Should Democratic Campaigns Do Post-Mortems?


It’s been less than a week since Jon Ossoff lost his race in Georgia. There has been much consternation about the race, what happened and why (and how so much was spent to achieve so little.)

Last week, ironically on a project I am working on in South Africa, we conducted a small test for a new client online spending just a few hundred dollars. We poured over the results trying to see what the trends were and what we could learn.

So surely, when a campaign spends close to $30,000,000 there will be a detailed, and ideally independent analysis of what happened right?

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Actually, no it doesn’t happen – actually, it doesn’t happen at all.

In 2004, John Kerry spent tens of millions of dollars more than Al Gore had in Florida and we went backward – I tried to figure out why.

I actually had almost all of the Kerry campaign records that I needed and having been involved in marketing, I was interested and somewhat shocked at how much money we had spent and was intrigued that despite all the spend we had fallen short of where Al Gore had been four years earlier.

I asked Terry McAuliffe who was about to end his time as head of the DNC if I could have the DNC records for Florida. He deferred me to the new Chair which turned out to be Howard Dean.

Howard said no.

The more I asked around and the more people I spoke to – the more a pattern emerged.

The people who were making the real money off of the campaigns didn’t really want too many questions to be asked. For example, Jon Ossoff had spent over $23,000,000 between announcing in late 2016 (remember this was a seat vacated when Tom Price was appointed to the Trump Administration) and May 31, 2017.

This is over $4,000,000 a month or a million a week in spend.

Every week for the whole race or more likely, it was less than that early on and then more than $1,000,000 a week by May 2017. His opponent spent $4,000,000 total in the same time period and Price had spent just over $2,000,000 in winning re-election.

So where did the money go?

According to the records, almost $12,000,000 was spent on media.  There were more than 170 staffers. More than $1,700,000 was spent on consultants and polling. And there was just $439,000 spent on get out the vote through the end of May.

Don’t the people who donated to the campaign deserve an honest accounting of what happened?

So far what has happened is that Mothership Strategies has scrubbed mention of the work they did for Ossoff – no one who worked on the campaign (that I can find) has mentioned or talked about the race at all. There is just this massive black hole where $25,000,000 used to be.

How much went to consultants? How much to produce television commercials? I think we can all agree this is a horrible television commercial – how much was spent airing it?


I should have kept pushing hard on this issue back then – so I am going to try and make up for that at least a little now. No one should spend this much money on these few actual votes and not have to openly and fully disclose where the money went.

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