Friday, April 05, 2013

Politics and revenge of the consultant class

" 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' was a movie, and Smith was appointed to the Senate with no campaign required. That point is lost on so many people."

Anyone who is in politics has heard the grumbles from those with a beef against political consultants who, for some reason, have become punching bags in the turbulent political atmosphere sweeping the country. Here in Virginia, it has certainly been heard loud and clear.

Writer Jacob Perry, who makes his living as a political consultant, noted the hypocrisy:
Several years ago I happened to be in Washington D.C. listening to a speech given by newly-elected Congressman Raul Labrador. Early on in his speech Labrador began what I can only describe as a rant against “consultants.” The gentleman from Idaho went on to brag about his own independence from such evil-doers and how this was what would make him an effective politician in Washington.

Now as the Congressman was busy hammering away at professional consultants I heard a very loud and obvious sigh from the man seated next to me. I leaned over to him and whispered, “I hear you,” to which he responded, “you don’t understand, I am Labrador’s consultant.”
It is interesting to see that some candidates feel the need to distance themselves from their consultants. After all, these professionals provide valuable information for fledgling and veteran politicians, offering advice on everything from fundraising to grassroots to communications to fashion, and whatever falls in between. Sometimes a candidate wins, sometimes a candidate loses. Bring in a string of victories and a consultant can name his price. Start racking up losses and he's toast.

Perry, who has heard the rising chorus of criticisms, wrote:
Criticizing consultants as some sort of monolithic group is asinine. Like any profession it’s made up of winners and losers, of highly-qualified professionals as well as professional mooches and I would be the first to admit that the latter outnumbers the former. Because a doctor kills your father as a result of medical malpractice doesn’t mean you should avoid all doctors, it just means that we should do our due diligence. Perhaps hiring someone whose resume includes more felonies than political campaigns might not be a wise decision, especially in the area of fundraising.
It's an interesting read especially for those who are political junkies like me.

So if you're interested in political office, find yourself a good consultant, hopefully one you can trust ("trust" is such an elusive word in politics), and then listen to his advice. Bottom line: in the political world, consultants probably don't have to worry about becoming extinct anytime soon.

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