by Perry Willis
To: LibertyWire subscribers
Between 1997 and the end of 2000, the Browne for President campaign raised and spent $2,422,891 for its Exploratory Committee, nomination campaign, and general election campaign.
In addition, the national Libertarian Party raised $198,911 that was spent on advertising for the presidential campaign ó making a total of $2,621,802 that was raised and spent directly for the presidential campaign.
By comparison, the 1996 campaign raised $51,587 in 1994, $501,708 in 1995, and $894,900 in 1996 ó for a grand total of $1,448,195.
The Libertarian Party had 13,947 members at the beginning of the 1996
campaign, and roughly 33,000 at the start of the 2000 campaign
Of the amount raised by the 2000 campaign . . .
This report will deal with the presidential campaignís strategy, its successes, its failures, and its finances. A forthcoming report from Harry Browne will deal with the campaignís message, the legal and public hurdles any national campaign must face, and what Harry perceives to be the LPís future prospects.
How a Campaign Works
Campaigns are fueled by money, media interest, volunteer outreach, and word-of-mouth. And the amount of "fuel" a campaign acquires is determined by how much enthusiasm it generates among its supporters and prospects.
Enthusiasm results from being able to achieve constant acceleration, and ever-increasing momentum. Success in one area ó be it money, media interest, volunteer outreach, or word-of-mouth ó makes success more likely in every other area. But failure in one area likewise increases the prospects for failures elsewhere.
In order to attract financial and volunteer support, a campaign must propose exciting projects, and this usually involves attempting to do things that have never been done before. But thereís a basic conflict here. If a campaign fails to propose exciting projects that push beyond what has been done before, it will also fail to win the financial and volunteer support it needs to achieve acceleration and momentum. Ho-hum projects result in ho-hum support. But if a campaign pushes too far, and fails to meet most of its goals, that too will result in the loss of acceleration and momentum.
Campaigns must walk a tight-rope between attempting too little and attempting too much. These factors should be kept in mind as you read this report.
Given that the successful things the campaign did should have been fairly obvious, it seems most useful to devote this report to an analysis of our mistakes and obstacles. By repeating past successes, you maintain what youíve already built, but only by eliminating mistakes can you gain new ground. It is our hope that those who follow after us will be able to learn from our mistakes, and go much further than we did.
The Exploratory Committee
The most notable lessons to be learned from our campaign relate to the failure of our Exploratory Committee to achieve its primary goals. We had two major hopes for the Exploratory Committee:
We succeeded partially with the first goal, and failed almost completely with the second.
Using an Exploratory Committee helped us hire staff, buy equipment, and develop procedures far in advance of the official campaign kick-off. This allowed us to be much more effective during the campaign than would have been possible otherwise.
However, our efforts at advance preparation were not maximized because we failed to meet our second goal. Our inability to raise sufficient sums for our initial advertising burst forced us to divert time from building infrastructure to the formulation of new plans based on reduced income. Everything affects everything else, and anyone who is attempting to launch any election campaign should keep in mind that failure in one area will create unexpected expenses in others.
The Exploratory Committee failed to meet its fund-raising goals for one very simple reason: most people donít get interested in political campaigns until very near Election Day. We knew going in that this would be a problem, but we hoped to overcome it by being aggressive and tenacious. I believed people would be motivated by the idea of starting the campaign with a big bang, but few were. Thus the response to all our fund-raising efforts, whether from direct mail letters or fund-raising events, was much smaller than I had hoped. And when response is lower, fund-raising costs rise. Your gross income is smaller, and your net is smaller still.
Specifically, our cost of funds from direct mail during the exploratory phase was about 40% when it should have been more like 33%, and our cost of funds from road tours was truly disastrous. Nearly 3/4 of every dollar raised on the road went to keep Harry on the road. We continued to try and improve the effectiveness of our road tours because we needed to learn how to generate large crowds effectively. As a result, we did learn much that was helpful to us later, and Harryís in-person appearances before largely Libertarian groups during the pre-nomination period helped to generate enthusiasm and recruits for the campaign. But in retrospect, neither the knowledge gained nor the enthusiasm was worth the cost in time and money.
Ineffective fund-raising meant not only that our cost of funds was higher than it should have been, but also that the costs of our advance preparations, the staff, the equipment, and the planning also consumed a higher percentage of our smaller available revenues than we had planned. Our overhead costs were no higher than projected, but they represented a higher portion of a lower income number than they would have with a higher income number. Everything you do effects everything else you do.
