What would professional politicians do without campaign consultants? Political campaign consulting is a lucrative business, especially if you can get on board with winning candidates who have lofty ambitions and fundraising skills. There are political consulting firms that rake in millions of dollars a year, and more during busy election cycles. While a lot of this political spending can be chalked up to excess and waste, don’t underestimate the necessity of political consultants: while local candidates can easily launch a winning campaign without much outside help, it is extremely difficult to run a successful election effort by yourself if you are vying for a high-profile seat in a large district.
In large campaigns like Congressional, Senatorial, Gubernatorial and other state-wide races, experienced political consultants are a must-have. There are more efforts involved in large political campaigns than most people realize, and the candidate often doesn’t have the experience–and certainly doesn’t have the time–to worry about details like volunteer recruitment, polling data, marketing, fundraising strategy, message and a hundred other things. Competent political consulting, while not an exact science or quantifiable service, is vital component of any successful major campaign effort.
That’s not to say, however, that every dollar billed to a candidate by “political consulting” firms, companies, businesses and independent contractors are legit and necessary. The term “political consultant” is pretty vague in itself, and it’s often a title chosen by campaign workers who really haven’t had much serious experience in election work. There are no laws and regulations that say who is allowed to call themselves “political consultants” and who is not.
For this reason, it’s always best to research any political consulting prospects you are considering to hire for your campaign. If an independent political consultant or a consulting firm is as good and experienced as they claim, then they should be able to easily provide you with references and examples of campaigns they have worked on. While a winning track record isn’t necessarily indicative of talent–hey, some races are just not winnable, after all–it is important that anyone you are paying money to has at least a modicum of political campaign experience.
People who are interested in building a full-time career as a political consultant almost always have to “pay their dues” by starting out as volunteers and unpaid managers on local campaigns. Working your way up the ladder is part of the political campaign consultant process, and most consultants worth their salt will have plenty of volunteer experience on their resume.
That’s not to say that you should begrudge a young, ambitious person for taking on the title of “political consultant” and expecting to get paid some sort of compensation for all of the hard work they want to do for your campaign. Don’t dismiss a youthful campaign applicant who might not have a lot of election experience, but don’t be fooled into handing them a huge monthly paycheck, either.
If you’re running as a candidate in a local political election, do your really need to secure the services of a paid political consultant? Probably not. Local campaigns need to conserve as much money as they can, and probably won’t be able to afford the hefty fees of most professional political consulting experts, anyway. On a local level, the best campaign consultants you will have is your own political kitchen cabinet: friends, family, neighbors and local political party gurus.