Project Wonderful

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Organizer Store: It's Too Fucking Cold Edition

1) Graze Box

Full disclosure, I had a graze subscription and canceled it, but I think if I were on the campaign trail it would be awesome. Graze is a weekly subscription box (and I love a good subscription box) with four creative healthy snacks for about $5. You can even get their calorie counter box if you want to be extra health conscious. Past snacks have included "rosemary breadsticks with smokey chipotle dip" and "tropical daquiri" dried fruit mix which includes green mango, lime raisins and pineapple and was one of my favorites. What's nice about graze is that you subscribe and it gets delivered to your office (you can get it delivered at home but they are meant to be for your work day) and then it's just there so when you are feeling pecking or let's face it, bored the easiest thing to reach for is not a donut or chips or whatever is on the volunteer table, it's a nutritious and already portioned snack. It's also a fun little treat to unbox it and see what arrives every week. Like I said, I unsubscribed because I am in a position where I can actually bring snacks from home and am less sleep deprived so that I have enough willpower to do things like make my own trail mix and not eat candy bars (sometimes), but were on the campaign trail I would be all about it. If you subscribe please use my coworker, Michael's code, M9ZMCTTLB. You get free boxes, he gets free boxes. Free boxes for everybody! I have also heard of Nature Box, which is similar and I will try and put in the next Organizer Store if I like it!

2) Tide To Go Pen

I spill stuff on myself all and I mean all the time. It's a hidden burden of being large chested that when you drop salsa from a chip or your ice coffee overflows when you stick the straw in, there's only one place for that sucker to go. Tide pen to the rescue! These things can come in extremely handy from bumpy-road-eating-fast-food-in-the-car incidents to candidate dipped-his-cuff-in-mustard-shaking-hands incidents. And, best of all, they work. Stick one in your purse or whatever dudes carry or desk drawer and become an office hero! Only $3.29 at

3) Pocket

Pocket is a free app that allows you to save websites or articles to read later. It's my new go to for keeping interesting election news that I see and want to blog about but can't attend to in the middle of the day. So much comes across the desk of a busy organizer that you can easily forget things whether you saw a dress you liked, a blog you want to save, or a bar you want to check out. After signing up simply email the link you want to save to "" and keep a running "to come back to" list conveniently on your smartphone. Get pocket here.

That's it for now! Is there something you can't live without that other campaign people should know about? Email me at!

Campaign Love and Mine,


Rep. Randy Weber for Worst Person

2015 is off to a great (terrible) start in the political race for worst person. Many contenders have passed us by while I was out of the country and unable able to blog about them but I wanted to flag one that was so egregious it deserved special recognition. CampaignSick Nation, meet Randy Weber. Texas Representative and all around illiterate a-hole who tweeted the above tweet in response to President Obama's failure to travel to France in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo tragedy. Weber later fauxpologized stating, “I now realize that the use of Hitler invokes pain and emotional trauma for those affected by the atrocities of the Holocaust and victims of anti-Semitism and hate.” Because yeah, how could you have predicted that?

Full disclosure, I was the GOTV director for Weber's opponent when the race was an open seat in 2012. Congratulations, people of Southeast Texas. Solid choice.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

More Like Mike Fuckabee

In the ever-competitive Republican potential 2016 candidate race to the bottom, Mike Huckabee was surprised to learn that both women and men curse in the workplace, which whatever except it made me actually laugh outloud in my current workplace remembering how frequently I cursed on campaign and with great relish. So here you are.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Breaking News: There Is Too Much Money In Politics

According to common sense and this Demos report.

This is another case where I don't have much to add but I wanted to share the facts and figures presented because they are startling.

Candidates for the U.S. Senate must raise an average of $3,300 every day for six years to match the contributions collected by median 2014 winner; House candidates must raise $1,800 every day of their two-year cycle.
Relying exclusively on small donors, Senate candidates would have to secure at least 17 contributions every day and House candidates at least nine in order to keep up.