Finally, we were much more successful at recruiting monthly credit card pledgers than we were at finding major donors. This meant that much of the money we did raise would not be realized until well into the future. Obviously, this reliable source of income was very helpful at crucial moments during the campaign, but it did little toward achieving our goals for the campaign kick-off.
I continue to believe that advance preparation is vital for any effective presidential campaign, and that a big burst of advertising at the start of a third-party campaign is still a vital way to establish momentum and to show the press that weíre a serious campaign. But can it be done? My answer is an unequivocal yes. Indeed, if we had known then what we know now, we could have achieved it for the 2000 effort. I hope future presidential campaigns will find some value from what I am about to suggest.
To begin with, an exploratory committee is the wrong vehicle for what needs to be accomplished. An exploratory committee is subject to the same restrictions imposed upon a full-fledged campaign. What is needed is an independent organization thatís free of the campaign finance limits and other restrictions, so that at an early time it can do three things:
Major Donors: By the time Harry received the nomination in July 2000, our campaign had found more than 300 donors who could contribute $1,000 or more. Unfortunately, it took a lot of time and money to discover these donors, and some of what they contributed went to fund-raising and staff costs. If the discovery costs had instead been paid by another organization built around Harry Browne he could have phoned these donors and raised $1,000 contributions shortly before the campaign kick-off, at almost no cost to the campaign. We might have been able, by this means, to raise at least $250,000 very quickly, in the Fall of 1999 ó apart from the money for campaign overhead being raised separately.
Email: If, between 1997 and 1999, we had used other projects or another organization to develop a large list of email names that belonged to Harry, we could have used that list to raise additional money in the Fall of 1999. With at least $250,000 in the bank from major donors, additional donors would have good reason to expect the campaign to begin with a big advertising bang. The prospect of an "advertising bang" would have appeared more concrete and less speculative, and donors would have had more reason to believe the goal would be achieved. Excitement would have been higher, and it is likely that another $200,000 to $300,000 could have been raised by email over a period of two or three months just prior to the February 2000 start of the campaign. Most of the rest of our $1.5 million goal could have been raised through direct mail, and we even could have reduced our goal to about $1.25 million because much less money would have gone into fund-raising and staff expenses. We could have covered our expenses and still had $1 million to spend on advertising.
Moreover, to have done a large chunk of this fund-raising through email appeals would have been very powerful, for reasons explained in the next section of this report.
Infrastructure and Publicity: The organization that helped to discover major donors and build an email list also could have created infrastructure and systems that could have been copied directly for use in the campaign.
In summary, by starting with a separate entity, funds could be raised from eager donors without any campaign limits ó and without counting against the $1,000 limits. This entity could be used to discover the major donors that will be $1,000 contributors to the eventual campaign, develop an email list of people who are likely to want to support the candidate, and design the systems needed by the campaign. By having the candidate (in this case, Harry) serve as spokesperson for the organization, we also would have been developing name recognition and media relationships that would have served us well during the campaign. The Democrats and Republicans do this kind of thing all the time. This is one area in which we need to emulate them.
As it turns out, we had a project that would have been perfect for this purpose: the lawsuit to disband the FEC (Federal Election Commission) and repeal all the campaign finance laws. It has been in my mind to attempt such a suit for more than a decade. I wanted very much to do it during this campaign, because of the publicity it would generate for the campaign. In retrospect, we should have launched the lawsuit in 1997. We could have used it as a vehicle to perform all the functions I listed above that an independent organization can do for a campaign. Moreover, if we had launched the FEC suit in 1997 we might have gained regulatory relief by the start of the 2000 campaign, and been able to operate without many of the legal constraints that now exist. We could have killed several birds with one stone. (I will come back to the FEC lawsuit shortly.)
Email Is Superior to Direct Mail
The approach we have used in funding the FEC lawsuit provides the solution for a long-standing problem. Direct mail isnít a very efficient tool ó either for communications or for fund-raising. It takes too long and costs too much. When you use direct mail to sell a project, you have no idea whether you will raise enough money to fund the project adequately. And if you donít raise enough, do you refund the money and abandon the project? Do you scale down the project and do less than you had planned? Or do you divert the funds to some less-expensive project? Or do you continue to send letters until the project is fully funded ó probably at a fund-raising cost well beyond initial estimates.
