Consultants on Trial
Faucheux, Ron, Nation's Cities Weekly
When Dick Morris resigned as President Clinton's campaign strategist, it raised a lot of questions about prostitution, political and otherwise. But one aspect that has not been wen explored has to do with the modern role of political consultants.
Technology has changed politics. No longer can a campaign be run by pure "pols." Now, people who run campaigns need technical expertise in addition to gut instincts.
If you're a pollster, you need to grasp sample selection, mathematical probabilities, and multiple regression. If you're a media consultant, you need to know about Quantel and Chyron, Avid off-line editing and Wavefront 3-D animation. If you're a telephone vendor, you must understand predictive dialing and CATI systems. If you're a direct mail expert, you must master database management as well as the new postal regulations-a maze of complexity that will challenge human intelligence in its highest form.
Technology has taken politics out of back rooms and opened it up to the masses (good), jacked up its costs (not good), and speeded its pace (good and bad).
Technology created the present political consulting industry-with over 3,000 firms and 7,000 individual professionals.
That these people make a living plying a trade should cause no alarm. Political campaigning has, indeed, become a business - for well or ill - and the fact that there are men and women in it who work to make a profit is neither strange nor sinister. In most cases, they're motivated more by a labor of love than by a love of money.
But what troubles many is the seemingly powerful role that political consultants play and their apparent lack of accountability or adherence to any moral standard. That's why Dick Morris made the cover of Time two, weeks in a row. That's also why consultants must - for their own good - impose upon themselves a serious ethics code with clear, strict rules of professional conduct.
In this new Entertainment Age, expect the multiplication of something call polebrities - political insiders who become celebrities. And along with that, expect more of them to become fair game for press scrutiny - a trend that will make it impossible for some consultants to do their jobs.
Sensational headlines that recently featured Morris and the private sex lives of two other consultants, Roger Stone and Arthur Finklestein, are only the beginning of such attention. …