Archive for the ‘Campaign Consults’ Category

Campaign Finance Regulation Needs a Home

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The Federal Election Commission can no longer be considered the sole federal agency tasked with regulating federal campaign activity.  As a recent New York Times article suggests, the Securities and Exchange Commission may soon require publicly traded corporations to disclose the names of individuals who contribute to various so-called Super PACs.  Not surprisingly, the measure is strongly opposed by business organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, which argue that such measures would infringe on the group’s right to free speech. The Internal Revenue Service has also been highlighted recently for its alleged overreach in targeting tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organizations associated with the conservative Tea Party.

These latest events highlight just how thorny of an issue campaign finance regulation has become.  Agencies that are not normally tasked with any kind of campaign regulation have found themselves forced to overcompensate for a seemingly ineffectual FEC.

In international relations, the term “proxy war” is used to describe a situation in which two opposing parties utilize a substitute, or a third party, as an alternative to fighting each other directly.  What Citizens United seems to have engendered, is a proxy war between liberals and conservatives in which government agencies are being used as reluctant battlegrounds.   As we have witnessed this past week, the results are at best messy, and at worst, damaging to the overall legitimacy of the federal government.

The longer both sides continue to battle one another over procedural matters in multiple agency arenas, the more distant they become from their purported fundamental purpose for being, which is to engage in political advocacy.  Not to mention, of course, the more contributor money they waste in the process. But is there any alternative?

These organizations might benefit from looking back to 2004 and the similar issues brought forth by so-called “527” organizations and their apparent exemption from the recently passed Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (also known as McCain-Feingold).  The crucial similarity between the battles being waged today, and those of the past, boil down to one thing: the definition of a “political committee” as defined in the FEC Act.

The difference between the strategies implemented today versus 2004, is that in the latter, watchdog groups and political parties funneled all their complaints and fought all their battles in one arena – the FEC.  Both sides filed complaints and the FEC came down hard on 527’s, primarily for failing to register as political committees.  As a result, America Coming Together was fined $775,000, the Media Fund was fined $580,000 and the Swift Boat Vets and POWs for Truth were fined $299,500.

A strategy that devotes resources to one specific arena (namely, the FEC) could be particularly beneficial for liberals and other proponents of increased disclosure.  The Supreme Court unambiguously upheld disclosure laws as constitutional.  If disclosure is the bottom line, then liberals and supporters need to bring the fight back to the FEC where they maintain a home turf advantage. Otherwise, they risk undermining their cause by fighting procedural battles in agencies that have little interest in regulating campaign activity and little incentive to become enmeshed in a political battle as contentious as campaign finance.

 By Erinn Larkin, Compliance Director, PACs and Parties


Free Advice: Start Raising Money Yesterday

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Whenever an aspiring candidate asks the question, “when do you think I should start raising money?”  my answer is always the same – yesterday!

I cannot begin to count the times I have joined a campaign right before a critical fundraising deadline. And yet there are countless reasons why raising money early on can be pivotal.  For example, in order to build a successful fundraising operation you must first create a good infrastructure of data and lists. Moreover, early money can create other opportunities that will give you the greatest chance at success.

A good fundraising operation can very easily built if the campaign has a good base of data. Almost any good fundraising operation will start by organizing and sorting (hopefully) hundreds of personal contacts of the candidate. This step can take a considerable amount of time, in many cases candidates will hand their fundraiser a stack full of business cards, their holiday list, (and my favorite) cocktail napkins with notes scribbled on them. Deciphering this data can take a great deal of time and detective work. Usually, this work can be done months before a candidate is ready to announce his or her candidacy. Once some sort of manageable list is in order, the candidate is ready to hit the phones!

By getting a head start on fundraising, the candidate do things other than just spend hours in a dark room on the phone. Many candidates quickly grow tired of call time and want to get to meet voters and campaign for office. However, if they cannot do this until they hit some of the early fundraising benchmarks. By buckling down early and spending hours of the phone can definitely free up the candidates schedule to spend a few more hours a week shaking hands and kissing babies.

Finally, the greatest reason a candidate should start raising money sooner than later is that it will give them the greatest chance at victory. This should be reason enough to convince candidates to start raising money in April instead of June, but that is not always the case. The facts do not lie in many cases the candidate who jumps in early and raises money the fastest can have a greater chance at victory. Early money is a demonstration of strength to both potential opponents and pundits. An early start will also give you a chance to jump out to an early cash advantage, that in some cases your opponent might never be able to catch.

Every candidate could use some free advice, so to those of you thinking about running for office in 2014, 2015 or even 2016, remember it is never to early to start fundraising. An early fundraising start will give the opportunity to build a solid infrastructure, allow the candidate more time to campaign, and most importantly give you the greatest chance at victory.

