Political consulting
Political consulting, beyond the self-evident definition of consulting in political matters, refers to a specific management consulting
Management consulting
Management consulting indicates both the industry and practice of helping organizations improve their performance primarily through the analysis of existing organizational problems and development of plans for improvement....

 industry which has grown up around advising and assisting political campaign
Political campaign
A political campaign is an organized effort which seeks to influence the decision making process within a specific group. In democracies, political campaigns often refer to electoral campaigns, wherein representatives are chosen or referendums are decided...

s. This article deals primarily with the development and nature of political consulting in the United States. Though their most important role is arguably in the development and production of mass media
Mass media
Mass media refers collectively to all media technologies which are intended to reach a large audience via mass communication. Broadcast media transmit their information electronically and comprise of television, film and radio, movies, CDs, DVDs and some other gadgets like cameras or video consoles...

 (largely television and direct mail), political consultants advise campaigns on virtually all of their activities, from opposition research
Opposition research
Opposition research is:# The term used to classify and describe efforts of supporters or paid consultants of a political candidate to legally investigate the biographical, legal or criminal, medical, educational, financial, public and private administrative and or voting records of the opposing...

 and voter polling to field strategy and Get out the vote
Get out the vote
"Get out the vote" are terms used to describe two categories of political activity, both aimed at increasing the number of votes cast in one or more elections.- Non-partisan contexts :...



The practice of consulting has several early antecedents. President William McKinley
William McKinley
William McKinley, Jr. was the 25th President of the United States . He is best known for winning fiercely fought elections, while supporting the gold standard and high tariffs; he succeeded in forging a Republican coalition that for the most part dominated national politics until the 1930s...

's closest political advisor Mark Hanna
Mark Hanna
Marcus Alonzo "Mark" Hanna was a United States Senator from Ohio and the friend and political manager of President William McKinley...

 is sometimes described as the first political consultant. In California in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, Whitaker and Baxter
Whitaker and Baxter
Clem Whitaker and Leone Baxter were a husband-and-wife team that started the first true political consulting firm in the United States of America, named Campaigns, Inc.. Based in California, the firm worked on a variety of political issues, though mostly centered within the core of the Republican...

 established and grew the first true consulting firm, Campaigns, Inc. However, political consulting blossomed with the increasing use of television advertising for campaign communications in the 1960s. It was in that period that Joseph Napolitan
Joseph Napolitan
Joseph Napolitan is an American political consultant, who worked as a general consultant on over 100 political campaigns in the United States, and many others throughout the world...

 claims to have become the first person to describe himself as a political consultant (Perlmutter, ed. Manship Guide to Political Communication, pg19).

In the subsequent years, political consulting has grown in importance and influence and extended its reach to campaigns at all levels of government in the United States, and beyond. Many consultants work not only for campaigns, but also for other political organizations, including parties
Political party
A political party is a political organization that typically seeks to influence government policy, usually by nominating their own candidates and trying to seat them in political office. Parties participate in electoral campaigns, educational outreach or protest actions...

 and political action committee
Political action committee
In the United States, a political action committee, or PAC, is the name commonly given to a private group, regardless of size, organized to elect political candidates or to advance the outcome of a political issue or legislation. Legally, what constitutes a "PAC" for purposes of regulation is a...

s, sometimes through independent expenditure
Independent expenditure
-Definition:In elections in the United States, an independent expenditure is a political campaign communication which expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate that is not made in cooperation, consultation or concert with or at the request or suggestion of a...

s; some also do public relations
Public relations
Public relations is the actions of a corporation, store, government, individual, etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc....

 and research work for corporation
A corporation is created under the laws of a state as a separate legal entity that has privileges and liabilities that are distinct from those of its members. There are many different forms of corporations, most of which are used to conduct business. Early corporations were established by charter...

s and government
Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized...


