Of straw polls, campaigns, and tickets

At the risk of reopening possible sore wounds, I would like to briefly revisit the issue of the straw poll at Gerry Connolly's St. Paddy's Day event, and the issue of tickets and campaigns. I decided to write this after returning from Friday's annual Gala for the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, this year honoring the Virginia Congressional Delegation. Several House members attended - I saw Moran, Perriello, and Connolly. Several canceled at the last minute because there were no Friday votes, so they left town - Nye, Wolf, Scott. Paul Reagan was there on behalf of Jim Webb. 5 Statewide Democratic candidates showed - Deeds, McAuliffe, Shannon, Signer and Wagner. I talked with them, with staff, and with a lot of other people. And as a result I think I can, without sourcing statements to any particular person, authoritatively describe what happened at the straw poll and the event.

First, all three gubernatorial campaigns had tickets purchased on their behalf. Please note the phrasing. I will return to this issue.

At least one LG campaign had tickets purchased.

Now, "on their behalf" - the St.Paddy's Day party was on behalf of Gerry, who is a Federal office holder. Thus FEC rules applied. I am told tickets were $40 each.
In a Federal campaign, unless you are a registered Federal PAC, the maximum contribution is 4,600 - 2,300 each for the primary and for the general. Were a campaign to try to by 200 tickets, that would be $8,000, well over the allowable limit.

I know for a fact that at least one gubernatorial campaign was not directly buying the tickets from campaign funds. Instead tickets were purchased by supporters on behalf of that campaign, and I suspect the same was true of other campaigns. At least one campaign purchased some tickets directly, but the number was limited enough hat the Federal limits were not approached.

Thus if people in Moran's campaign denied that the campaign was buying blocks of tickets, that was probably true. But that does not mean that arrangements were not mde for block purchases on their behalf. There were. As there were for both Deeds and McAuliffe.

Thus as far as I can determine, the accusation by some on behalf of Moran that McAuliffe was trying to buy the straw poll and they were not is false. The McAuliffe supporters may have bought more tickets than did the Moran supporters. That, folks, is evidence of a superior organization, at least for this event.

And remember, that in 2006 Connolly endorsed Miller (who also attended last night) but Webb won the straw poll.

I think some people are trying to be far too cute. Moran's people are correct in saying the campaign did not buy a block of tickets, but more than disingenuous in hruling accusations against the McAuliffe campaign when as far as I can determine both side were playing exactly the same game - as was the Deeds campaign.

Folks - let's be honest. It is fair to criticize one's opponent on policy where you disagree, to compare all aspects of prior records. It is worse than disingenuous, it is intellectually dishonest to accuse your opponent of something that (a) is not quite accurate (the McAulliffe campaign was not making bulk purchases using campaign funds); and (b) is in substance exactly what your campaign is doing - having supporters buy tickets on your behalf.

Brian Moran is too good a man and public servant for people in his campaign to be resorting to things such as this.

And for my final word on such straw polls - I think they stink. NO ONE should have to pay, or have their way paid, in order to express a political preference, in a primary, a general or a straw poll. The first two are covered by the 24th Amendment, which eliminated poll taxes for elections for Federal office. It is high time that Democrats stop using straw polls as a less than completely honest method of raising funds.


Thanks for clearing that up, Ken

Sometimes, even in politics, facts trump spin.

we can only hope -

and let's be clear. Because of what I was able to ascertain last night, I thought it worth the electrons to help clarify.

I hope advocates of all of the candidates for any office honor their chosen champions by not attempting to be too clever in how they portray things. More often than people may realize truth has a habit of popping up and biting people who are less than straightforward in their respective posteriors. Only the damage is not to that person, but to the candidate on whose behalf the truth was stretched or treated selectively or worse.


How Refreshing to hear the voice of reason

Thank you for a great report of your research to clarify the position and state your findings and understanding of what most likely happened.

This is simply absurd - Can someone please tell the truth

Just to be crustal clear, I think it is fairly well-settled now that the Moran campaign purchased only two tickets with campaign funds. That is what the Moran campaign says, and that is what the Connolly people say.

In fact, when Mr. Hyde posted adiary here the other day suggesting that the Connolly camp and Moran camp positions on the purchase of tickets were at odds, I took it upon myself to check it out further. And when I found that the respective camps were not at odds with respect to ticket purchases by the Moran campaign, I said so. Not because I support Moran or McAuliffe or Deeds, but because I think truth matters.

