Republicans love to say that only in government does someone get rewarded for failure. However, an article in National Review makes the case that the Republican Party has its own share of trough-feeders who fail and fall upwards. The author calls it the "Republican-industrial complex has turned missteps into millions" in an allusion to Ike's classic term. Polijunkies and Democrats will enjoy reading this essay that is rather thorough in nature. Matthew Sheffield writes:
Republican consultants continue to thrive despite continued failures. Steve Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple, was famously criticized for his ability to convince others to believe anything he said through a combination of hyperbole and bravado. One Apple employee called the effect a “reality distortion field” in 1981 and the term has persisted ever since.
It’s quite clear by now that conservative philanthropists and grassroots donors have been living in a reality distortion field as well: the creation of a cadre of political consultants who have failed repeatedly at their jobs and yet manage not only to survive but thrive.
The ineffectiveness of television advertising and junk mail at actually changing people’s minds has been known for some time in academia and yet if I had to wager, I would bet that most conservative donors, small or large, have never even heard of any of the studies which have proven this.
The sad reality of conservative and libertarian politics is that the generous people who donate their hard-earned cash have been fleeced for years by greedy, incompetent people who have manipulated the system to profit regardless of the policy or electoral outcomes.
In order to prevent center-right donors from seeing the failures and demanding changes, the Republican Industrial Complex has offered false theories that (depending on who is listening) “the Establishment” or “the far Right” are responsible instead of leaders who could not deliver.
While the GOP certainly has run poorer candidates on average than Democrats, the office-seekers themselves have not been the only problem. For years, Republican politicians and donors have been tricked not just into purchasing ineffective ads, they have also been tricked into paying ridiculous commissions on placing these ads, usually 15 percent. It is no wonder that the consultants have been so eager to convince donors to go for the quick fix of a political ad instead of investing in media outlets or building up grassroots organizations.
Despite the fact that the Mitt Romney campaign did not pay exorbitant commission rates, in the 2012 election the Republican Industrial Complex was a huge reason why he and other GOP candidates nationwide went down to defeat. In a February 2012 story, the New York Times revealed an intricate web of insider dealing where consultants were enriching themselves and their friends:
When Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign needs advice on direct mail strategies for reaching voters, it looks to TargetPoint Consulting. And when the independent “super PAC” supporting him needs voter research, it, too, goes to TargetPoint.
Sharing a consultant would seem to be an embodiment of coordination between a candidate and an independent group, something prohibited under federal law. But TargetPoint is just one of a handful of interconnected firms in the same office suite in Alexandria, Va., working for either the Romney campaign or the super PAC Restore Our Future.
Elsewhere in the same suite is WWP Strategies, whose co-founder is married to TargetPoint’s chief executive and works for the Romney campaign. Across the conference room is the Black Rock Group, whose co-founder — a top Romney campaign official in 2008 — now helps run both Restore Our Future and American Crossroads, another independent group that spoke up in defense of Mr. Romney’s candidacy in January. Finally, there is Crossroads Media, a media placement firm that works for American Crossroads and other Republican groups.
Reacting to this report, former RedState.com editor Erick Erickson accurately described the situation as the GOP being “bled to death by charlatan consultants making millions off the party, its donors, and the grassroots.” He also provided more detail about how the Romney campaign and the Republican National Committee had effectively become the personal piggy banks of a select group of political insiders via two companies, FLS Connect and Targeted Victory:
During the Bush era, the Republican National Committee developed Voter Vault, a database used to identify and mobilize voters to the polls. At some point a partner at FLS Connect, Rich Beeson, went to work at the RNC as Political Director. Also, the RNC sold its Voter Vault data to FLS Connect and then leased that data back from FLS Connect. By the end of 2008 activists and others were complaining that the voter vault data was no longer very good.
Likewise, according to friends at the RNC at the time, Rich Beeson gave the RNC’s phone vendor contract to FLS Connect without bidding to others. The rate was not out of line, but it was a multi-million dollar contract to Rich Beeson’s former firm, FLS Connect.
Fast forward to 2012.
Rich Beeson moved from the RNC to the Romney Campaign as its Political Director. Jeff Larson moved from FLS Connect to the RNC.
FLS Connect continued to get business from the RNC and also got business from Team Romney. But now Targeted Victory enters the picture. Targeted Victory, LLC’s principal office is the same office in St. Paul, MN that FLS Connect, LLC lists as its own principle office.
Targeted Victory’s manager is Tony Feather, who is the F in FLS Connect.
Rich Beeson, who used to work for FLS Connect, is now with Team Romney and Team Romney awards a contract to Targeted Victory, LLC for its digital work with Zac Moffatt as Digital Director of the campaign.
After taking his post with Romney HQ, Moffatt proceeded to steer more than $96 million to his former company. Between RNC and Romney expenditures, the Targeted Victory-FLS Connect axis siphoned away more than $150 million from Republican donors. FLS Connect made off with $56.3 million.
(KF Note: Here comes my favorite. If this doesn't scream incompetence that deserves tar & feathering, or heads on pikes, nothing does.)
Mitt Romney’s Beached ORCA
It should come as no surprise that the backroom deals that created the FLS Connect-Targeted Victory monopoly fostered incompetence as well. The best illustration of how insider dealing contributed to Romney’s loss is the campaign’s get-out-the-vote database system which it called ORCA.
The name was a playful reference to the Obama campaign’s database, Narwhal. Orca is another name for killer whale, the only known predator of the narwhal, another Arctic-dwelling cetacean. The Romney operation called its turnout database ORCA because it believed it had created a “killer app,” one that would enable it to surpass the detailed data operation that the Obama campaign had built up for the 2008 campaign.
