm election, the Wall Street Journal explored emerging trends in early voting (EV) in an article titled, “Who Stole Election Day?” Their concern?

“Too many voters are making decisions when horse-race coverage dominates the news, attention to issues is limited, and key debates haven’t taken place.”

If you’re not obsessing over EV trends, should you be worried? Are EV trends actually changing elections to the point that campaigns have to evolve their strategies to accommodate new voting patterns? Is it a permanent shift or just a short term anomaly from the normal patterns of voting?

Simply put: the change is real, significant, and game changing.

EV data has revealed permanent changes in the way people approach voting that will require new tactics for campaigns preparing for Election Day. And there’s data to back it up.

In 2010, the early voting rate was 29%. That number has been steadily increasing for over two decades, beginning at just 9% in 1992. Recently, we’ve witnessed a 10% jump between the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections from 20% to 30%.

EV growth is spurred by increasing acceptance among voters and lawmakers of the idea that voters should be allowed to vote whenever they’ve made up their minds. Many states are slowly opening up their processes by adding new laws allowing unrestricted absentee voting (convenience voting), automatic renewals for regular absentee votes, and periods of EV or in-person absentee in physical polling locations.

States are producing sustained, elevated levels of early voting by legislating more flexible voter participation. Recent advances in voting technology like digital poll books, secure online voting for military voters overseas, and digital applications for voter registration and absentee balloting will only sustain the current trend of early voting growth.

The impact it’s having on Election Day itself may change the way you look at expanding early voting opportunities. In 2010, fourteen states had more than 40% of their ballots cast before Election Day. Thirty states cast more than 20% of ballots. In states like Oregon, every voter participated early and by mail.

For campaign professionals, this means that Election Day is now a sixty day effort of sustained, targeted turnout. Voting will take place at the same time as regular voter contact and advocacy messaging. It’s possible that as campaigns prepare simple phone banks, direct mail lists, or GOTV operations, that up to 50% of their target universes may need to be purged due to the fact they’ve voted. And a campaign’s ability to know who has voted may be dependent on local registrars being ahead of the curve on data processing and information sharing.

“Election Day has become merely the end point in a drawn-out voting period dominated in its early stages by news media preoccupation with questionable polls and predictions,” says Eliot Cutler, a 2010 candidate for Governor in Maine. As barriers are removed and EV increases in prominence, it’s possible it can have negative effects on the outcome of elections by encouraging voters to make their selections before campaigns have an opportunity to complete their arguments. Without sufficient time for debate and exposure of candidate positions’ public scrutiny, ideas won’t be vetted as thoroughly as in the past.

Beyond the obvious challenges for campaign professionals, there could be concerns about what these trends mean for the quality of American Democracy. In a period of intense political polarization, skyrocketing costs of elections and general apathy in the ability of government to provide solutions for our toughest problems, some see this as additional opportunities to trivialize the process of elections by encouraging campaigns to rush voters to judgment. They wonder: Could voting become an impulse buy like purchasing a trashy tabloid magazine or a tempting sweet while waiting in line at the supermarket?

But there is one truth we have trouble escaping: voters like convenience voting. I’ve voted by absentee most of my life and have voted by absentee in person…and liked it. Voting is our most fundamental of rights and government must be making every effort to find ways to keep voting an accessible and a pleasurable experience for everyone who wants to participate. With people working longer, commuting longer and further from home, voting isn’t as accessible as it once was.

It’s clear from the data we’ve seen that in the coming elections, EV trends will continue upward and that winning campaigns will be the ones that fully embrace it’s benefits and challenges. Predicting future trends mostly depends on understanding the patchwork of state laws that allow for EV that are rapidly changing; it’s clear that they’re only going to increase EV’s availability and acceptability. In the 2010 elections, 30% of all votes were cast before Election Day.

Will your campaign be ready for early voting in your election?

The Antidote to Generational Apathy

I am part of the generation of twenty something’s who have been branded by our apathy towards the myriad of world and political events. Anything beyond our reality television obsessions or team standings (and don’t be mistaken my DVR is still set to Bravo weekly and I check the San Francisco Giants homepage almost as often as Facebook) simply isn’t on our radar.

However, with our Facebook friends and their musings in our pockets, with each and every Twitter follow and follower tweeting minute-by-minute movements, there is no denying that our streams of consciousness have found not only a voice, but also an audience though the advent of social networks.

After all it was my indifferent generation who breathed life into this platform, so inevitably we have developed an influence to match. While my own expressions reflect a signature enthusiasm for food and adventures, my voice has unexpectedly discovered its ability to impact others.