In 25 targeted 2014 congressional races, successful candidates and their closest competitors received more than 86 percent of the funds they raised from individuals in contributions totaling $200 or more.
Only two of 50 candidates in these competitive races raised less than 70 percent of their individual funds from large donors, while seven relied on big donors for more than 95 percent of their individual contributions.

This big money system filters out qualified, credible candidates who lack access to large donors. Four of these candidates are profiled in the pages below.
Kelly Westlund, lost WI-7 general election: “The current system makes sure that from start to finish our political process is dominated by the people with the most money…it’s no wonder that there is no voice for working class people in Congress.”

Rev. Michael Walrond, lost NY-13 Democratic primary: “You find out very quickly this is not about who has the best ideas; this is about who has the most money.”
David A. Smith, lost FL-7 Republican primary: “It’s very difficult for a first-time candidate, unless you’re personally prepared to write a big check to break into it.”

Amanda Renteria, lost CA-21 general election: “Given my network, where I come from, where I’m running, I expected that I wasn’t going to have huge donors. You have to ask folks for help that have been in your network and that understand where you’re running and why it’s important. That for me ended up being a small donor base.”

A federal program matching small contributions with limited public funds would have helped the profiled candidates compete more effectively against their big money-backed opponents by substantially narrowing the fundraising gap. One candidate would have raised significantly more money than her opponent if a matching fund program were available. The other three candidates would have narrowed the fundraising gap by an average of more than 40 percentage points. More importantly, they would have had significantly more resources to get their messages out and hit the minimum threshold for running a competitive campaign. And, they would have been able to do so raising two or three small contributions each day as opposed to the nine or more they currently need to keep up.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Turnout Got Low, Low, Low, Low

I'm just catching up on some light reading and I came across and an article from Yahoo news that does a really good job of outlining just how miserable turnout was in the 2014 elections.

Voter turnout in last week's midterm elections was terrible. How terrible? Just 36.3 percent of eligible voters cast votes — the worst turnout in 72 years, the New York Times reports. Only the 1942 election (33.9 percent) had a lower rate of voter turnout.

Here's a quick breakdown, based on preliminary estimates of voting data from the United States Elections Project:

• Less than half of the eligible voters in 43 states cast votes.

• The seven that saw more than half: Maine, Wisconsin, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Minnesota and Iowa.

• No state cracked 60 percent.

• Maine, at 59.3 percent, had the highest voter turnout percentage-wise in the country.

• Indiana, at 28 percent, had the lowest.

• In California, Texas and New York — the three largest states in terms of population — less than a third of eligible voters voted.

• New York, at 28.8 percent, had the fourth lowest turnout rate in the country.

I don't have anything particularly insightful to add, but I wanted to share it with you all and also keep it here archived so that we have easy access to these statistics later. We have to do better.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Buying TV But Were Afraid To Ask

The other day I was lamenting to my coworkers that I do not know as much about media buying as I feel I should. Luck for me, I have CampaignSick Nation at my disposal. I hopped on the the social media and put out a call for someone with media buying/tv production experience to answer some questions and Phil Swibinski of Vision Media Marketing generously volunteered his services. Thank you so much Phil! Take it away!

1)Tell us a little bit about your career path. What is your job title and how did you get there?

My title is Account Executive, but we are a small firm where titles don’t mean much. My company is called Vision Media Marketing and it was founded as a one-man operation by my Dad, Paul Swibinski, in 1985. He was a part of one of the first waves of media consultants that worked in local and state politics and he built a successful business. I joined the firm after graduating college in 2008 in what was supposed to be a temporary role, but one that I took to immediately and have now grown into a leadership role in the company. We are a full-service media consulting and public relations firm that works for Democratic campaigns from the local to the federal level, primarily in New Jersey but sometimes elsewhere. We also do public relations work for local governments and private corporations and pubic affairs/business development consulting.

2)What might a “typical” day at work look like for you?

