Campaign Security Hits the Hustings

Article excerpt

PROTECTING A CANDIDATE TAKES FINESSE, TEAMWORK, AND A SENSE OF ADVENTURE.

LEE HARVEY OSWALD, Squeaky Fromme, John Hinkley. Every American knows these names, because any threat to the president's security--regardless of the outcome--is national news. Candidates for local or statewide political office face similar risks without the benefit of Secret Service protection. These candidates turn to private security professionals.

Protecting a political candidate, his or her campaign staff, and family members provides a unique security challenge. The process entails many of the typical elements of executive protection, but these measures must be adapted to fit the distinct nature of a campaign.

The level of security required to protect a specific candidate is determined by the type of office sought, the candidate's public image and reputation, the attitude of the voters, the mode and direction of the campaign, and the campaign issues surrounding that office. Other important considerations include the conduct of the candidate when dealing with people, the method the candidate uses to interact with groups of voters, and for incumbents, the history of events that may have aroused emotions during their term.

Before taking on an assignment to provide protection for a political candidate, a security professional should examine the scope and nature of the office being pursued, as well as the type of campaign that will be conducted and its anticipated duration and the level of funding needed.

BEFORE ACCEPTING the assignment, the security professional should put together a budget based on the anticipated objectives and seek assurances that the campaign is committed to providing that level of funding. With or without committed funds, however, the security budget is likely to be limited. The security director may want to explore the possibility of obtaining some of the needed protective services through creative negotiations with third parties. For instance, in the author's experience in a recent statewide campaign, an alarm contractor agreed to put in an alarm system at no charge as a contribution to the campaign. While the security director is sure to gain the campaign's appreciation anytime he or she can garner such support from outsiders, it is best if that course of action is not security's only means of obtaining needed services.

As to the level of funding, that will naturally vary depending on the campaign's size and the cost of services in the area. On average, however, it is reasonable to request $1,000 per month for security for a statewide campaign. The installation and maintenance of an adequate security system at the headquarters alone could cost that much. In addition, security will want to conduct periodic electronic sweeps on the phones and other equipment, and it will have numerous expenses related to events and travel.

While campaign funding is often tight, it is not uncommon for other consultants to come in with prearranged budgets. The security consultant who does likewise will be viewed as more professional. Even if the requested funding is not completely approved, the security director will at least enter into the arrangement aware of the monetary constraints.

The security director should also establish with the candidate and the campaign manager a clear understanding of the role and its responsibilities. It is essential to learn everything about the candidate. Discussions should include his or her prior experiences with political events, business and social encounters, relationships with other people that may be a source of future difficulties, experiences that may develop into problems, and situations that indicate potential areas of concern. The security director should also get to know the campaign manager's background and relevant experiences.

Once the security director has a sufficient understanding of the candidate's platform, the atmosphere surrounding the campaign, and the campaign manager's style and method of operation, the next step is to learn the campaign plan for the type and manner of travel within the campaign areas as well as any plans for travel and events outside the campaign territory. …