Organically friends and followers click, share, like and re-tweet my sundry contemplations. So why not harness the ability to utilize this influence, by disseminating information and sparking the dialogue. Frankly these real world reflections don’t always or even have to manifest themselves in a profound political prose; but sharing genuine opinions (instead of Brian Wilson’s Dynamite video) just maybe our secret weapon.

The way I see it, the antidote to our generational apathy is already part of our daily routine. My voice resonates on each of my friend’s walls and my follower’s twitter feeds, so when I choose to actively embrace the potential of my impact I also choose to combat the apathy that has strangled our generation from translating our thoughts to our actions. Now is the time to prove the medium’s true value to the 2012 equation…

Friendster Finds A New Friend

Yesterday, Friendster, the grandfather of social networking, announced that it would be deleting the majority of its users’ information and shifting focus entirely. The site, undergoing a realignment after being passed around through a few purchases, will abandon its ambitions in the traditional social networking space in favor of social gaming and entertainment. The most interesting part? The new Friendster will reportedly be built on Facebook.

From ZDNet:

Friendster, according to the executive, will be re-launched as a social entertainment site that will leverage the global social graph using Facebook’s “Connect” feature, and that Friendster will not compete with but instead will complement Facebook, said Bangah.

The social networking space is very competitive, and it’s not uncommon for competing companies to be bought up by larger interests. Indeed, as recently as last year, Facebook bought Friendster’s portfolio of patents to protect against potential legal challenges, However, Friendster’s admission of Facebook’s ubiquity is more than a statement that Facebook is way ahead–it’s a concession that the race is over.

In a space which seeks to define who you are online, the intertwining relationships of 600 million people carry a lot of inertia, and, if yesterday’s introduction of the “Send” button is any indication, Facebook shows no sign of slowing in spreading the resulting influence around the web.

Many ask if any social networking startup can ever beat Facebook at their own game. Like those who asked the same question of Google a decade ago, the answer will almost assuredly be “no.” The game, however, is not zero sum. Hopefully, this will prompt Facebook’s others competitors to stop looking at the Open Graph as a concern, and begin to view it as a resource–literally a free manipulatable database of the connected world’s relationships. Time to start building.

If you still use Friendster, you have until May 31st to export your data before it is deleted.

Becki Donatelli comments on new media & 2012 elections on NPR

Today, Campaign Solutions’ president and founder Becki Donatelli was featured in an NPR story, “Digital Media Could Make Or Break Presidential Race,” commenting on the 2012 presidential campaign cycle and the use of new media tools and techniques:

Republican Becki Donatelli, John McCain’s chief Internet strategist during his two presidential runs, says she thinks the 2012 campaign is a jump ball where the Web advantage could go to either party.

Donatelli says politicians on the Web used to try to pull people online from wherever they were to the candidate’s home page — now, they are trying to push.

“Instead of hoping to get them back to a website,” Donatelli says, “we’re delivering them messages on Facebook, [through] targeted advertising, email, pushing out messages to the political landscape.”

So instead of having to visit Sarah Palin’s blog to see what she thinks, you get those messages automatically popping up in your Facebook or Twitter feed.

Read the entire story and listen to the audio clip here.

America’s Mood Judged Through Twitter

Harvard and Northwestern have a new study out examining the twitter traffic of over three million Americans to illustrate the mood of the country. They’ve animated it for our enjoyment. Notice New York is always negative. I appreciate Harvard’s efforts, but I could have told them that.

California, the next budget battle. It doesn’t take a Prophet.

They say predicting an earthquake is impossible, California geologists are always warning of “The Big One”. The citizens of California may not be soothsayers, but the foresight of the pending financial disaster doesn’t require a Richter scale. The foreshock in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio has forced Republican Governors to win back their parties reputation of being financial conservatives, only to be swayed by a bunch of elected officials who don’t want to “sit in the circle”. They have ignored their sworn duty to represent their constituents on the floor, for fear of losing the financial security of their Union backers (and funding for their next election).

I can only hope that CA Gov. Jerry Brown will remember his campaign promise to balance the budget. As Midwest governors have figured out, Collective Bargaining rights and greater pension/healthcare contributions must be adjusted. We cannot forsake the security of the private sector for the retirement of the public sector.

Will CA legislators flee to their favorite casino on the Las Vegas Strip?

Will the President continue his boycott of Nevada tourism? Perhaps he will encourage these officials to stay in Nevada and help boost the economy by spending CA tax dollars at the craps table.