But this diary changes everything. And just to break through the clutter of accusation, rumor, and insult that has been flying around on this issue, consider the following FACTUAL STATEMENTS about the matter that have been distilled and reported on BC:

On March 18, Rena quoted David Solimini of Brian Moran's campaign as saying:

I have talked to our finance staff. The campaign did not purchase any tickets. Nor did we encourage donors to purchase large blocks of tickets, which the McAuliffe team admitted to doing.

Also on March 18, Todd Smyth, about as "official" a spokesperson for the Moran campaign, at least in the sense of knowing what is going on (he doesn't work for or officially speak for the campaign in any official capacity) as we are likely to find on BC, wrote in a comment:

The Moran camp bough 0 tickets and they did not encourage donors to buy any. They had 10 paid staff there and all but 2 bought their own ticket. A few of them bought an extra ticket for a friend and one bought 2 tickets for two junior field staffers. The large block ticket purchases were organized by T-Mac's campaign and thanks for confirming it.

And Frank Anderson said he spoke with and cited Brian Moran directly, reporting in a March 18 comment:

I asked Brian and his staff earlier in the day if they were going to be giving out tickets, and they said no.

Well, that seemed to settle it. If you didn't carefull parse all the comments, the message was clear: The Moran campaign made no financial effort, either on its own or through proxies, to influence the straw poll.

But now this? Unless I am misreading this, Ken is accusing the Moran camp of lying about this issue. That's not a nice word, and it is one that Ken diplomatically does not use, but how else to read this comment of his, above:

Thus as far as I can determine, the accusation by some on behalf of Moran that McAuliffe was trying to buy the straw poll and they were not is false. (emphasis added)

And just in case there is any doubt about whether Ken is on to somethign here, consider this comment from Todd from yesterday, backtracking a bit:

I did get word of a small block of tickets that were assumed to be for Brian. However, this was a check for $500 dollars (12 tickets) from an elderly donor who responded to a request from Connolly's office. The tickets were handed off to a friend of the donor, who happens to be a Brian supporter who distributed them to people in a district of Fairfax. The donor is primarily from Connolly's camp and Brian's staff, knew nothing about it. There was no attempt by Brian's campaign to orchestrate donors to buy blocks of tickets or distribute them.

Now, Todd's last comment about this is consistent with the earlier comments, because he asserts that "Brian's staff knew nothing about it." I accept that, but this raises all sorts of questions about information coming from the Moran camp, namely, to what extent is it useful. When a campaign denies something, there is a fair assumption to be made that they have investigated the matter and are speaking authoritatively for all levels of the campaign, from the candidate on down. If this is not the case, what good do their comments do us?

You are misinterpreting

I am not saying that bulk purchases were made with campaign funds of any of three gubernatorial candidates - I am not speaking of what the LG candidates may or may not have done.
I am pointing out that while not with campaign funds, my unimpeachable sources assure me that all three campaigns had the equivalent of bulk purchases done. And that one reason the amount of tickets being purchased could not be by campaign funds is because this was a fundraiser for a Federal candidate, and what I was told independently by several sources (not all tied to any one candidate or office holder) that with the volume of tickets involved it would have been a violation of the Federl limits.

Let me also be clear, having had at least one followup conversation this morning. I am also not saying, nor should anyone, that a campaign gave funds to others to make such purchases on their behalf. That would also be a violation of federal rules. But suggesting to supporters that one way of helping the campaign indirectly would be to buy tickets and make them available to campaign supporters would be technically legal, to offer just one possible mechanism.

I do not know the details of what was done. I do know that none of the three campaigns had all those who showed up do so spontaneously. I do know that there were various levels of organization - this was not the mainly spontaneous surge on behalf of Jim Webb three years ago, where that campaign could not have purchased bulk tickets because at that point it had no money.

And as was pointed out to me today by someone who has watched straw polls in Virginia for longer than I have, McAuliffe has not been sweeping straw polls everywhere.

My points in posting the story were several
1) there has been a lot of hairsplitting by campaigns in order to make points with respect to the straw poll
2) beyond $$, straw polls do show a certain level of organization on the part of campaign and its supporters
3) I have a personal antipathy to a straw poll for which entrance has to be paid - I don't like the equivalent of a poll tax

I have had occasion for contact with people in all three campaigns and with Connolly, as well as with regular media. I have read regular media coverage, which I miht note has been basically eletronic, and not so much in the dead tree editions. I have also had the unusual experience of having people on behalf of two of the campaigns try to spin me on this, before and after I posted this story.

I am writing from my perception. I will criticize when I think something is wrong or inappropriate, even if technically accurate.

