Firm Helps DSCC Run a ‘Tight Ship’

Posted September 3, 2003 at 6:59pm

Grappling with the realities of a post-campaign finance reform world, business-minded Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Jon Corzine (N.J.) has hired a management consulting firm to streamline fundraising and money management at the organization.

“There is no question that the benefits of running a tight ship with regards to how you manage your affairs is a net plus for everyone,” said Corzine, who was a CEO at Goldman, Sachs & Co. before running for the Senate in 2000. Corzine added that the decision was “not a political issue.”

The firm — International Profit Associates — has been working on and off with the DSCC since April, although they have not yet been paid by the committee, according to Federal Election Commission fillings.

The company billed the DSCC in late August, said committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse; he would not provide the total amount of charges.

A senior adviser to Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) expressed support for the concept, pointing out that the ban on raising and spending soft dollars — previously a key funding source for the DSCC, particularly when it comes to overhead — had forced a rethinking of the committee’s rules.

“Senator Corzine faces the dual challenge of chairing the DSCC during a time of enormous change in how the committee works post-McCain-Feingold and trying to regain control of the Senate,” the adviser said. “That requires new approaches and maximum efficiency.”

Republicans currently hold a two-seat majority in the Senate.

IPA is based in Chicago and specializes in small-business consulting, said Corzine. It was the sixth largest management consultant company in Chicago in the fall of 2002, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.

Corzine was quick to emphasize that IPA was not involved in any way in the political and messaging components of the DSCC but rather was primarily concerned with “branding” the organization and focusing on long-term strategy for an operation that has traditionally overhauled its structure every two years.

Woodhouse explained that the consultants’ prime goal was “franchising the DSCC in a way that it is familiar from one cycle to another to our donors, activists and other stakeholders.”

The DSCC is also expected to unveil a new Web site shortly and has been working with the consultants on their Internet marketing and fundraising.

“There are elements of this [committee] that need to be a disciplined, business-like organization,” Corzine said. The structure he inherited “didn’t meet the standards I felt comfortable with.”

Corzine also floated the idea that eventually the DSCC may need a chief financial officer to oversee the movement of money, pointing to recent revelations that staffers embezzled money from the campaign accounts of Sens. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.).

Corzine said he was not concerned about skepticism from others in the political world about his decision to bring in outside consultants.

“When I sit down with potential donors and say not only are we trying to raise money but we are going to makes as productive use of the resources as possible, people respond to that in a positive way,” the Senator said.

Not surprisingly, Republicans were not so kind.

“We understand why they would need some help like this,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee Communications Director Dan Allen. “We hope the consultants are able to get across to them that the reason they lost the majority last year is that they were against tax relief for working families, couldn’t pass a budget and they were grinding the president’s initiatives to a halt.”

Hiring consultants less familiar with politics does pose some political peril, as symbolized by the avalanche of bad press then-Vice President Al Gore received when it was revealed he was seeking advice on his public image from feminist scribe Naomi Wolf.

Wolf advised Gore to wear more earth tones to promote the image of him as an “alpha male”; Wolf has repeatedly maintained she was brought into the campaign to advise Gore on women’s issues.

Corzine said his decision to hire the management consultants had already been validated by the fundraising success of the DSCC.

In the first seven months of the year, they raked in roughly $12 million; the NRSC had raised $16.5 million in that time. The NRSC had a cash balance of $5.3 million at the end of July, while the DSCC had $2.4 million left to spend.

“We have stayed right in the hunt with our competitors,” said Corzine. “The conventional wisdom would say we were going to have trouble with recruiting and not matching up well financially. The facts say the

opposite.”