First, it depends on if we are talking about campaign season or non-campaign season. In our busy seasons which run in the Spring (lots of primary and local May elections in Jersey) and Fall, my days are long and hectic. They often begin early with conference calls and meetings, stretch throughout the day mostly writing anything from commercial scripts to direct mail to press releases, and too often end at a fundraiser or event. You’ll see us in the office on most weekends, especially in April, May and October.

In the off-season it is much quieter and my days are split between doing client work and taking lots of meetings trying to find new campaigns to work on.

3)First off…what is a media buy and what are “points”?

A media buy is essentially a detailed plan that shows when you want a television or radio ad to run, on what channels and at what time and for what price. There are many intricacies involved – are you buying fixed position (specific show) or in a window (i.e. Monday 3pm-7pm)? Are you buying pre-emptive (can be bumped, but often isn’t and is much cheaper) or nonpre-emptive (guaranteed to run but more expensive)? Are you paying candidate rates or issue rates? Or is it a mix of all of these and much more craziness?

Another important distinction is network vs. cable. In New Jersey, our state is split between the New York and Philadelphia media markets which are among the most expensive in the country. You will rarely see any campaign below the statewide or sometimes Congressional level buying network here. Instead most campaigns rely on cable television to get the message across, which can be extremely effective when done right. However, in many other parts of the country network TV rates are very affordable and you will see state legislative or local races up there. It’s all about the media market.

Points refers to Gross Ratings Points, and they are used as a sort of shorthand to measure the strength of a network TV buy. They are not used to measure cable buys in my experience, which are instead usually described in either a dollar amount or a number of spots per week.

4)If I am a candidate or a campaign manager, how do I go about buying airtime and how much will it cost?

Again, that totally depends on your media market. Network television ads in New York cost thousands of dollars per thirty second spot and you will need hundreds of thousands of dollars to make an impact. In terms of buying the time, TV stations and cable systems have advertising sales representatives that sell airtime. They will put together a buy for you if you ask, but often this is more advantageous for the system than the campaign. There are also media buying services available that work regionally or nationwide and will design media buys for campaigns or consultants for a fee. For my money though, the best course of action is to work with an experienced local media consultant (shocking coming from one of them, I know) who has a history of getting the best placements and really maximizing the media buy as well as producing effective, creative ads.

5)How much should I expect to spend?

Tough question once again because of the huge variation between different media markets and approaches. You should expect to pay your consultant the agency standard 15% commission on the actual media buy, and there usually will be a separate fee to cover production. For our firm, production costs range from about $5,000 -- $10,000 depending on the complexity and scope of the ad, and they pay for everything from script development to casting to the actual video shoot to editing, post production and delivery. For many of the bigger name media consultants those production costs can get into the $25,000 -- $50,000 range or more.

6)What makes a media buy successful?

A successful media buy has a true impact on a campaign, either in raising positive name identification and resonance for your candidate or in damaging your opponent, or both. When the most successful TV campaigns start you can almost feel the buzz in the air. There is nothing quite like the emotion and urgency that can be conveyed in video and TV remains the most powerful way to reach the eyeballs you need. When a great ad is running your field staff will get feedback from voters, reporters will be covering the ad, social media will be blowing up and your opponent will be scrambling to react.

7)When does it make sense or not make sense for a campaign to do TV? Are there economies of scale involved?

This is one of the things I take most seriously, because my firm does all types of media – TV, radio, mail, online ads, etc. We aren’t necessarily invested in one medium and want to do what makes the most sense for our clients. Usually TV is warranted when there is significant budget and when the district you are running in has an advantageous TV setup. Sometimes cable systems and media markets overlap with congressional or legislative districts nicely with minimal waste, and sometimes it’s not even close to being efficient. It takes a good media consultant to survey the landscape and figure it out. In terms of economies of scale, advertising rates are usually fixed to a certain extent but there are deals to be had in some cases by purchasing your time early. You will often see institutions like the DCCC that buy TV every cycle do this, because they have the benefit of early planning. There are also different rates for different organizations, with candidates paying less per ad than PACs in most cases.

8)In what situations and times of a campaign is TV advertising most effective?

