Political consulting

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Political consulting is a specific industry that has grown up around advising and assisting political campaigns. This article deals primarily with the development and nature of management consulting and political consulting in the United States. Though their most important role is arguably in the development and production of mass media (largely television and direct mail), political consultants advise campaigns on virtually all of their activities, from opposition research and voter polling, to field strategy and get out the vote efforts.


President William McKinley's closest political advisor Mark Hanna is sometimes described as the first political consultant.

In California in the 1930s - 1950s, Whitaker and Baxter established the first true political consulting firm, Campaigns, Inc., which focused exclusively on political campaigns.[1] However, political consulting blossomed with the increasing use of television advertising for campaign communications in the 1960s.[2] It was then that Joseph Napolitan claims to have become the first person to describe himself as a political consultant (Perlmutter, ed. Manship Guide to Political Communication, pg19).

In the subsequent years, political consulting has grown in importance in the United States and influence and has extended its reach to campaigns at all levels of government. Many consultants work not only for campaigns, but also for parties and political action committees, while some focus on public relations and research work.

Nature of the work[edit]

Political consultants, sometimes acting as political strategists,[3] promote the election of certain candidates or the interests of certain groups. This is achieved by planning campaign strategies, coordinating campaign staffs, and arranging meetings to publicize candidates or causes.[4]

Political consultants act as public relations specialists, salespeople and managers. By using many forms of media, including advertising, and press releases, political consultants make voters aware of their candidates' party platform.[5]


Personal benefits[edit]

As political consulting became more prevalent, political consultants were thrust into the spotlight, with journalists devoting considerable attention to their activities. Many successful political consultants, such as James Carville and Newt Gingrich capitalize on their fame to become professional or semi-professional pundits. Such political consultants routinely appear on television news programs, write books and are treated as media celebrities.[6]

Some people accuse media-centric consultants of putting their own interests and images ahead of their clients.[citation needed] Some consultants allege that too many put their financial interests ahead of the campaigns they are hired to serve, taking on too many clients, but focusing too much energy on building their own reputations.[citation needed]

Style of modern campaigns[edit]

Critics[who?] blame political consulting, for a variety of ills of the modern election process.[citation needed] Because broadcast media consultants are often paid on commission, they are blamed specifically for the rising cost of political campaigns and the increasing reliance on paid media.[citation needed] A successful candidate running a low-budget campaign would be a serious economic threat to the political consulting field; such candidates, however, are rare.[citation needed]

Some activists[who?], particularly within the Democratic Party, charge that political consultants are a major obstacle to participatory democracy and election reform. In a much-publicized e-mail on December 9, 2004, the online activist group MoveOn.org wrote, "For years, the Party has been led by elite Washington insiders who are closer to corporate lobbyists than they are to the Democratic base. But we can't afford four more years of leadership by a consulting class of professional election losers."

Lastly, there is growing professional concern[by whom?] to what is called a "cookie cutter campaign", where the themes and strategies of one campaign are transferred to another campaign, despite what may be major differences in political context or candidates.[citation needed]

Social media in modern campaigns[edit]

Social media have dramatically changed the way in which modern political campaigns are run. With younger people entering into the voting population, social media are the platforms on which the politicians need to establish themselves and engage. In a digital age, social media will be more important than traditional media.

In Australia, 86% of Australians access the Internet, and with a 17,048,864 voting age population (according to IDEA, http://www.idea.int/vt/countryview.cfm?CountryCode=AU), around 14,662,023 voting population has access to Internet, and 65% of them use social media, which means 9,530,314 Australian voters use social media. (The 2013 Yellow™ Social Media Report found that among internet users 65% of Australians use social media, up from 62% last year.) [7]

Trade organizations[edit]

The American Association of Political Consultants is the major trade association for political consultants in the United States, with thousands of members. Like similar professional organizations, it propagates a code of ethics and gives out awards (the much-coveted "Pollies").

Magazine of record[edit]

The political consulting industry's trade publication is Campaigns & Elections.[citation needed]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Political Consultant". International Encyclopedia of Communication. Retrieved 2012-11-07. 
  2. ^ "Political Consultant". International Encyclopedia of Communication. Retrieved 2012-11-07. 
  3. ^ "Political Strategist". Tennessee.Gov. Retrieved 2012-11-07. 
  4. ^ "Political Consultant Job Description, Career as a Political Consultant, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job". Net Industries. Retrieved 2012-11-07. 
  5. ^ "Political Consultant Job Description, Career as a Political Consultant, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job". Net Industries. Retrieved 2012-11-07. 
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ "Political Campaign and Social Media". Political Marketing. Retrieved 2014-01-16. 
  8. ^ Omojola, O. "Audience Mindset and Influence on Personal Political Branding." Journal of Social Sciences, 16.2 (2008), 127-134. Kre Publishers. Web. 14 October 2014.

Further reading[edit]

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