With ORCA, the Romney campaign believed it would be able to know more about how the election was transpiring than anyone else.
“At 5 o’clock when the exit polls come out, we won’t pay attention to that,” Romney communications director Gail Gitcho boasted to PBS. “We will have had much more scientific information just based on the political operation we have set up.”
None of that proved true on Election Day. Despite the hype, ORCA was a complete and utter failure. Originally billed as “the world’s largest exit poll,” the volunteer coordination system was never tested on the large-scale computer system it was supposed to run on. Aside from a few people close to Targeted Victory, no one was even shown ORCA at all until right before Election Day. According to Romney volunteer John Ekhdahl, regular volunteers were not even able to familiarize themselves with ORCA until the morning of the election.
The situation was further exacerbated by the Romney operation’s apparent inability to comprehend that ORCA was not a smartphone application like Angry Birds but rather a website designed to be viewed on a smartphone. This created a massive confusion among volunteers who went desperately searching in the app stores of Apple, Google, and Microsoft unsuccessfully trying to find it. To make matters worse, the secured website that ORCA was operating under had no redirect functionality to assist people who had mistakenly reached the insecure version. As a result, according to Ekhdahl, many activists mistakenly believed the system had failed completely since their web browsers literally displayed nothing on the page when they attempted to view the default website.
Unfortunately for Romney, ORCA did actually crash just a few hours later as activists began inputting data about their local voting. This likely was because the website front-end of the database was powered by a single computer, not the half-dozen or more that serve content to high-volume database websites run by actual professionals. Had the Romney campaign been willing to listen to people with real-world experience in these matters, they would easily have realized this.
While Moffatt and others insisted afterward that ORCA continued to collect data, multiple reports suggest what the system did manage to collect was fundamentally wrong. “At the end of the day, they told us that every single swing state was looking either pink or red and the worst one was Virginia, where they were a little concerned,” one anonymous ORCA operator told Politico. “Of course, we know the opposite of that happened.” According to one Republican that Washington Examiner columnist Byron York spoke with, at 4 pm Eastern time, ORCA was predicting that Romney would win just under 300 electoral votes.
Whether it was because of corrupt data or an overly optimistic electorate model, there’s no doubt that ORCA got it wrong. Instead of being the “world’s largest exit poll” ORCA had turned into the Romney campaign’s biggest organizational disaster. Technology writer Daniel Tynan summed the debacle up well in a blog post for the enterprise computer publication InfoWorld:
“Everything in the ORCA rollout went great, except for a failure to do any quality assurance, proof its documentation, or beta test in the seven months from conception to implementation. Whoever was behind ORCA apparently also failed to hire a competent Web designer, anticipate server loads, beef up its bandwidth, or notify its ISP to expect a bump in traffic.”
Fleecing the Right
The corruption and incompetence that are pervasive throughout all wings of the American Right is something that receives almost no attention whatsoever from conservative media figures. Besides Erickson, it seems to be something that is ‘just not done.’
Given how enmeshed many corrupt Republican consultants are within the party’s more centrist ranks, it’s not exactly a surprise that moderate conservative writers haven’t criticized them much. Strangely, however, the more fire-breathing columnists have not been too interested, either. Besides generic condemnations against “the Establishment,” only columnist Ann Coulter has ever really gone after the many consultants who are terrible at doing their jobs but terrific at keeping them.
That is terribly unfortunate because the reality is that there are scores of Republican campaign consultants and candidates who are serial failures and yet somehow manage to keep getting hired. This is in stark contrast to the Democratic party where failure is treated far more harshly. Liberals who lose a big presidential race are rarely, if ever, heard from again....
Although Coulter is a poor strategist in her own right (she is a big booster of the nonsensical theory that somehow Republicans can win by getting only white Protestants to vote for them), she is completely correct that the Right has a much higher tolerance for failed leadership than the Left and that this is largely because conservatives do not know as much about politics:
The Republican Party has no natural defense mechanism against charlatans and saboteurs because politics is not what Republicans think about every second. Democrats love government.
They spend their lives trying to maneuver themselves into a position to run other people’s lives. Republicans don’t want careers in government and give little thought to how to get there.
Often they run for president only because they hope it will lead to more speaking gigs and TV appearances. […] Anyone who hurts the Democrats’ electoral prospects is dead. Not so, the Republicans. If John Edwards, Ned Lamont, and Bill Bradley were Republicans, they’d have radio shows, TV gigs, and bestselling books.
What ever happened to Wesley Clark? Where’s Mike Gravel? Mike Huckabee has a TV show. If you want to know what the other former Republican presidential candidates are doing these days, just turn on the radio or TV. […]
No one gets rich by sabotaging the Democratic Party. But a lot of people get rich off losing races for the Republican Party. […] There are no prizes in politics for caring the most, only for scoring the most. Devotion to the cause isn’t better than having a modicum of political savvy. If we’re serious about improving the country, we need candidates to be brutally honest about their own appeal. That’s if they really care about the team. ...
Despite the continual corruption and ineptitude of the Republican Industrial Complex, conservatives have reacted with far less outrage to this incompetent cronyism than they have toward the Obama Administration’s equally corrupt doling out of big bucks to politically connected “green” companies like Solyndra or Fisker....
Rest of the essay. Mr. Sheffield actually names more names.
Kingfish note: Looking past Trump's baggage and propensity to shoot off at the mouth, one can almost understand why he didn't start writing checks to these vultures.