TV is essentially a way to disseminate video, and video is most effective in delivering an emotional appeal. I find TV to work well when introducing a candidate for the first time to the voters. It also works great when you need to make a hard pivot and change the subject, especially because it can also affect the media narrative so strongly. You can produce the best piece of direct mail ever, but you will rarely see it written about as much as a great TV ad.

9)Tell us the truth: do negative (or as we like to say “comparison”) ads work? In what situations?

Yes! Negative ads work very well if they are done creatively in order to break through and actually reach voters. If you show them the same old thing (ominous music, gravelly voiced announcer, ugly looking pictures, bad newspaper headlines) your impact will be pretty limited. But if you do something interesting and different you can make an enormous impact. We’ve often found that the most successful hits are the ones that make the viewer laugh rather than cringe.

In terms of strategy, I think negative ads are particularly effective in a situation where your challenger is not well known but likely to be able to reach many voters/raise lots of money. You get a chance to define him/her negatively before their campaign can define itself – think Obama 2012’s early TV onslaught against Romney. I would argue that this Summer TV campaign permanently damaged Romney and put the President on the path to re-election and it’s a strategy I plan to steal.

10)What did you not know about TV advertising or media buying before you got into this business that surprised you?

I didn’t know how much work goes into making a really good ad on the production end of things. I think that in many campaigns, the media firm is churning out a new ad every few days without regard for making a really good product that will resonate and giving it a chance to gain repetition. One great ad can change a campaign, but 10 mediocre ones won’t. I think this gets lost in the discussion of TV advertising too, where much of the discourse is about money, points and number of spots and little is on whether or not an ad is actually any good.

11)What else should we know?

I think it is interesting how creativity is extremely important when producing a television ad, but attention to detail is vital when planning the media buy and strategy. It can be extremely difficult to do both things, which is why it is crucial to have a team around you that can help make sure the entire project is executed well.

In think it’s also important to realize that TV isn’t necessarily the be all-end all. It’s a tool for campaigns to use, albeit one of the most powerful ones, but a tool nonetheless just like direct mail, online ads, direct voter contact and everything else that goes into a successful campaign.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

What I Wish I Had Known At 30 With Michael McCall

Michael McCall, 36, Director of Campaign Services at Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund

As you may remember these were supposed to be posts leading up to my 30th birthday in November and I promise you I asked Michael to do one well in advance (I think he was actually the first person I asked), but it is a testament to how much I value his advice that Mike officially finished this post yesterday and I was willing to wait. Michael "Chris Traeger" McCall is my fellow redhead, Scorpio and Edwards alum. He is one of the most positive people I know and displays more charity and patience in a typical work day than I do in an entire financial quarter, which I know because is also my current boss. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Michael McCall.

1) Tell us a little about your career path.
I think my path was a little different than most, in that I wasn’t very politically involved when I was younger. I would’ve characterized my high school and college self to be straddling the line between “libertarian” and “anarchist”. But while earning my Economics degree at Ohio State (go Buckeyes!), I spent a lot of time analyzing budgets and realized that I was a lot more liberal than I thought. So there I was, a graduating senior who really didn’t want to work at a bank, and I saw an ad in the school paper that said “Get rid of George Bush. Make $10/hr.” And I thought, “I like both of those things!” I worked 9 months in the 2004 cycle as a paid canvasser, hitting doors 4-5 hours a day, 5-6 days a week. I had hundreds of doors slammed in my face. I lost 50 lbs because I was eating a pair of Power Bars for dinner every night. By most measurements, it was a miserable job. But for the first time, I felt like I was doing something that mattered. It took me another year or so to decide to jump into campaign work full-time, but then I had a great opportunity in 2006. Mary Jo Kilroy in Columbus gave me an amazing opportunity on her first Congressional run and I served as her Field Director. After that race, I basically moved from state to state, campaign to campaign, until I walked into a Democratic trivia night in Loudoun County and met my future wife. After that, I started looking for something that would still allow me to work in progressive politics, without the all-consuming campaign lifestyle that seems to preclude the possibility
of grown-up relationships.