With direct mail, it takes a long time to prepare and mail an appeal. And you have to wait a long time before you know whether the appeal will be successful. In addition, any feedback you provide to your donors and prospects is out of date by the time they receive it.
Direct mail is very inefficient, but email provides an effective solution to all of direct mailís problems. It allows you to do repeated appeals very quickly, at almost no cost, and to constantly update your supporters on your progress.
First, there are virtually no fund-raising expenses beyond those required to maintain the list and a web page. Second, unlike direct mail, email is easy to do and fast. The fund-raising we did for the FEC lawsuit provides a case study. We set a goal, sent an initial email appeal to raise money for the goal, reported back on the results, and kept repeating our appeal for money until we had reached our goal. We were able to raise $100,000 in just 10 days from beginning to end, and everyone on the list knew where we stood at any given time. No muss, no fuss ó and no cost. Everything raised went directly to the project.
By contrast, when I was launching the LPís Project Archimedes membership recruitment effort in the spring and summer of 1997, it took us many months of direct mail appeals and back-breaking telephone calls to raise the $250,000 needed to capitalize the project. A lot of LP staff time was consumed for this purpose that could have been devoted to other things if there had been a better way to raise the money. And because Project Archimedes reports had to be written, formatted, printed, and then travel by mail, they were always out of date by the time they were received.
Direct mail will never die, but it should be de-emphasized, whether you are running for the State Legislature or President of the United States.
In conclusion, the goals we set for the Exploratory Committee were probably attainable, if we had made our moves in a different order, starting with the FEC lawsuit.
Short TV Ads vs. the Infomercial
Advertising production is another area where we should have done things in a different order. During the spring and summer of 1999, as it became obvious that we were not going to meet our most important goals for the Exploratory Committee, we began to shift gears. We needed a new direction to substitute for the goals we were abandoning, something that would be exciting and kindle more enthusiasm than the original Exploratory Committee goals had. The most obvious thing was to shift to the next major project on our to-do list, which was the production of a 30-minute infomercial.
We wanted an infomercial both for advertising and for use as a handout and an insert in our info packs. The infomercial was also important to us because the 1996 campaign had proposed doing one but had lacked sufficient funds. The only question was whether the first project should be an infomercial or a series of short TV ads.
The advantage of the short TV ads is that they would have been easier to produce and broadcast. The disadvantage of doing them first is that we might never have gotten around to producing the infomercial. This second point decided the issue. I felt it would be easier to do the short ads later (it was), and that if we did not do the infomercial right away it would never get done.
I was right to think the infomercial would not have been produced at all if we had put it off until later. As it turned out the infomercial was a much larger undertaking than I had anticipated. It took a huge bite out of the staff and detracted from our efforts to prepare the logistics of the campaign. It also took longer, in terms of elapsed time, than I had expected. This meant that we did not have a quick success to report to our supporters that could have served as a confidence builder for our next step. We experienced a bump in fund-raising when we introduced the idea of the infomercial, but we had no immediate follow-up project, and fund-raising and cash flow suffered while we labored to complete the video.
By the time we finished it we had little money left with which to broadcast it. Worse still, we had difficulty buying time on national networks. None was available. This meant we were relegated to running the video in local markets. Very few of our supporters saw these broadcasts, and these showings did nothing to contribute to a sense of momentum.
I think the infomercial was a great piece of work, and most of the people who have seen it seem to agree. Iím very glad we produced it, but if I had to do it over again I would produce the short TV ads first and leave the infomercial to chance.
The Volunteer Program
Another casualty of the staff time consumed by the video production was our volunteer program.
We had begun the volunteer program with the intention of providing much more support and guidance than actually proved possible. My heavy involvement in the video production, which engaged me in months of script re-writes and trips to New York and Los Angeles for shoots and editing sessions, meant that I had less time to prepare the logistical framework for the volunteer program. And because the extended video production threw off our fund-raising cycle, we also had less money available for this program as well.
Our Volunteer Coordinator did a wonderful job of recruiting volunteers, but we did a less than wonderful job of supporting them. On the whole, the volunteer organization was a big plus. In particular, local volunteers were essential to the success we later had on the road, resulting in large campaign events where around 50% of the attendees were new people. But the whole volunteer program could have gone much better if we had executed our projects in a more effective sequence.
