Clarity Blog

Clarity Blog

Campaign Contributions: Many Theories and Many Risks

(Ed. Note: This post summarizes commentary written by Laer for the June 2010 issue of Builder News Magazine. You can read the full version here.)

The filing date for city council candidates across Southern California is fast approaching and campaign contribution requests will come just as fast.

As a public affairs consultant who has been involved in the approval of more than 400,000 homes, I’ve participated in many strategy sessions during election seasons, and have identified four fundamental ways our clients approach corporate campaign contributions:

  • The pragmatists, who contribute to those considered most likely to get elected, so only “winning” investments are made
  • The idealists, who contribute only to those who are likely to support building, even if it’s unlikely they’ll win
  • The navel-gazers, who balance electability against support for the industry, and make highly nuanced contributions
  • The deniers, who don’t make any campaign contributions at all, ever.

We’ve had clients take each of these approaches and subsequently get projects approvedSo which approach is best?  You can click here to read our full story on this topic featured in Builder News.

But the bottom line is campaign contributions are just a form of communications.  You are communicating through your money, and you are hoping your money will lead to access – the opportunity to communicate – after the election.  Consequently, the same rules apply to contributions as apply to all communications:

  • Prepare your messages, and update them as circumstances change
  • Seek to listen, not just to talk
  • Act only after you’re fully prepared to respond to negative questions.

Lastly, be sure to make a contribution to the building industry PAC – even if you’re contributing separately, because the industry’s voice needs to be heard, too.

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