Republican story from ’72

Take a look at the following video from CBS’ evening news from 1972. There should be a few interesting elements for any viewer, no matter their political leanings.

First, we notice that the topic of election strategy has always been good fodder for news reporters. Often, the horse race and how it’s run can be more compelling than the policies or platforms forwarded by the candidates.

Of course, there is also the gem of a Dan Rather piece from 1972. Rather’s thesis on the Republicans this time? That they’ve set up a front operation for show. The purpose? To demonstrate that Nixon isn’t running too hard for re-election. Possible, I suppose. After all, news media was hardly as ubiquitous in those days and perhaps such deliberate steps were taken to fool Rather. But, thankfully, he’s not fooled.

Next, at the RNC, envelope cutters are opening cheques from a quarter of a million people for $2.5 million. The ‘grassroots’ ma ‘n pa cheques that come in is a strategy employed by today’s Conservative Party in Canada. The direct mail lists and personal greetings customized by computer based on issue is interesting and it’s fascinating to know the sophistication of the operation involving these tools back to 1972. Some American politicians still bank heavily on direct mail appeals. Once, when describing blogging to a senior republican, I told him it was like the next version of direct mail. Thankfully, he didn’t press me further on the comparison, but I felt that the generational analogy was cogent enough, if on some levels not at all.

Next, in the report we see, by today’s standards, laughable privacy concerns which may well have enraged people watching Rather back in ’72. A ‘computer’ stores the names of mail-order Idaho steak customers? Most definitely a frightful thought to more than a few back in the early 70s.

Robert Odell Jr. is interviewed and describes these methods as the way of the future for campaign finance, and while we can forgive him for not foreseeing the netroots appeals of Howard Dean and those that would follow in the use of blogs and social media in this first decade of the 21st century, Odell could be a certified futurist.

We then see an obligatory note to show that the broad ma ‘n pa appeal isn’t exactly perfect yet as ‘fat cats’ still pay hundreds of dollars for Nixon fundraising dinners.

And then those that went home early will be sorely disappointed as we see a chance interview between Dan Rather and a 21-year old Karl Rove who holds up a bumper sticker for the GOP reading Generation of Peace. At the time of the interview, Rove was charged with “embarrassing pundits” and to help the Republican Party appeal to youth. It’s interesting to see how small a family of political operatives can exist, even in countries like the US.

All in all, a fascinating story about the ‘future’ of political financing from direct mail, to personalized letters aimed at specific constituents based on targeted issues. One wonders how the current cutting-edge methods of voter identification, fundraising and media balancing will be viewed 35 years from now.

Dion, Stornoway and Laurier Club Liberals

Last night, members of the Liberal Party’s elite “Laurier Club” assembled at the residence of the Leader of the Official Opposition. The venue was the Stornoway mansion and the event was a garden party.

First, what is the Laurier Club?

The Laurier Club is a national organization made up of business executives, community leaders and those interested in sustaining the Liberal Party who also support the principles of parliamentary democracy and are interested in the public policy decisions affecting the lives of the citizens of Canada.

Individual membership contribution is $1000 and is in good standing for a period of twelve months starting on the sign up date. Membership does not include contributions made to local ridings, candidates, leadership and nomination contestants. Members can choose to make a one time gift or sign up for monthly contributions.

Laurier Club Members will:

* Receive invitations to Laurier Club functions with representatives of the Liberal Party of Canada;
* Attend Laurier Club functions in any region of the country;
* Attend any Party fundraising event at cost

Sounds like lots of fun for any Liberal, however, it was a Laurier Club event and to attend you must have been paid up to the Liberal Party of Canada to the tune of $1000 (if you’re under 30, you can get in for $500)

Stornoway is the property of the National Capital Commission (ie. the government). It’s not illegal to use government property in this way as a perk for top donors to a political party per se, but is it ethical?

The Prime Minister does not assemble top donors for parties or hold fundraisers for the Conservative Fund at 24 Sussex.

However, former Liberal leaders Bill Graham, Paul Martin and Jean Chretien have used Stornoway and 24 Sussex to fête top Liberal Party donors in the past.

Other useless convention video

Spotted this at the Liberal leadership convention. They really ought to have thought this one through. One can derive a few meanings from this display:

Surrender your wallet, taxpayer! The Liberals are in town.

Liberating your wallet (to the Liberals) is not quite the example an etymologist would use when pointing out the relation of the words “Liberal” and “liberty”.

(and yes, I know… the display was for fundraising. But sometimes you gotta think about the optics of how you do things in politics)