Same Old Faces

It's an outsider's year for candidates, but the consultants are old Beacon Hill mainstays. Plus, who spent what at the conventions, and Baker goes on TV first.
By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  June 24, 2010

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If you're wondering who the geniuses are behind the political campaigns in Massachusetts this year — the strategists, media firms, ad teams, and fundraisers — well, it's a lot of the same folks who have been behind Massachusetts campaigns for a long time. Candidates may win or lose, but consultants are forever.

That's especially true among the state's Republicans, whose universe of experienced, connected campaign advisors is small, thanks to the GOP's largely dismal record in Bay State politics. Their consultants are almost exclusively veterans of the Paul Cellucci, Mitt Romney, and Kerry Healey campaigns. (Scott Brown's team is in far too much national demand to waste time on many Massachusetts races.)

Democrats, on the other hand, have consultants dating back to the Michael Dukakis days, and include veterans from a long string of federal, state, and county races, as well as the statewide operations typically run by House Speakers and Senate presidents.

Professional consultants make themselves part of the political infrastructure, operating behind the scenes, claiming to hold indispensable wisdom, and recommending one another for pieces of the available campaign budget. So it should come as no surprise that there's very little turnover in their ranks.

Their stasis can be problematic, though — especially since, in the current political environment, every candidate is seeking to portray him- or herself as being outside the establishment.

Talk of change is for the chumps who mark the ballots, though. The people who get paid to come up with those change slogans rarely change much themselves.

Stick with who you know
To the outside world Charlie Baker may come across as a fresh, outsider gubernatorial candidate. But the campaign selling that message is loaded with names from Healey's failed 2006 bid. (That list includes Tim O'Brien, Elizabeth Mahoney, Matthew St. Hilaire, Melissa Lucas, Gray Media, Stevens & Schiefer Group, Public Opinion Strategies, Full Impact Production, and SCM Associates.)

Deval Patrick and Tim Murray are, naturally, using many of the same consultants as they did four years ago — including Doug Rubin, who now plies his trade as Northwind Strategies, and David Plouffe of AKPD Message and Media in Chicago, who went on to help put Barack Obama in the White House. So far, the campaign has paid about $100,000 to those two advisors; those dollar figures will rise in the fall as the media and advertising wars heat up. You also can expect to see plenty of cash going to Patrick's pollster, Kiley & Co., who earned roughly $300,000 during the 2006 campaign, and communications consultant Larry Carpman, who earned about $100,000.

Rubin is likewise on the payroll of Steve Grossman's campaign for treasurer. Suzanne Bump, running for auditor, has been using Sage Systems, a well-connected Beacon Hill firm, and Government Insight Group, led by veteran media strategist and Dukakis administration figure Michael Goldman. She also has paid $12,000 so far to Kristin MacEachern of KME Consulting, a fundraiser who previously worked for former Speaker of the House Sal DiMasi and Murray, among others.

Some of these consultants get work over and over again because they have the experience. But political consulting is also very much a word-of-mouth business: a candidate relies on his or her top advisors and "kitchen cabinet" for recommendations. Those folks tend to feel comfortable with (or, more cynically, wish to reward) the same advisors they've dealt with on other campaigns.

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  Topics: Talking Politics , Doug Rubin, Deval Patrick, Paul Cellucci,  More more >
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