By Nick Daggers, Vice President, Fundraising

Helping Rhode Island’s Marriage Equality Bill Gain Momentum

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The issue of same-sex marriage is an argument that all of us have heard, and most of us have strong opinions on. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “marriage is a basic human right. You cannot tell people they cannot fall in love.” While he said this in reference to marriage between races, the same can be said about homosexuals.

Public attitudes toward gay marriage are a mirror image of what they were a decade ago: in 2003, 37 percent favored gay nuptials, and 55 percent opposed them.  According to the Washington Post, national support for marriage equality is trending upwards with 58% of Americans being in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage as of March 2013.

CFO Consulting Group is proud to be the public affairs team fighting for marriage equality within Rhode Island.  There are currently nine states, plus the District of Columbia, where same-sex marriage is legal.  In addition to this, 3 states are considering bills to legalize same-sex marriage; Delaware, Illinois, & Rhode Island.  In January, the Rhode Island House of Representatives & House Speaker Gordon Fox overwhelmingly passed legislation to allow gays and lesbians to marry in the only New England state where they can’t.

The Rhode Island Senate will be next to address the issue of gay marriage when they return from their recess this week for the final work of their annual session.  The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider legislation allowing gay couples to wed. The session is scheduled for 3 p.m. Tuesday, April 23rd. Also up for consideration is a bill that would place the question of allowing gay marriage on next year’s ballot.

The two bills before the Senate Judiciary Committee take different paths.  One would reaffirm Rhode Island’s constitutional  protection of religious liberty.  The other has a long lists of special exemptions and carve-outs,

The major issue keeping Rhode Island from becoming the tenth state to legalize same-sex marriage, and why there are two bills being considered, is the question of how will those that oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds, including religious institutions, businesses, and hospitals, be affected if same-sex marriage is approved?  More specifically, questions regarding the legality of a business or religious institution denying service to same-sex couples because of religious beliefs will be up for debate this Tuesday.

CFO is looking forward to seeing the Rhode Island Senate vote in favor of the bill and allow all people in Rhode Island, regardless of their sexual orientation, to possess equal rights.

By Brett Smiley, founding partner of  CFO Consulting Group

What Can We See in Q1 Reports?

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In addition to being tax day, April 15 was the deadline for federal campaign committees to file their first fundraising report of 2014.

The amount of activity contained in these reports helps us speculate about what implications these numbers may have with respect to the 2014 elections.

Power of Incumbency – One of the most obvious signs of these early reports demonstrates is the advantage of being an incumbent. This past January, eighty-one freshman members of the US House were sworn in. Of those eighty-one, twenty-five raised over $250,000 in the first quarter of this year. Many of these incumbents are expected to be somewhat vulnerable heading into the next election.    Challengers simply do not have the resources and apparatus to  raise the kind of money that incumbents can at such an early point in the election cycle; many of them have yet to even declare their candidacy.

Therefore,  incumbents have the benefit of a de facto head-start in the fundraising race. Only a handful of vulnerable members have opponents eighteen months before the next election.   This means that  incumbents often have somewhere between a  $300,000-$500,000 head start before they even have a declared opponent.

A Glimpse of the Future – These numbers may also provide insight into whether an incumbent is considering a run for higher office in 2014.

House members Gary Peters (D-MI) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) are two potential examples of this. Peters proved his fundraising ability by netting $371,000, and in turn, demonstrated that his legitimacy as a possible contender to replace the retiring Senator Carl Levin (D-MI). Cotton is rumored to be considering a challenge to Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR); he raised $526,000 over the past three months, which places him at the front of the pack for Senate challengers.

These reports also show the opposite; that some incumbents are not ready or willing to make a run for higher office. Many in the Tea Party had dreams of Steve King (R-IA) running for the open Senate seat in his state, even though the Republican establishment was rooting for his colleague Tom Latham (R-IA). Latham seems to have won this round by raising $300,000 – more than three times what King raised(amounting to just under $93,000).

Thinking about a Comeback? – We can also look at the reports of members who lost in November to see who is plotting a comeback bid. The quickest way to identify a candidate not considering a bid is to look at who has terminated their campaign committees. Already over 100 campaign committees from 2012 have closed including defeated incumbents on both sides of the aisle.

We can also look at committees that remain open to see who might be thinking of a comeback or considering retirement. The outspoken former Congressman Allen West is likely not considering another bid; his committee transferred $400,000 from his committee to his non-profit foundation. There are also signs from losing candidates that might be considering another bid. Those committees tend to hold onto as much of their cash-on-hand as possible and spend on some limited expenses like polling, fundraising, and paying down debt that could inhibit a future run.

