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Corporations and Campaigns, Part 4

Monday, January 25, 2010  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

My Washington Examiner column from today focuses on the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United.

As does this this column from Clark Judge.

And this column from Bear in the Woods.

And this post from Saturday.

If you are the member of a Board of Directors, a CEO or other senior leadership in a corporation, or just a shareholder concerned with the political environment vis-a-vis the companies in which you hold equity, send a link to this post and thus these columns to the folks in charge of the company. November’s voting will be here in the blink of an eye, and effective campaigns take time to plan and execute.

I have compiled a list of very accomplished campaign professionals with all the skills sets needed from management to polling to messaging. Any CEO contemplating an effective participation in one or more campaigns need only ask. hugh@hughhewitt.com.

.

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Corporations and Campaigns, Part 3

Monday, January 25, 2010  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The Monday morning column from Clark Judge:

Answering the Call: Corporations and Campaigns, Part 3

By Clark S. Judge, managing director White House Writers Group ( www.whwg.com <http://www.whwg.com> )

Bear in the Wood’s comments about political communications are exactly right. As with all communications, the issue is what the audience wants and believes. Getting it right is a serious business that must be approached with sophistication and care.

Hugh is right, too, about the dark dynamic that the Supreme Court’s opinion has disrupted. Labor union top brass, activists, and trial lawyers are typically more politically determined than corporate CEOs, more sophisticated, and until the Supreme Court’s ruling effectively had more freedom to act under the law. For the past year they have totally dominated the economic agenda of the Congress and White House. We all know the headliners: card check, cap and trade, the health overhaul, trillion-dollar bailouts to the UAW through the auto companies, trillion-dollar stimulus packages pushing money through the states to the public employee unions that now represent more than half the nation’s organized employees.

But there are other, less celebrated initiatives coming out of Congress and the Administration, initiatives that are almost as bad as those that would serially seize or disrupt massive sectors of our economy.

For example, have you heard of the Twombly repeal? A child of trial-bar friend Senator Arlen Specter, it would reverse the Supreme Court’s 2007 Twombly decision. In that ruling, the Court found that to file an antitrust civil suit against a company, trial lawyers must show that there is reason to believe that an antitrust violation had actually occurred. Sounds common sense enough. But it is a trial lawyer tactic to file marginal complaints with little more evidence of an actual offense than the accusation, then run up the cost of discovery until the defendants feels they must settle. In big antitrust cases, discovery costs can run in the many tens of millions of dollars. So this tactic is a sophisticated way to rig the civil justice system. The High Court banned it. Congressional Democrats considering bringing it back.

Then again, in considering the Consumer Financial Protection Agency Act, Congressional Democrats inserted a barely germane section would grant sweeping investigative and enforcement powers to the Federal Trade Commission in deceptive practices cases. As one former commissioner has testified, the legislation “would eliminate the requirement that unfair or deceptive practices must be prevalent, and eliminate the requirement… to address the economic effect of the rule… [change] the standard for judicial review, eliminating the court’s ability to strike down rules that are not supported by substantial evidence in the rulemaking record taken as a whole… [and end] current restrictions on Commissioners’ meetings with outside parties” [by “outside parties” read “activists”]. It allows the FTC to go after companies that help others with a Federal Trade Act violation, even if executives are unaware of the violation. Some believe that the proposal is so expansive that it would allow the FTC to act as a kind of unelected legislature governing entire industries and sectors.

Congressional Democrats are encouraging rather than using their oversight powers to restrain the Obama Administration’s overreaching regulators. For example, the Securities and Exchange Commission is in the process of adopting regulations that would make it vastly easier for all sorts of interests to push candidates for boards of directors and push resolutions at stockholder meetings. The idea is to give greater power to activists, and particularly unions. Once the rule is adopted, unions are almost certain to target unorganized companies. Corporate leaders will find themselves acting like precinct captains, counting up every possible friendly vote, making sure shareholders show up at the polls, or in this case, the annual meeting.

I could go on, but you get the drift. Just in time, the Supreme Court has now opened the way for companies to support candidates who defend against such assaults the rule of law, the integrity of the marketplace, and economic liberty. But will corporate America step up to the plate? And if so, will they use their newfound freedom effectively?

Hugh is right. These are key questions in the wake of the landmark decision and the Obama Administration’s decision, following the loss to the GOP of the Democrats’ safest Senate seat, to launch a populist attack on much of American business.

The opportunities are great, but so are the dangers. Many have already started to work at undoing the Court’s decision. It is an old rule of our national life: Freedom must be exercised to be preserved.