Personal benefit

As political consulting became more prevalent, political consultants increasingly were personally in the spotlight, with journalists
Journalism is the practice of investigation and reporting of events, issues and trends to a broad audience in a timely fashion. Though there are many variations of journalism, the ideal is to inform the intended audience. Along with covering organizations and institutions such as government and...

 devoting considerable attention to their activities. Many successful political consultants, such as James Carville
James Carville
Chester James Carville, Jr. is an American political consultant, commentator, educator, actor, attorney, media personality, and prominent liberal pundit. Carville gained national attention for his work as the lead strategist of the successful presidential campaign of then-Arkansas governor Bill...

, capitalized on their fame to become professional or semi-professional pundits
Pundit (politics)
A pundit is someone who offers to mass media his or her opinion or commentary on a particular subject area on which they are knowledgeable. The term has been increasingly applied to popular media personalities...

. Such political consultants routinely appear on television news programs, write books, and are treated as media celebrities
A celebrity, also referred to as a celeb in popular culture, is a person who has a prominent profile and commands a great degree of public fascination and influence in day-to-day media...


Some people accuse media-centric consultants of putting their own interests and images ahead of their clients. Even some political consultants allege that too many consultants put their financial interests ahead of the campaigns they are hired to serve, taking on too many clients and focusing too much energy on building their reputations.

Style of modern campaigns

Critics also blame political consulting, at least in part, for a variety of ills of the modern election process. In part because broadcast media consultants are often paid on commission, they are blamed specifically for the rising cost of political campaigns and the increasing reliance on paid media. A successful candidate running a low-budget campaign would be a serious economic threat to the political consulting field; such candidates, however, are rare.

Some activists, particularly within the Democratic Party
Democratic Party (United States)
The Democratic Party is one of two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Republican Party. The party's socially liberal and progressive platform is largely considered center-left in the U.S. political spectrum. The party has the lengthiest record of continuous...

, charge that political consultants are a major obstacle to participatory democracy
Participatory democracy
Participatory Democracy, also known as Deliberative Democracy, Direct Democracy and Real Democracy , is a process where political decisions are made directly by regular people...

, political reform, and electoral success for the Democrats. In a much-publicized e-mail
Electronic mail, commonly known as email or e-mail, is a method of exchanging digital messages from an author to one or more recipients. Modern email operates across the Internet or other computer networks. Some early email systems required that the author and the recipient both be online at the...

 on December 9, 2004, the online activist group MoveOn.org wrote, "For years, the Party has been led by elite Washington insiders who are closer to corporate lobbyists than they are to the Democratic base. But we can't afford four more years of leadership by a consulting class of professional election losers."

Lastly, there is growing professional opposition to what is called a "cookie cutter campaign
Cookie cutter campaign
Cookie-cutter campaigns are political campaigns, engineered by political consultants who run virtually identical campaigns in different jurisdictions. The typical hallmarks of such a campaign are direct mail advertisements using identical layouts and stock photographs...

", where the themes and strategies of one campaign are transferred to another campaign, despite what may be major differences in political context. Brian Wright, president of Democrasource, LLC (an Ohio-based national political consulting firm specializing in enhanced campaign data strategies and micro-targeting), believes that "...campaign communications techniques are evolving so quickly—anyone sitting on the sidelines or clinging to the last presidential campaign’s strategies is done. The book’s been rewritten."

Trade organizations

The American Association of Political Consultants
American Association of Political Consultants
The American Association of Political Consultants is the trade group for the political consulting profession in the United States. Founded in 1969, it is the world's largest organization of political consultants, public affairs professionals and communications specialists...

 is the major trade association for political consultants in the United States, with thousands of members. Like similar professional organizations, it propagates a code of ethics and gives out awards (the much-coveted "Pollies").

Magazine of record

The political consulting industry's trade publication is Campaigns & Elections.

See also

Category:Political consultants
Category:Political consulting firms
  • Political campaign staff
    Political campaign staff
    Political campaign staff are the people who formulate and implement the strategy needed to win an election. Many people have made careers out of working full-time for campaigns and groups that support them, but in other campaigns much of the staff might be unpaid volunteers...

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.