August 16, 2007

Wall Street vs Margaritaville


In Lawton Chiles' campaigns for U.S. Senate and governor, when he heard that one of his opponents was holding a black tie, $1,000-a-plate Wall street-bankrolled gala at some swanky convention center, he would call up Jimmy Buffet and throw a block party in the parking lot--$10 for all the finger-lickin' fried chicken you could handle. He would raise pittance at these events, but the next day the newspapers would shower him with loving coverage and by the time everyone had finished reading all the free, margarita-soaked media, he had won the election!

Take a look at the donor list for Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign.

HILLARY CLINTON (D)
Top Contributors

DLA Piper $293,400
Citigroup Inc $160,500
EMILY's List $138,953
Skadden, Arps et al $134,960
Goldman Sachs $134,050
Cablevision Systems $116,575
Kirkland & Ellis $116,550
Morgan Stanley $113,700
Viacom Inc $102,500
Greenberg Traurig LLP $100,200
Time Warner $98,100
Blank Rome LLP $96,500
Merrill Lynch $96,100
Patton Boggs $88,600
Bear Stearns $87,450


Check out a sampling of Lawton Chiles' donor list for his 1994 gubernatorial campaign.

LAWTON CHILES (D)
Top Contributors

Bettie Barkdull $100
Halley Lewis $100
Tom Herndon $100
Marie Herndon $25
Russ Barakat $100
Lee Barakat $100
Delores Ohara-Spearman $100
J. Hardin Peterson $100
Nancy Peterson $100
Guy Spearman III $100
John W. Lewis $100

(Credit: OpenSecrets.org)

Notice a trend? A lot of people dismissed this strategy as a flash-in-the-pan, phony operation, as if it were hatched in some laboratory under perfect conditions in some small island nation.

But when Chiles won re-election to the Florida governorship in 1994 with a $100-a-head contribution limit, it was already the fourth-largest state in the Union and one of the biggest economies in the world. Miami was a commercial capital of the Americas; Orlando the number one tourist destination in the country; and West Palm Beach and Sarasota were some of the hottest retirement spots in the country.

Maybe there was some magic in that coonskin cap of his. Maybe it was just the courage to take a risk.

(Note from the Author: This the first in a new series of posts comparing Chiles' successful grass-roots campaign style to that of the 2008 presidential hopefuls)

2 comments:

lawton chiles said...

Yes, it's all about the money- or the lack of it. The reason Lawton won was because he put the trust of his campaign back into the people's hands and said, "They'll elected me if they feel I'm worthy of the title".

He didin't put his trust in the lobbyists like the candidates do now…

Amy said...

*cough*NotEdwards*cough* (Gotta love the anti-lobbyist movement!)

Incidentally, EMILY's List is wasting its money...but that's neither here nor there.