Joe Trippi is one of the most sought-after political strategists and an enduring figure on the presidential campaign circuit. He worked for Ted Kennedy, Walter Mondale and Gary Hart and turned Howard Dean into an unlikely front runner in 2004. A former Silicon Valley consultant, Trippi was the first political operative to appreciate and then realize the potential of the internet, and as such the strategy, tactics and tools he created in 2004 have become the foundation for the many of the successful campaigns of today and tomorrow.

21 July 2011 ~ 121 Comments

Not your typical politician

I’ll give it to Scott Brown: he looks like a Senator. But while some in our Party scramble to find the “heavyweight” to take on Brown next year, I think we have our candidate — Bob Massie. He doesn’t have your typical political pedigree and his background might be outside-the-box, but in this race I think we need a little more Tester or Wellstone than Hillary or Kerry. We’re not going to out-politician Scott Brown. We’re going to make the case that we need a different kind of leader — a bold progressive with a survivor instinct that will take on Washington in a way that no one else can.

Blue Mass Group has a must-read piece on Bob today, laying out the background and perspective Bob would bring:

He was born to author parents in 1956 with hemophilia, which caused pain and hindered his movement; he says that from a young age, it gave him a sense of empathy with the vulnerable. Bob went to Princeton, where he was heavily involved in South Africa divestment movement. He went on to Yale Divinity School and became an Episcopal priest. He later did doctorate work at Harvard Business School, while a minister at Christ Episcopal Church in Somerville. His work @ HBS was concerned with the intersection of business and ethics; since then he co-founded the Global Reporting Initiative, an organization which produces a framework for measuring corporate social resposibility — “a bald attempt to alter the way the global economy worked”, he says. To that end, he ran Ceres for years, and last year he became an advisor to Domini Social Impact Fund. He was an election observer for Nelson Mandela’s election in South Africa, and wrote an award-winning 800-page history of US-South Africa relations vis-a-vis the anti-apartheid movement.


In the 90′s, he was tested as HIV positive …. but miraculously, possessed a natural resistance to the virus. In 2002 he contracted a debilitating case of Hepatitis C, which took him out of commission for years. He’s now completely recovered, thanks to a liver transplant.

Is this a normal career arc for a politician? No. Bob Massie neither looks, sounds, nor acts like someone who is mostly concerned with ambition and power. He doesn’t speak in sound bites. He has never been an elected official; his public service has been in activism, the church, writing, and working with the private sector on social responsibility.

Massie believes in setting a bold goal, and reverse-engineering a sequence of practical steps to achieve it; and we have to not lose hope that the big goals are “important, worthy and inspiring.” He is interested in not simply the hot-button issue of the moment, but in underlying causes. He has a sense of historical arc that is rare among politicians, because he’s lived it and studied it, and in the case of South Africa, he’s seen and experienced a smashing victory for human rights, after long struggle.

But what’s even more interesting is how this background would contrast with Brown in a head-to-head match-up. I’ve met Bob and I look forward to the day that he can question Brown on stage and challenge him, point by point, on Brown’s votes and flawed vision — if he has one at all — for our country.

Bob’s in this race to win. He’s building a large grassroots following and his fundraising has picked up — June was his best month yet. You can learn more about Bob and get involved at

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m currently an adviser to the Bob Massie for U.S. Senate campaign.

13 July 2011 ~ 15 Comments

Janice Hahn wins CA-36 special election

Last night, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn beat Craig Huey in the special election to fill the seat vacated by Rep. Jane Harman in California’s 36th District.

We are proud to have been a part of such an amazing campaign team, overcoming a 16-person field in the May 17 special election, then beating Craig Huey in the run-off, despite nearly a million dollars in self-funding from our opposition. Congratulations to Janice and the entire campaign team.

We produced aggressive television ads to generate earned media and shape the narrative of the race, while recommending a heavy mail campaign to target voters in a relatively low-turnout election. Working with a talented and experienced campaign team, including Campaign Manager Dave Jacobson, Pollster John Fairbank, and Consultant John Shallman, the strategy paid off.

We’re excited to be sending Janice’s strong voice to Congress.

A special thanks to Tom Rossmeissl from our firm who managed the television ad production for the campaign, and Sterling Clifford who runs our California office. This win is especially gratifying for our firm, as it was our first campaign in California since our work in helping elect Jerry Brown as Governor.

11 July 2011 ~ 71 Comments

The next frontier

Some may blame poor publicity or the deficit for NASA’s lack of political support, but that didn’t stop Reid Gower from standing up for our space program.

Gower is a Canadian college student who recently became passionate about NASA’s work. Like many of NASA’s fans, Gower recognized that many people don’t understand the importance of space exploration. So Gower decided to make a series of moving YouTube videos with long-ago recorded narration from the eminent astronomer, Carl Sagan.

Millions of views later, I think it’s safe to say that Gower’s having an impact.  It’s hard not to feel an emotional pull towards supporting NASA and space exploration while watching these videos.

During an interview with Motherboard, Gower says he’s had no official contact or help from NASA, but they have no doubt benefited from it — and for free. While social media often becomes the thorn for many organizations and corporations (i.e. the Domino’s flap), it also has the capacity to work magic — just like Gower’s videos are doing right now.