I will commend any campaign that I think is doing something positive. I will criticize any campaign I think is doing something inappropriate. Others might not agree with my assessments in either direction. They are mine, my opinions, and I do not represent them as anything else.

And quite frankly, I do not put a lot of weight into straw polls or even public polls at this point, since we are largely in an unknown and undetermined situation.

And I think I have exhausted my ability to say anything meaningful on this subject. My next front page post will be on something entirely different, I promise.


With all due respect, I don't think I misinterpreted anything

The issue is not the straw polls, which, frankly, I could care less about.

The issue is telling the truth, and as far as I can tell, your diary says the Moran campaign and supporters did not do this.

Thus as far as I can determine, the accusation by some on behalf of Moran that McAuliffe was trying to buy the straw poll and they were not is false. (emphasis added)

Your words, not mine.

probably awkwardly phrased

and therefore unclear. I could go back and fix, but the issue is this - what do you mean by buy? Was there an organized effort to maximize support? Yes. I don't think the McAuliffe campaign ever denied it. My point is that even though campaign funds were not used and even if no one officially organized purchases by campaign supporters, my information, which I checked with a number of sources, is that all three gubernatorial campaigns were involved in activities to get supporters out, and that included purchases on behalf of all three campaigns were multiple tickets were purchased at one time. Thus my criticism of the Moran campaign is that they were trying to give an impression that McAuliffe's side was doing something totally different than what they were doing, which according to my information is too clever by half.

And again, I think the entire process is ridiculous. But so are the word games some people on all sides of the this gubernatorial contest have been playing. Believe me, I hear complaints from supporters of everyone about the other side, and sometimes when I point out what I see as parallels for the side for which they advocate, they try to explain it away. I don't buy it.

My primary point is this - the impression some on the Moran side tried to leave is that the McAuliffe campaign and/or Terry personally purchased several hundred, perhaps the majority, of the tickets used by those who voted for him in the straw poll. I point out why that was not the case, and could not be the case.

Make of it what you will.

And now, BASTA - enough.

Well, again, with all due respect

You can certainly decide whether to respond further or not, but I'm not sure you get to decide when comment is enough.

So, now I'm just plain confused. In this latest comment, you write:

My primary point is this - the impression some on the Moran side tried to leave is that the McAuliffe campaign and/or Terry personally purchased several hundred, perhaps the majority, of the tickets used by those who voted for him in the straw poll. I point out why that was not the case, and could not be the case.

But that was not your primary point. Your primary point, as I understood it, clearly had nothing to do with Mcauliffe, but rather to do with what the Moran campaign did and what it said afterwards about its actions. If blocks of tickets were purchased on its behalf, that is fine. If they lied about it afterwards, it is not.

Now, the point I was making was that if we carefully parse the denials by the Moran campaign and its surrogates, they were not lying, because they used all sorts of qualifiers. But to the extent those comments had a purpose, their purpose was to decieve voters by creating the impression thate there was no organized effort to turn out supporters.

I submit that kind of parsing of statements -- what the meaning of "is" is, or what the meaning of "buy" is, or if Bush ever said Sadaam's use of WMD was "imminent" and so on, and so on, ought not to be easily accepted. It ought to be a red flag.

I'm not sure why you seem to want to walk that common sense proposition back. I think this is a signifcant diary, not because of the straw poll, but because it finally gets to the heart of matter, which is honesty. Not technical truth-telling, but common-sense honesty as reasonable people would understand it.

not trying to walk back

basically sick of topic - merely saying I am done with commenting. others can if they want

Ken, I saw no "organized effort"

on behalf of the Moran campaign to get supporters out to vote. None whatsoever. There was no invitation, no email, not one yard sign. Here's what I saw:

The McAuliffe campaign had stacks of tickets to give away and made a coordinated effort to influence the vote. Nothing wrong with that, but it's a fact.

Nobody we know of received a ticket from the Moran campaign or a Moran donor in an effort to pack the room or influence the vote.

I think you're trying to rewrite history and try to make all three campaigns look the same by saying they all had someone buy blocks of tickets. Let me repeat, I see no evidence that the Moran campaign did anything to try to influence the vote!

That's just silly

It is high time that Democrats stop using straw polls as a less than completely honest method of raising funds.

Straw polls have been and will continue to be a way to get people energized and excited to attend a fundraising event. This is what we do! What needs to have perspective is the supporters, participants and pundits reading the results. It is a snapshot in time and done with full exposure that is is a NON SCIENTIFIC polling - fun enticing - activist injecting - freaking great fundraising stunt!