The FEC Challenge
The FEC challenge was another casualty of the protracted video production.
My original intention was to prepare the lawsuit in advance of the campaign kick-off, and to use it as a way to reinvigorate our publicity campaign as soon as the first wave of visibility from Harryís announcement subsided. But the time required to do this was invested in the video instead, and the FEC challenge was pushed back in the schedule.
The result was a lull, right after the campaign kick-off, during which we had no advertising and very little publicity. Even so, we felt confident that the new TV ads, once completed, and the FEC challenge, once launched, would get things moving again. This would carry us into the nominating convention, with its attendant publicity, on a high note. This would have gotten the post-nomination campaign off to a fast start.
So as soon as we finished the video we raised money to produce our short TV ads and went to work shooting and editing them. In the meantime, we were ready to pitch a new project while we waited for the TV ads to be finished. The FEC challenge was next in line.
I cannot imagine a project more likely than the FEC suit to win the support of Libertarians. And so it started out. The initial response was very enthusiastic, both in terms of contributions and supportive emails. But that didnít last long. One of Harryís opponents for the nomination published articles accusing us of challenging the FEC law in order to hide financial misdoings and all sorts of other sins. He made so many accusations that Iím sure even those Libertarians who thought the charges were politically motivated must have assumed that there must be at least some fire under all that smoke. Our fund-raising dried up completely.
This was the low point of the campaign. We were on the ropes, deep in debt with no cash flow. We sent out an appeal to our LibertyWire email list asking for an emergency influx of funds. Without it, we would have had to shut down. Fortunately, LibertyWire subscribers responded in a big way and we were able to keep going ó only to have our fund-raising take another downturn the following month. We once again contemplated closing the campaign, or cutting staff so severely as to all but cripple our ability to do much of anything after the nomination.
In addition, party morale was probably pretty low at this point. The campaign had gotten off to a poor start, and all the mud-slinging made things even worse. On the one hand you had some people believing the LP was in the grip of a power-mad candidate who had corrupted everyone of importance in the party, and on the other hand there must have been a lot of supporters of the candidate who were discouraged by all the internal conflict ó who didnít want to be involved in a project or organization subject to so much petty back-biting.
We decided to bet that most Libertarians would rally around the campaign after the nominating convention chose Harry as the candidate. We resolved to stick it out. Staff and vendors went without payment so we could finish our TV ads, get a camera crew to the convention to shoot a video press kit (that turned out to be very helpful), and do a few other projects.
We were limping rather than sprinting as we went to Anaheim for the convention, but we hoped the nomination would cure our ills and that the party would rally for a strong finish. As it turned out, things did improve (although not enough). Most Libertarians rallied around us, Harry was chosen on the first ballot, and his acceptance speech helped to energize party members ó both at the convention ó and watching C-SPAN at home.
Conclusion on Pre-nomination Activities
We accomplished three things no presidential campaign had ever achieved before: we did significant logistical preparation in advance, we built up a contributor list and an email list, and we made the first LP presidential campaign video. But still we failed to begin our campaign with the bang we had set as our goal.
The military has a saying that no plan survives contact with the enemy. Also, some say that the ultimate victor in any conflict always appears obvious and inevitable in hindsight. The same applies to political campaigns. No plan survives contact with reality. So you should plan for surprises. And as far as hindsight is concerned, it now seems obvious to me that most of our problems would have disappeared if we had simply launched projects in a different order, starting way back in 1997. Or, to speak more accurately, we would have had different problems, and probably smaller ones.
The General Election
Our inability to accelerate and build momentum continued past the nominating convention and through most of the month of July. As mentioned before, the campaign went into the convention running on fumes, and we came out of it in much the same condition because of problems beyond the control of the Browne campaign.
FEC donation limits make it prudent for all the fund-raising done at the LPís convention banquet to go to the LNC (Libertarian National Committee). The campaign has a $1,000 contribution limit, while the LNC has a $20,000 contribution limit. Plus the LNC can spend almost unlimited amounts to buy advertising for its presidential nominee. So it makes sense to raise contributions larger than $1,000 for the LNC. The campaign provided 4 exciting TV commercials and a crack fund-raiser, Michael Cloud, to induce maximum giving at the convention banquet. And the results were pretty good ó as more than $100,000 was raised to go mostly to television advertising and partially to ballot access.