The financial Richter scale is showing that a 10.0 earthquake is on the way to California. I just hope that California has the money to pay its first responders. A pension is no good, if you can’t pay the salary on which it is based.

Stalker apps offer glimpse of Facebook future

The social media blogosphere has been abuzz in the past week about a new Facebook app called “Waiting Room,” the cousin of Breakup Notifier, which was recently blocked by Facebook. From Mashable:

“Here’s how it works: When you indicate interest in an unavailable Facebook friend, that person gets an e-mail notification that there is someone in his or her “WaitingRoom” (this person need not have the app installed at this point). The identity of the admirer isn’t revealed until the recipient has changed his or her Facebook status to single.”

Beyond the frivolity (and admitted creepiness) of it all, I think it’s a creative idea, and gives those of us who do this for a living a couple lessons on how to best capitalize on the Facebook platform:

1. The hidden goldmine underlying the Facebook behemoth is not the publishing platform, it’s the connections:

Facebook was created to help us better connect with one another by making our connections tangible. Once an ambiguous collection of mental links, “friends” are now commoditized, with measurable analytics like wall posts, “likes,” and shared interests. While developers have done a good job of using this dynamic within the Facebook platform itself to great success (read: Farmville), they haven’t been so great on the outside. Apps like this, regardless of actual value, remind us that the best uses of the Internet are often those that capture the best of the offline world, online.

Developers should follow the example of Facebook’s “Like” button in striving to find creative ways to extend Facebook’s functionality outside of the walled garden. Specifically, within the Facebook TOS, developers could benefit by more creatively using Facebook’s email permissions with the existing data available.

2. The amount of data currently possessed by Facebook is staggering:

Forget or eHarmony, it’s likely that Facebook currently holds the largest database of relationship data anywhere. Replace “relationships” with political views, favorite sports team, or attendance at an event, and you can get a good idea of the type of data we’re talking about.

The average FB user is connected to 80 pages, has 130 friends, sends eight friend requests a month, and creates three pieces of content a day. And, it’s not overselling to say that this user “lives” her life on Facebook–she spends almost an hour a day logged in (50% of users are logged in at any given time). Through both implicit and explicit information, Facebook literally knows more about her than, perhaps, even her closest friends.

With this data, a robust API and boundless imagination, developers have a canvas to draw on of which they’ve only occupied a fraction. This is the largest collection of data ever assembled in the history of the world. Shouldn’t we be really using it?

Peter Amen Joins Campaign Solutions

Peter Amen, Online Advertising Strategist, Joins Campaign Solutions / Connell Donatelli

Alexandria, VA — Campaign Solutions and Connell Donatelli, Inc., a political consulting team specializing in online strategy, fundraising, advertising, and social media, announced today that Peter Amen has joined as Director of Business Development. Amen joins a team of 20 political professionals with offices in Virginia, California, and New Jersey. He will manage online advertising campaigns for political, corporate, and public affairs clients.

“Peter is one of the most experienced online advertising strategists in the political sphere. We’re very fortunate to have him,” said Partner Rebecca Donatelli. Amen added, “Campaign Solutions and Connell Donatelli are the premiere online team in Republican politics and public affairs. I look forward to helping elect more Republicans across the country and growing our issue advocacy practice in California.”

Amen is an expert in online advertising and a specialist in building and managing large political databases. He has worked successfully with clients including SarahPAC, Move America Forward, American Solutions for Winning the Future and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Amen is probably best known for his tenure as National Sales Director for Intermarkets, the publishing company for the Drudge Report. Prior to joining Intermarkets, he was the Founder and Principal of Performance Media Solutions, a media buying and management firm in San Francisco. Amen was also the Director of Sales for Interep Interactive, a full service online representation firm.

Becki Donatelli and her partner, the late Mike Connell, founded Connell Donatelli in 2003, which has developed and executed online advertising campaigns for McCain-Palin 2008, The Republican National Committee, The National Federation of Independent Business, Michele Bachmann for Congress, and scores of other political and public affairs campaigns. Founded in 1998, Campaign Solutions pioneered online fundraising for a variety of political and public affairs campaigns. The team raised over $42 million during the 2010 election cycle and nearly $100 million online for McCain-Palin 2008. Between 2009-2010, they received 55 Pollie Awards from the American Association of Political Consultants, including a record number of awards for online advertising. The team also received 4 Golden Dot Awards from the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet, and a Reed Award from Campaigns & Elections. Campaign Solutions and Connell Donatelli were honored to be the online team selected for the 2004 and 2008 Republican National Conventions.

For more information on Campaign Solutions and Connell Donatelli, please visit: or call (703) 684-3435.