2) What are you most proud of?
I was a pack-a-day smoker for a decade, so completing Tough Mudder a couple of years ago was a big deal personally. Professionally, it was pretty cool when my friend Mary Gonzalez was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 2012. It was one of the first races I worked on at Victory, and when I see what she’s accomplished and the lives she’s changed, it gives me a thrill to have been a part of that. 

3) What is the best advice you've received?
My dad always used to say, “There aren’t enough good listeners in the world. People liked to be listened to.” Like most kids, I was kind of an idiot and didn’t listen to him as much as I should. But as I’ve grown older (if not up), I think about this more and more. This is a business of talkers, and conversations can often feel like a competition to make the incisive statement, or witty bon mot. When you’re busy talking, or waiting to talk, you miss out on so much. Even if you think the person you’re speaking with doesn’t know as much as you do, or is wrong, you do yourself a disservice to shut them out.

4) What is the worst advice you've received?
Bad advice is not usually worth remembering, so I don't. I will say that I used to have this perception that to be taken seriously you had to be mean. You had to harden yourself, be sarcastic and cutthroat. A college roommate of mine showed me the power of kindness, how being accepting and kind to someone is a sign of strength because that generosity just highlights how much you have to give. I have really learned the power of being kind and that is something I didn't inherently understand. (Editor's Note: This is something Michael is SUPER good at that I strive to be.)

5) What are you still trying to learn?
Patience. Empathy. How to take the work we do seriously without taking myself too seriously.

6) What was the best thing about being in your 20s?
Everything I owned fit into the trunk of a Honda Civic. And ... that's about it. I've enjoyed my 30s way more than my 20s. I didn't start to figure out what I wanted to do with my life until my mid-twenties and I probably wasn't all that good at it until my late twenties. I look better, feel better and do better now.

7) What one thing should I absolutely do before I turn 30?
30 is not the be all and end all of anything! Age ain't nothin' but a number. I will say this – many very intelligent people grow up thinking of themselves as, essentially, brains that are supported by an unimportant meat sack. It leads to a lot of poor health habits that take a toll on anyone, but become bigger issues the older you get. My advice? Take care of yourself, physically. Find some kind of exercise that you enjoy. Learn to cook. Floss.

8) What's the best thing about being 36?
I feel like I have a good mix of childishness and adulthood. I’m a homeowner, I’m getting married in a couple of months, but I don't feel old. I always made it a point to remember what childhood is like – the wonder, the fear, the sense of possibility. I never wanted to be the guy that let that go. And now I feel like I’m in this zone where there’s still a world of possibility, and I have the freedom and financial wherewithal to actually do stuff. 

9) What are you most looking forward to?
Kids. Learning new things.

10) What else?
One thing that frankly shocks me is the number of people in our industry who treat people badly. It offends me on a moral and ideological level, but it's also a massive strategic failure. Try to treat people well - everyone has something to teach you if you're not too stubborn or stupid. Other than that? Learn to play chess. And if a consultant is taking you out for dinner, order the steak.

Cringe-Inducing Mistakes That First Time Job Applicants Make

A while back, I asked a recent college grad who had reached out to me for helping finding a job if he would be interested in speaking with a colleague who was hiring for a short term position. He asked if he could get back to me and then sent a very earnest email, which included the cringe-inducing sentence, "My interest does not guarantee that I am accepting a position, only that I am open to hearing more." "Oh excuse me, your Highness," said my asshole brain before my empathy kicked in.

Because this person had asked for my feedback on his job applications before, I felt comfortable reaching out and explaining why you should never, ever put that in a networking or job application email. For one thing, no one is offering you a job until they offer you a job. For another, the job application process is about fit. Until you have an offer and have accepted, it is understood that you and your prospective employer are mutually trying to determine whether you are right for the job and the job is right for you. And finally, when it comes to entry and even mid-level jobs you need them more than they need you. That doesn't mean that your skills aren't valuable, but it does mean that no one is sitting around waiting for you to return their call or begging you to apply to their jobs.