The best time to have used that money to broadcast ads was right on the heels of the C-SPAN coverage at the convention. It would have provided a powerful sense of acceleration and momentum, resulting in increased excitement, increased inquiries, and an influx of additional contributions to keep the ball rolling.
But that didnít happen because the LNC experienced several major problems with ballot access drives. Most of our ballot access drives had gone smoothly in 1996, but that wasnít the case in 2000.
Ballot Access Problems
In 1996 the Pennsylvania LP had done its own ballot drive with only a small amount of help from the LNC. But in 2000 the Pennsylvania LP never mounted much of an effort, despite commitments to do so. The LNC had to ride to the rescue, at great expense. And every dollar that went into the Pennsylvania drive was taken away from advertising.
There also were problems in Oklahoma. A previously reliable vendor failed to produce. The LP national office, most notably Political Director Ron Crickenberger, had to intervene to save the drive. Unfortunately, because it came late in the campaign, there was a lot of competition for petitioners and the LNC had to pay premium prices for signatures. The nearness of the deadline also forced the LP to collect more signatures than it had planned in order to provide a cushion against the stateís validity check. These unanticipated expenses also took LNC money away from advertising and more momentum was lost.
And still more money and momentum were lost when the Libertarian faction in Arizona that controls ballot access in that state decided to nominate someone other than Harry Browne. Anticipating this, the LNC decided to mount a past-deadline petition drive to put Harry on as an independent and then challenge the filing deadline in court, both at great expense. Thus TV advertising lost another large chunk of money, and a poorly reasoned court decision cost Harry 50-state ballot status.
The Pennsylvania problem cost $68,000, the Arizona problem cost $82,000, and a premium of approximately $20,000 was paid for the difficulties in Oklahoma. In all, ballot access problems resulted in an estimated $170,000 in unanticipated expenditures ó $170,000 that should have gone into advertising. Worse still were the losses in momentum that resulted.
The LNC had good reason to believe it would be able to raise and spend $1 million on advertising in 2000. The membership growth from the 1996 campaign and Project Archimedes had made the party large enough to raise that much. But repeated losses of momentum always mean reduced fund-raising. You can prudently budget $1 million for advertising, but you canít spend it if you donít raise it, and you canít raise it if you donít build momentum.
Imagined Conflicts of Interest
Some of the problems faced in 2000 were actually ghosts from 1996.
In 1996, when I was the National Director of the LNC, I determined to make use of that yearís presidential campaign to increase the size, strength, and funding of the Libertarian Party. I believed then, and still believe now, that the LPís presidential nominating process exists primarily for the benefit of the LP, and only secondarily for the benefit of the people who seek our nomination. I determined to use the pre-nomination campaign period to build the strength of the party going into the general election.
Harry Browne wanted to help me meet this goal. He was ready, willing, and able to raise money to strengthen the infrastructure of the LP. If he won the nomination he would have benefited from what he had helped me to do ó but if he lost the nomination, only the LP would have benefited from the resources he brought to the party.
Harry had a number of wealthy friends. They could give only $1,000 to his campaign, but they could give $20,000 to the party. I wanted that money for the party. I wanted to beef up the national office so that we could book more media, do more prospecting, process more inquiries and fulfill more orders for materials. But, while Harryís friends were interested in helping him, they were skeptical of the party. They were eager to support him immediately, but unwilling to support the party until after he had the nomination. Somehow we had to convince them that the party was a good investment, and that they needed to support the party now so that Harry could achieve his full potential if and when he won the nomination later.
I resolved to write a lengthy sales presentation that made the case for supporting the party within the context of how that would also help Harry later. Strangely, LNC policies were written in such a way as to permit me to do this job if Harryís campaign paid me for it, but I could not do it simply as an extension of my duties as National Director. So I wrote the document, Harry paid me for it, and we went on to raise more than $100,000 for the Libertarian Party ó the majority of which was received before Harry had the nomination. I used that money to build the partyís infrastructure. I was able to hire George Getz, Dan Smith, and Dan Gallagher, who served as our Director of Operations, freeing me to work on membership recruitment projects. Harryís campaign team moved into the LPís offices after the nomination, and we went on to dramatically increase the size of the party. This was a plan where the right things were done in the right order, and it worked.
