Stu Spencer knows a thing or two about political campaigns. His firm, Spencer-Roberts, managed 400 campaigns over the years and he successfully managed Ronald Reagan’s quest for governor of California and president of the United States. Spencer believes that, “Independent committees are destroying the process.”
Since Independent Expenditure committees can’t communicate with the candidate the IE often sends out messages that not only may not match the candidate’s ideas but Spencer says, IE committees often make arguments that don’t reflect the concerns of the voters in the district because the consultants behind the committees are not familiar with the districts.
There is no accountability for the political messages furnished by the IE, he argues. If some political charge made in the name of the candidate is off base or plain wrong the candidate can deny any knowledge of the effort.
Spencer offered, “I did a lot of crazy stuff (as a campaign manager) but I always had to have a sign-off from the candidate. I told them you’re the one who has to live with it here in the community. That’s the way it should be in my mind.”
So, is the solution to get rid of campaign donation limits and allow a donor to send as much as he or she wants to a candidate?
No, says Spencer. There should be donation caps but they should be realistic and they should be adjusted depending on the district the candidate is running in.
Spencer believes a bi-partisan commission should determine the caps according to districts. If a candidate is running in a district in which television is a key tool in reaching voters, then the campaign limits should be higher than if a candidate is in a district that relies on direct mail to get the message out. Classify the districts, A, B, C and D, Spencer suggests. Set limitations but make them realistic amounts.
The long time campaign manager also thinks that Independent Expenditures are hurting the political parties. “Let donors give to the parties, they become power centers,” he says. “The parties lose with Independent Expenditures.”
Zeroing in on the California Republican Party, Spencer believes the party took a step forward in the recent election. He says the appointment of Jim Brulte, as chairman of the party was a good move. While Brulte has been criticized in some corners for concentrating on legislative races at the expense of statewide campaigns, Spencer said, “I won’t question that.” Calling the move an economic decision, Spencer said it was better to focus on a narrow field when there is a lack of money.
As he has in the past, Spencer offered advice for the state Republicans to keep up its outreach programs to Asian Americans, Latinos and other minorities. He also said the party had to re-think the party organization and registration.
“Put a cell in every precinct in California. Don’t let get-out-the-vote efforts occur only at election time. No panicky last minute stuff. If not year round, then at least make the effort year long in an election year.”
Spencer also advised the party deal with tactical issues. One issue he says is burning to be addressed is public employee retirement. He suggested the issue should be addressed about how the ruling party is running the shop wrong. “None of us get this kind of retirement double and triple dipping. It’s not fair.”
The man who helped elect a Republican president had some thoughts on how the party is reacting to the current field of expected presidential candidates. More on that in my post later this week.