I am reminded of this story because it's January and I am starting to get resumes and cover letters sent to me, many of which elicit a good ol' fashioned "oh honey, no." One of the most upsetting aspects of reading cover letters is recognizing application-tanking mistakes that I made when I was first starting out. In retrospect I should have known better, but I didn't because no one told me. Since in most cases it is not socially acceptable to call job applicants and patronizingly explain why they are not being considered for the position, I am putting some advice out there in the hopes of saving future little Nancys and other applicants from making similar mistakes. Here are some first time applicant faux pas to avoid at all costs.

2) Taking forever to get back to someone. (Number 1 was above.) This goes back to what I said about you needing a job more than they need you. I once took 3 weeks (three!) to send back a writing sample to a local Planned Parenthood affiliate. Needless to say I did not get that job. I have similarly been guilty of putting off responding to an email offering me an interview because I was waiting to hear back from another opportunity. I was simply not sure it was the right job for me but didn't want to turn down a bird in the hand. My experience has been that if you are that ambivalent about an opportunity it probably is not the right fit for you. Remember we work in a very small community so it is best to respect people's timelines, say "thank you but no thank you" and move along.

3) "You have the opportunity to hire a real pro." I don't care if you graduated summa cum laude from Harvard or held twelve internships. You are an entry level applicant and we know what we're getting. This is not about the "opportunity" being afforded your potential employer or to you for that matter, it is about your. fit. for. the. job. Give specific examples of what you have done and why you would be good at this position rather than extol your own virtues in general or hyperbolic terms. Show don't tell.

4) Grammar or spelling errors. This makes u look like a iddiot. Proofread and then proofread again.

5) "I feel I am the best fit for the job." Really? Have you met all the other applicants? Because one of them can fly. Avoid superlatives all together. While you're at it do your best to avoid "I feel" and "I believe" qualifiers that are just taking up space.

6) Attaching a letter of introduction from someone completely unrelated to the company or position. I cannot tell you how many times I've gotten unsolicited letters of introduction from deputy ambassadors and random state senators and congresspeople. In general it is never a good idea to submit materials or information beyond what is requested in the job description. Again, no one is impressed by you. We work in politics. We all know a state senator or interned on a congressional campaign. If you know someone who has a genuine connection to the organization or person with whom you are interviewing, by all means ask your mutual acquaintance to call or email on your behalf (in fact I highly suggest that you do so) but you should not be the one facilitating that communication.

7) "Let's face it, you're probably only going to skim this." On the spectrum of things that are the worst, writing cover letters falls right after actual tragedies and is more or less on par with moving and online dating. When crafting my own cover letters I am often tempted to write "I'M CAMPAIGNSICK DAMNIT!" and then drop the mic, but sadly for everyone that's just not the way things work. Cover letters are painful to write and painful to read, but they're the system we go by. Comments like the one above come off as snarky and anti-social even if they are intended to convey that which we are all thinking. No one wants to hire someone who doesn't play by the rules of doing business even when those rules are intensely stupid, so stop trying to reinvent the cover letter wheel.

8) Writing a non-cover letter cover letter. "Dear Nancy, Please see my application attached for the position you posted on your website. Thank you for your consideration. Sincerely, Person who obviously did not read this blog post." There's a reason it's called a cover letter and not a cover sentence. Your cover letter is your opportunity to connect the experience on your resume to the position for which you are applying, so don't let it go to waste.

9) "References are available upon request." Yeah, I would freaking hope that if you are applying for a job with me you will provide application materials when I request them. This sentence is entirely unnecessary and should be obvious.

10) Criticizing the organization to which you are applying Believe me, it happens. Sometimes people try to proactively offer advice as to what they would do differently to show how they could add value at an organization but, as the kids say, it's not cute. Unless an interviewer asks you a specific question about how you would change an aspect of the organization, leave the overhaul until after you get the job.

So there you go. I hope I saved you some embarrassment! And sorry for the long hiatus, look forward to a slew of more articles this week! Happy New Year!!!

Campaign Love and Mine,