By Nick Daggers, Vice President, Fundraising

CFO Consulting Group Expands, Adds Public Affairs Practice

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For Immediate Release:
Wednesday, February 13, 2013                                                                                                 

CFO Consulting Group Expands, Adds Public Affairs Practice

Campaign Fundraising and Compliance Experts Announce New Public Affairs Practice, Clients

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, CFO Consulting Group announced a major expansion of services in the form of a new Public Affairs practice. The enhanced offering expands on the development/fundraising and compliance services for which CFO has become well known and regarded within the Democratic campaign, non-profit, and issue advocacy space. CFO Public Affairs also announced its first clients including the Greater Providence Board of Realtors and the City of Providence, Rhode Island. During the 2012 election cycle CFO Consulting Group assisted the successful $25 million affordable housing bond campaign in Rhode Island.

After 5 years of intense focus building our compliance and development practices, we’re excited and ready to expand once again,” said CFO Consulting Group founding partner Brett Smiley. He continued, “CFO remains committed to providing our clients with the attention they deserve and results they need to be successful. We look forward to helping them meet the challenges ahead.”

With deep roots in electoral politics and issue advocacy campaigns, CFO Public Affairs offers clients an array of results driven services needed to exceed even the most challenging objectives. Having held leadership roles in races from California to Chicago to New England, founder Brett Smiley has mastered effective and creative messaging, harnessing the power of coalitions, and developing winning strategies.

The practice is anchored in Southern New England and builds on nearly a decade of work with the region’s biggest Mayors, statewide elected officials, and members of Congress. Its hands-on team of political professionals gives every project the careful consideration and intense focus it deserves.

With its particular expertise in local government, CFO Public Affairs is uniquely suited to assist developers and those working with municipalities. Additionally, as the prevalence of ballot initiatives continues to grow, the practice’s unparalleled electoral experience is an invaluable asset for those seeking to win at the ballot box.

Few can match the experience, innovation, and expertise that CFO Public Affairs leverages on behalf of clients.

Selected CFO Consulting Group Past and Present Clients

Over the years, CFO has assisted dozens of clients with development/fundraising and compliance services, including:

Melissa Bean for Congress (IL), Robin Carnahan for U.S. Senate (MO), David Cicilline for Congress (RI), Matt Dunlap for U.S. Senate (ME), Elaine Marshall for U.S. Senate (NC), Jim Neal for U.S. Senate (NC), Steve Pagliuca for U.S. Senate (MA), Dennis Anderson for Congress (IL), Russ Carnahan for Congress (MO), John Carney for Congress (DE), Leslie Coolidge for Congress (IL), Susan Davis for Congress (CA), Val Demings for Congress (FL), Tammy Duckworth for Congress (IL), Bill Foster for Congress (IL), Eric Griego for Congress (NM), Debbie Halvorson for Congress (IL), Janice Hahn for Congress (CA), Scott Harper for Congress (IL), DK Hirner for Congress (IL), Anne Kuster for Congress (WI), Rob Miller for Congress (SC), Walt Minnick for Congress (ID), Natalie Mosher for Congress (MI), Mark Pocan for Congress (WI), Mike Quigley for Congress (IL), Maureen Reed for Congress (MN), Heath Shuler for Congress (NC), Diane Smith for Congress (MT), Syed Taj for Congress (MI), John Tree for Congress (IL), Frederica Wilson for Congress (FL), Charlie Fogarty for Governor (RI), Phil Angelides for Governor (CA), Peter Kilmartin for Attorney General (RI), Patrick Lynch for Governor (RI), Ralph Mollis for Secretary of State (RI), Angel Taveras for Mayor (RI), Asian Political Leadership Fund, Hartford Humanities Fund, Illinois Democratic County Chairman’s Association, Vanguard Healthcare PAC (IL), Tom O’Donnell for Alderman (IL), Friends of Ric Munoz (IL), Linda Holmes for State Senate (IL), Dave Koehler for State Senate (IL), Mike Noland for State Senate (IL), Celia Gamrath for Cook County Judge (IL), Tim O’Brien for Mayor (New Britain, CT), Pedro Segarra for Mayor (Hartford, CT), Hartford Humanities Fund, Ocean State Tall Ships, Providence Tourism Fund.

About CFO Founding Partner Brett Smiley

Brett Smiley is the founding partner of CFO Consulting Group offering clients results driven services meeting all of their public affairs, development, and compliance needs. After beginning his career as an accountant, Smiley fell into electoral politics in his hometown of Chicago. From 2002 to 2006, he traveled the nation as a professional campaign manager and fundraiser for candidates on the state and national level. In 2007, Smiley founded CFO and over the past five years, his team has helped dozens of candidates, Democratic parties, political action committees, issue advocacy organizations, and charities meet and exceed their fundraising, accounting, and compliance goals. His background in managing everything from a hundred thousand dollar county board campaign to a multimillion-dollar gubernatorial bid provides him with the perspective and expertise needed to assist clients at all levels. Rare for a campaign professional, Smiley holds an M.B.A. and Finance degree from DePaul University in Chicago. He resides in Providence, Rhode Island with his husband James DeRentis and is active with a variety of charitable and political causes including the Victory Fund.

Contact: Karl Frisch

202-681-5275 phone