As Carl Sagan says in the video, “we’re a species that needs a frontier”. And just as I’m excited to see where our space program takes us next, I’m eager to see how the Reid Gowers of this world will continue to shape our perceptions of politics and organizations.

08 July 2011 ~ 8 Comments

The high stakes in CA-36

Special elections usually attract a lot of attention. They’re correctly seen as referendums on the direction of Congress; a chance between election cycles for people in one part of the country to send a clear message to those in power.

May’s special election in New York-26 is a perfect example. Voters in the district overwhelmingly rejected the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. In a historically Republican district, voters backed Democrat Kathy Hochul and in so doing told John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan to take their hands off Medicare, which was a major issue throughout the campaign.

That message to Republicans was unmistakeable. So you would think that for maybe just a second after NY-26 Republicans recognized that Americans weren’t going to re-elect people who sacrificed their healthcare to service a far right agenda. Unbelievably, that doesn’t seem to be the case. As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent points out, Republicans are in “total denial” that their Medicare plan is deeply unpopular.

It’s a good thing we have another chance on July 12 to make it clear how wrong Republicans are on Medicare.

In California-36, Democrat Janice Hahn is facing off against Republican Craig Huey. The stakes couldn’t be higher. And yet, this race is not receiving nearly the attention it deserves. It’s time to tune in to this campaign and stand up for Medicare. Millions of people across this country are counting on Democrats to defend it. This is your chance.

Craig Huey is running on an extreme agenda. As I wrote recently, Huey has a long record of shady business dealings including working with clients to market a ponzi scheme and targeting seniors with products that claimed to “cure” Alzheimer’s disease. Huey got rich off these scams while taking hard-working Americans to the cleaners. So it should be no surprise that Huey supports a similar scheme to turn Medicare into a voucher program leaving seniors vulnerable to the skyrocketing costs of healthcare.

We simply cannot trust someone like Huey in Congress. Giving Huey and his extreme ideas a seat at the table in Washington will enable Republicans to continue down the path towards slashing Medicare.

The contrast between candidates in this race couldn’t be more stark. Democrats have an experienced, practical and ethical alternative.

Janice Hahn has promised to protect Medicare while making smart cuts in Washington and investing in tomorrow’s jobs. That’s the type of leader we need right now. Someone with common sense solutions who is not beholden to an extreme political dogma. Someone who fights for hard-working people.

In four days, we have the chance to stand up to John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan. By sending Janice Hahn to Congress we can force the Republicans to face reality. They will have no choice but to see just how many people across this country are against their Medicare scheme. We can send Paul Ryan’s plan into a tailspin on July 12.

Janice needs your help in the final days of this campaign. Donate. Spread the word. Volunteer if you’re in Southern California.

The stakes couldn’t be higher.

Full Disclosure: I’m the media consultant and senior strategist for the Janice Hahn for Congress campaign.

07 July 2011 ~ 9 Comments

Bachmann vs. Boehner: Till debt do us part

This is an op-ed I co-wrote with Paul Goldman and Mark Rozell for Politico this morning.

“Till debt do us part” is the common-law marriage vow between House Speaker John Boehner and Tea Party Caucus leader Rep. Michele Bachmann. The debt ceiling standoff will test this GOP union as well as the Democratic Party’s commitment to improving education and job opportunities for all Americans.

But consider the powerful impact of Bachmann’s sudden rise. The mother of five has given former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin the twitters while daring tea party rival Texas Gov. Rick Perry to an Iowa showdown. She is now virtually tied with Mitt Romney in the Iowa polls. Presidential politics’ premier anti-Obamacon, the Minnesotan may become the most powerful conservative woman in GOP history.

Boehner understands the new equation: The more Bachmann gains, the less negotiating room he has.

The debt ceiling issue is the first defining GOP presidential event because Bachmann is the only serious candidate with a vote in Congress. Tea party backers want to see her self-proclaimed “titanium spine.” If she plays it right, she can win huge. If not, she can become yet another fallen idol.

The Canadian rock group Bachman-Turner Overdrive scored big with “Takin’ Care of Business” back in the ’70s. Now Bachmann realizes that the wrong vote puts her out of business as a presidential aspirant.

President Barack Obama understands that default would inflict incalculable damage to the United States and add to the advantage of the nation’s foreign competitors. He is right to want to repeal unfair Bushonomics.

But let’s be honest: When Obama took office, the Democrats reneged on 2004 and 2008 platform promises to repeal Bushonomics — claiming the economic recovery was too fragile. Yet Democratic leaders attack Republicans as defending Bush’s “tax cuts for the rich” though the recovery is now even shakier.

No wonder Americans are cynical. Obama knows avoiding the economic damage from a default is of greater urgency than a fairness fix.

Bachmann’s tea party posse will not accept any agreement deemed dictated by the president. And GOP legislators, vulnerable to a primary challenge from the right, are understandably nervous about appearing to compromise with Obama.

Yet Boehner realizes he becomes persona non grata in business circles should the GOP get blamed for default. House Democrats are threatening to withhold votes unless he backs new tax revenue — which makes him even more dependent on Bachmann’s base.