But immediately, some Libertarians who opposed Harry used these events to level charges of conflict of interest. Again, many people hearing these charges assumed that where there was smoke there must be some fire, even though no one could ever explain how the party was harmed (for instance, no one ever suggested that the money we had raised for the LP should be returned), or how a payment to me could result in even one more vote for Harry at the LPís nominating convention.
As a result, the LNC toughened its conflict-of-interest rules and the door was effectively shut on future cooperation between the party and a candidate for the partyís presidential nomination. And the waters were so poisoned that we never even considered making use of LP services after the nomination in 2000. An imagined conflict of interest had effectively negated the harmony of interest that should naturally have existed.
This had a very negative effect on what we could accomplish in the 2000 campaign. I would have much preferred to have hired the national party to use its existing systems to do our database management, accounting, FEC compliance, and inquiry response. We would have been delighted for our competitors for the nomination to do the same thing. We have nothing to fear from fellow Libertarians. If we had done this, the LP would have received extra income, the campaign would have saved money, the LP could have enhanced its infrastructure and then retained the additions after the campaign, and the LP also would have had more ready access to all of our inquiry names. Then, after the nomination, the LP could immediately have used our contributor names, already in its database, to increase its own fund-raising. Instead, we had to spend extra money to duplicate these systems for ourselves, information exchange was never really smoothed out between the campaign and the LP after the nomination, and the LP gained none of the lasting benefits that had accrued to it during the 1996 campaign.
It is my belief that a few malcontents raised the false conflict-of-interest issue in a vain effort to win the LPís presidential nomination through the destruction of Harry Browne, because they were unable to finance and execute a positive campaign strategy of their own. (It is interesting to note that while the attacks against Harry Browne ó both in 1996 and 2000 ó did succeed in reducing support for Harry, they did nothing to increase support for the attackers or the attackersí candidates.)
I would strongly urge that the LNC replace its current conflict-of-interest policy with a very strong "harmony of interest" policy that allows those who aspire to the LPís presidential nomination to work with the LNC to engage in joint efforts that increase the size, strength, and funding of the Libertarian Party.
An Unfortunate Shift in Focus
In 1996 when the Browne campaign and the national LP worked together, there was a unity of purpose. That purpose was to increase LP membership, and that is exactly what we did. But in 1999 and 2000, with Browne staffers and LP staffers avoiding each other like the plague, lest someone accuse us of conspiring (to do what, I donít know), there was no unity of purpose.
The Browne Team left membership growth to the LP, while we focused on winning votes, and trying to break the million-vote barrier for the first time. As a result, the 2000 campaign didnít place nearly as much emphasis on generating inquiries as it had in 1996.
This was a mistake. Votes, as we have seen, are largely out of our control, and subject to the conditions that exist in the major party contest, while new members represent the future of the party and are as good as money in the bank. In retrospect we should have focused on membership growth, in spite of the unnatural divide that existed between the national LP and our campaign.
Four Months Is Not Enough
A further change that should be considered is to move our nominating convention back to April, right after the last of the major Republican and Democratic primaries.
There will be a lull in political news at that point, and our nomination convention should take advantage of that lull. More importantly, the LNC needs more time after the convention to buy ads for its nominee. Our challenge is to achieve as high a standing in the polls as possible prior to the Democratic and Republican conventions, because it is very possible that our poll standing will drop from that point on. Four months for a general election campaign is not enough.
In addition, long pre-nomination campaigns are bad for party morale. Until such time as we develop a more widespread ethic that potential nominees should attempt to win the presidential nomination through constructive proposals and strategy, rather than the invention of destructive allegations, we must assume that at least one or more candidates will engage in mud-slinging, accusations, and rumor-mongering. And the earlier we nominate a candidate, the sooner we can have that behind us.
Does this mean we should move our nomination back to the prior year? I donít think so. A candidate for the nomination should be auditioning for the job, doing outreach to the public, showing LP members how persuasive he is. If he has to start doing this more than a year before the election, a lot of resources will be wasted trying to talk to people at a time when they arenít interested in politics. I think nominating in the spring of the election year would strike the right balance.
Another change I suggest is that presidential candidates choose their own running mates in advance of the nominating convention. It is inefficient to have the presidential and vice-presidential campaign teams merge their operations in a hurry following the nomination. Thatís the time to accelerate, not to slow down and re-group.