In his response to Hugh’s call, Bear in the Woods gave his coordinates. If you are a corporate officer considering what to do next, contacting him would be a smart move. If you wish to contact me, I can be reached at cjudge@whwg.com or send a message through the contact page on the White House Writers Group website: http://www.whwg.com/contact-us/ .

.

Team Rubicon

Monday, January 25, 2010  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

I read the Team Rubicon updates and realize again that Haiti is spiraling down into an unfathomable amount of suffering. Please donate to the team, or Food for the Poor, or any group that is working there.

The most recent post:

OK, you’re a Haitian. You have a spinal fracture that will leave you paralyzed even IF you receive the best medical care in the world. You will then live the rest of your life in a society with no social security disability pensions, no medicare/medicaid, no free wheelchairs, no power wheelchairs, and very little pavement on which to DRIVE a wheelchair even if you can find one. However, if you do not receive this medical care, you will die. Which do you want?

Those are questions for doctors. My job is just to find transportation for spinal cord patients. And OR drapes. And an autoclave. And fentanyl. And disposable plates. And mattress pads. And a portable CT scanner. And asthma meds.

How do I apply the principle of “the greatest good for the greatest number” to this situation?

We did a lot of good things today. And these are the questions that remain.

From “Bear in the Woods”: Corporations and Campaigns, Part 2

Sunday, January 24, 2010  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The very successful but very anonymous advertising exec, whom we know as “Bear in the Woods” weighs in on the choices facing CEOs in the aftermath of last week’s Supreme Court decision:

Dear CEOs:

Congratulations. Your freedom of speech has been restored. You are now free to advertise the political position, or for or against the political candidate, of your choosing. I hope you will. I hope you will help elect those who will defend the liberties we cherish, and help restore those that are lost or in danger. I do, sincerely, hope you will take the leap into the marketplace of ideas. But as a marketer, and a conscientious creative, I also hope you will look — long and hard — before you leap.

I am a conservative. I live and breathe conservative principles. But I also live and breathe brands. I know the rewards and consequences that come hand in hand with the potent mix of brand reputation and political or issue speech.

Just as you prepare before launching a marketing campaign, you must assess market conditions, audience mindset, messaging, delivery, goals, and possible repercussions, before launching into political speech. If a marketing campaign goes bad, typically the worst thing that happens is that consumers buy the competition’s product instead of yours. Your political speech, however, has the innate ability to inspire those who disagree with your position to actively attack your brand in the marketplace. For some of you, that’s reason enough to steer completely clear of political speech. For those of you who press on, whether out of passion for your position, or seeking benefits for your industry, forewarned is forearmed.[# More #]

Preparation for launching any marketing or communications effort, as you know, is complex, detailed, and time-consuming. It’s no different for political and issue speech. I want to point out three key areas to consider before you ever get into the details. Consider these a first glance at the landscape for any position you may want to take. You’re familiar with the terms — but they may have different connotations when the subject is political, rather than marketing, communications. I hope this perspective helps.

First: Positioning. Regardless of your motivation for crafting a political message, the positioning of that message must be consumer (voter)-centric. You must communicate the benefit to the consumer, over and above all else. In this regard, positioning for political speech isn’t much different than for effective marketing. But even in marketing communications, advertisers frequently forget the real benefit to the consumer in favor of chest-beating over product attributes. It’s a mistake in marketing, and a bigger mistake in political speech. It’s not about you. It’s not about the principle, or the candidate. It’s about the voter.

Second: Transparency. By now, you’re all familiar with the power and the pitfalls of the social web. Many of you are still struggling with the realization that you do not control your own brand’s message. You’re developing rules of engagement to help your brand navigate the space, and “transparency” is a word that gets bandied about endlessly. What’s it going to mean when you enter into political speech? Simple: You can’t hide anything. You can try, but you will fail. And should you try to hide — anything — the mere fact that you tried will have negative repercussions for the political speech you create, and for your brand. The web, if nothing else, is an instant-answer investigative machine. The market will know you’ve crafted the communications, and the market will know why. If you’re going to play, play openly. Simple as that.

Third: Strategy. Your political speech is going to be part of your brand strategy whether you want it to be or not. You should know that you will lose some segment of your market — ranging from a tiny, insignificant portion, to a dangerous percentage — simply because you (your brand) has espoused a political opinion. But that might not be a bad thing. I’m assuming you employ some aspect of the Pareto principle in your marketing strategy. With the emergence of the web, more personal communications have allowed marketers to hone that principle to a razor’s edge. By communicating your politics, you could very well create much stronger brand ambassadors from those customers who share your positions. It’s not an old-school strategy for creating mass-market share. But it could end up proving more valuable. To all of us.

I can be reached at bearinthewoods84@gmail.com.

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