Bottom line: Obama cannot reject a House-passed measure should default be the only other option. Neither can congressional Democrats.

Americans get the president’s fairness pitch. But taxing “the rich” doesn’t guarantee jobs. President John F. Kennedy expressed their view best — he said he wanted to build a bigger pie so everyone can get a bigger piece.

Our prediction: The speaker will get an agreement through the House, but it will need to be seen by the tea party as forcing the president to eat his attacks. It can include a job-creating tax credit package — if Democrats play it smart.

Either way, the House GOP looks likely to pass a $2 trillion-plus debt ceiling bill that has no increase in taxes. Boehner would like to have Bachmann’s support — though he should be able to settle for her saying it is a good start, only not good enough for her.

Democrats have a great fairness argument. But the public knows America needs a growth agenda. In truth, the public doesn’t believe either party has the answer.

So now it turns into Bachmann vs. Obama on the debt ceiling. She needs to show her “titanium spine.” And she has some leverage — Democrats should be willing to trade for tax credits targeted to create jobs, improve education and help U.S. businesses compete with our foreign competitors.

But, critics might say, doesn’t Bachmann need to be “responsible”? That’s in the eye of the beholder. As long as there is no default, she gets a free pass — which should help her in Iowa.

Let’s cut to the bottom line: For the Democrats, this whole debate has to be about jobs, jobs, jobs. If Democrats don’t come out of this with a win on jobs, they lose — big. But far more important, working families — which can’t find good jobs and rely on Democrats to protect them — lose worse.

30 June 2011 ~ 21 Comments

Craig Huey’s Scam-dalous Past

It’s no coincidence that the most insulting ad I’ve ever seen in politics was made in support of Craig Huey. I say that because we now know that Huey has made a living in the direct mail business by peddling the same type of fear and confusion we saw in that sad and shocking ad a few weeks back.

LA Weekly looks at Huey’s fondness for dirty advertising tactics:

“Your job as a marketer is to move them from skepticism to greed,” [Huey] said in a 2009 interview with the Newsletter on Newsletters. On his website, he notes that good ad copy “motivates with fear.”

In fact, the election of President Obama gave Huey the perfect opportunity to scare conservatives and merge his ruthless approach to business with his extreme political agenda:

As [Huey] explained in the interview, they could make use of “fear of government, uncertainty and confusion in Washington, and information overload” to sell investments.

Which investments was Huey trying to sell? Amongst others, a “pump and dump” mining stock scheme aimed at seniors which promised big returns but ended up wiping out their retirement savings:

[One of Huey's "pump and dump"] pitches was featured on a blog that exposes “attempts to extract money from the elderly.” The author of the blog wrote that he started it after his father, who had dementia, fell for a series of direct mail scams.

Incidentally, on his company website Huey has an article that explains how to target the “mature market,” which he defines as anyone over 55.

It gets worse. Huey also promoted two direct mail nutrition companies that had to pay huge fines for misleading advertising to seniors:

According to the settlement, the companies had claimed that their products could cure emphysema, diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease.

But that’s not the only time one of Huey’s clients has run afoul of the law. Donald Rowe paid Huey big money to promote a newsletter. The problem? The newsletter turned out to be a front for ponzi scheme in which hard working Americans lost millions of dollars. That doesn’t seem to bother Huey. On his business website, Huey features a quote from Rowe praising Huey’s work marketing the scheme:

“The new direct mail package you created is productive beyond my best expectations. I received a $300,000 profit in less than 30 days—from one mailing! Without a doubt, this has been my most profitable mailing, and I’ve been in business for 20 years.”

Profitable to his scam artist clients. Devastation to the families who lost their money. Testimonials from con-men make one thing clear: Craig Huey cannot be trusted.

Huey has spent his professional life marketing for scam artists and direct mail schemes — taking money from thousands of good people. Now he is running for Congress with a plan to end Medicare as we know it by passing out vouchers that will leave seniors holding the bag on the high costs of healthcare. Scheme after scheme. An extreme agenda. That’s Craig Huey’s way of doing business and politics. And our new ad lays it out:

Janice Hahn needs your help to keep up this ad and to stop Craig Huey from pursuing his extreme agenda in Washington.

Full disclosure: I’m the media consultant and senior strategist for the Janice Hahn for Congress campaign.

06 June 2011 ~ 37 Comments

Bob Massie Wows MA Dems

Going into Saturday, a lot of Democrats may have been searching for a Democrat strong enough to take on Senator Scott Brown. At the state convention this past weekend, a lot of them found their guy when Bob Massie delivered a powerful speech to Massachusetts Democrats.

Watch it now:

Michael Horan of BlueMassGroup summed it up well:

I’ve met Bob on several occasions, and while I’m a pretty ardent supporter, until today I had no idea he was capable of displaying this kind of firepower. It was pretty moving down there on the floor.

After watching the video, sign-up and get involved in his campaign. Bob’s story is amazing, and he has the passion and creativity to defeat Scott Brown and really change our politics.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m currently an unpaid adviser to Bob Massie’s campaign.