Art Olivier was an excellent VP candidate, and Harry was delighted to have him as his running mate. If the policy were different, Harry could have made a deliberate choice between Art Olivier and Ken Krawchuk early in 2000, and incorporated the choice into his campaign before the convention. As it was, we had to try and do it on the fly, at great cost to the campaign and to Art. We never were able to do justice to Artís talent or to use him fully. This is foolish. The candidates for president and vice president are chosen jointly on Election Day; they should be chosen jointly at our convention as well.
Iíve given you a lot of information about what I think we could have done better. Does that mean I think someone else would have done a superior job to what we did? No, not in the real world, and the real world is where we live. In the real world, if someone else could have done a better job, we would have seen it happen. Someone would have done more effective pre-nomination outreach, thereby demonstrating his superiority, and beaten us for the nomination. But no one did ó or even came close.
I hope this report has helped to show the complexity involved in a presidential campaign. It is easy for arm-chair quarterbacks to issue one-liners summarizing what we should have done. But a presidential campaign isnít a one-liner. It involves a strategic plan; a great deal of fund-raising; a talented, underpaid, overworked staff; relations with media people; developing projects for volunteers; and much more. Ours was the only campaign that respected these needs and set about to take care of them.
Other candidates with ideas of what they would do with the nomination could have demonstrated their ideas in the pre-nomination period. But none of them did. Meanwhile, at least two thirds of our pre-nomination effort was focused on the general election ó building a strategic plan, working to get into the polls, raising money, producing ads and an infomercial, building a volunteer organization, getting Harry before the general public. Libertarians were able to see that we took the task seriously, and thatís why we won the nomination.
I havenít given you a bunch of spin in this report. I also havenít discussed a lot of our achievements. Iím more concerned that all of us learn from our mistakes, and grow and improve. And I want you to trust that we on the Browne Team have learned things that will be reflected in our future efforts on behalf of the libertarian cause and the LP. As we embark on new ventures, we intend to make new mistakes rather than repeat old ones, and to create new successes as a result.
Some of the problems of a presidential campaign simply arenít solvable today ó even in hindsight. We may be the biggest and best organized of the small parties, but weíre still a small party. Like the other small parties, weíre legally discriminated against by the campaign finance laws, the ballot-access laws, and the quasi-governmental debate commission. And because most people in the media recognize this, they see little reason to pay much attention to our campaigns.
Itís easy to say a presidential campaign should do this or that, but the LPís candidate will never be a source of daily news until he or she is able to mount a large, well-financed campaign that can cause big problems for one or both of the major parties. But with the current campaign laws, that kind of campaign can happen only if a very wealthy individual runs as the LPís presidential or vice-presidential candidate. And then we have the problem that such a person might not feel as comfortable as you or I do with all aspects of the LPís platform and the libertarian philosophy. Who knows what heíll say in our name?
There is only one solution to all this that I know of: we must have a much larger party ó a party big enough to support a presidential campaign of at least $10 million, although Iíd much prefer to see one of $20 million. When we can do that, the press will pay attention, the wasted-vote barrier will shrink dramatically, our local candidates will get much more support from national advertising, and we will be on our way. Thatís why I have for years pushed every button I can get my finger on to try to promote party membership. We can become a "big" party only by becoming big.
So, while we recognize the mistakes made in this presidential campaign, donít assume that some other campaign or approach would have produced a much better vote total facing the same conditions we faced. Weíre simply not in the big leagues yet.
So maybe we should be thankful for what we did achieve: a good deal of coverage for key libertarian issues ó repealing the income tax, freeing you from Social Security, ending the Drug War, repealing the gun laws ó and letting the people who have given up on politics know thereís a party that genuinely wants to get government out of their lives.
Should we mourn that all was not perfection? No. Remember what David Bergland said, "Utopia is not an option." And why despair of reality when you can learn from it?
Is the task before us too hard? If ever I begin to think that, I just whisper the following words to myself, "The soldiers at Valley Forge had no shoes." We have shoes, and much else besides.
Appendix: Campaign Finances
The following breakdown covers expenses over 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000.
In 1996 $211,226 was spent on advertising and production by the campaign and the LNC. In 2000 the Browne campaign and the LNC together spent $650,092 on advertising.
Of this, $326,841 was spent on the production of a 30-minute infomercial, five 60-second TV ads, and four 60-second radio spots.
The remaining $323,251 was spent for airtime ó $124,340 by the Browne campaign and $198,911 by the LNC. The LNC also spent $43,000 on ad time for targeted local campaigns, bringing the total spent on advertising by the campaign and the LNC to $693,092. (Note: The Browne campaign was able to make significant contributions toward the LNCís investment in the advertising campaign. After the convention we asked many of our $1,000 campaign donors to make additional contributions to the LNC. Our best estimate is that this resulted in a little more than $70,000 in additional income for the national LP, plus what we estimate to be our $50,000 contribution to the success of the banquet fund-raising at the national convention, for a total contribution of $120,000 to the LNCís efforts.)
One of our TV spots was used widely by local candidates, three others were broadcast on national cable and local public television stations (thanks to the efforts of staff member Robert Flohr to take advantage of free air time), one spot was aired on a national broadcast by the LNC (the drug commercial), and one spot was not aired because it was thought to be perhaps a bit too edgy. The spots also were shown as news items on national news programs, especially on the Fox TV News network, and the Social Security ad briefly caught the interest of Tim Russert of NBC, although it didnít result in any coverage.
The 30-minute video had 16 airings in local markets, one airing on a low level national cable channel, numerous airings on cable access shows, and several airings on public broadcast stations. It also was used as a handout and in our info packs.
The outside professionals who worked on these productions were amazed that we got so much quality for so little money. The general impression of the 60-second spots, for instance, was that they should have cost about $250,000 a piece. But thanks to the frugality and ingenuity of Kristin Overn we were able to get them done for about $31,000 each. The 30-minute video ran over budget, but it still cost us only about $170,000. One of the editors who worked on the spots has done several corporate campaigns, and she felt that all of the ads were award-winning concepts. AdCritic.com also ranked the spots highly.
The campaign spent roughly one fifth of its income on advertising. The Nader campaign, by comparison, which raised more than $8 million dollars, spent about one eighth of its income on advertising.
$190,654 was spent on media relations ó including salaries for the press staff, press kits, video mailings to journalists, and press releases. These expenditures, along with a portion of the costs accounted for under candidate tours, resulted in the following media coverage that weíre aware of . . .
Total appearances, articles, & interviews: 853
In addition, our clipping service provided 1,655 articles that mentioned Harry Browne either extensively or incidentally.
$157,654 was spent on administrative expenses. This included management salaries over a period of nearly 4 years, as well as some accounting and regulatory compliance expenses.
I was the highest paid campaign staff member. My beginning salary was $50,000. In late 1999 my salary rose to $62,000. Of that amount I actually received just a little over $50,000 during 2000, and have forgiven the remainder. Stephanie Yanik has also forgiven most of her salary for the final three months of the campaign. Other staff and friendly vendors are still owed somewhere in the vicinity of $70,000. Aside from the Campaign Manager, we had 11 people employed on a full-time basis during the general election campaign. The average salary in this group was a little over $30,000 a year.
Internet activities: $101,317 ó including web page construction and maintenance, web hosting, maintenance of the LibertyWire email list, and the preparation and transmission of LibertyWire messages.
Graphic design:$25,382 for campaign materials.
Direct mail:$277,049 for fund-raising.
Legal & regulatory:$26,611 to comply with the regulations, and $35,000 in legal fees for the FEC lawsuit.
Data processing:$100,601 for handling the funds raised, including the design and maintenance of the campaign database and the mailing of thank-you notes.
Campaign tours:$558,948 for travel expenses and the staging of campaign events. The expenses were recouped through fund-raising at the events, but the ratio of income to outgo wasnít as good as weíd expected. Harry visited 92 cities in 30 different states.
Headquarters:$52,528 for rent, cleaning services, maintenance, and deposits (some of which may be returned). This amount is partially offset by a reduction in salary for two staff members who lived on the site.
Volunteer program:$90,638 for recruiting, management, communications, data entry, and the provision of some materials. More than 5,000 volunteers were mobilized during the course of the campaign.
Telephone service:$38,397 for office and wireless phones.
Refunds:$65,481 ó mostly for donations that were over the legal limit, but also a few refunds to dissatisfied customers.
Staff relocation:$6,115 to move some staff members to the D.C. area.
Bank services:$25,036 for credit-card processing charges and deposit reversals.
Ballot access:$41 to print petitions in Maine. (It may seem strange to have a line item for such a small amount, but we had planned to spend more. Fortunately, the LNC took on the burden of completing the independent petition in Maine, and all we paid for were a few petitions.)