|Leone Baxter and Clem Whitaker, founders of Campaigns, Inc.|
You probably have never heard of the couple above, Clem Whitaker and Leone Baxter, who founded what some regard as the first modern political advertising firm – Campaigns, Inc. – right here in California in the early 1930s. You may not have heard of the great “EPIC” campaign of 1934 – their first big target. (They ran the opposition.) I will leave it to you to read up on the history of all of that which you can find in http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/09/24/120924fa_fact_lepore?currentPage=all However, a key tactic they developed was distributing information favoring their clients to small newspapers that were always looking for material. From the link above:
…They ran a newspaper wire service, the California Feature Service, which sent a political clipsheet every week, to fifteen hundred “thought leaders,” and cartoons, editorials, and articles to three hundred newspapers. Rural newspapers were so desperate for copy that many printed whatever the California Feature Service sent them, including documents that were basically press releases disguised as editorials endorsing whatever political position Campaigns, Inc., was being paid to advocate. The trick was to send out clippings so sly that a tired editor might not notice that they were written by an advertising outfit. One California newspaper editor used to play a game with his staff, while reading the stuff. It was called “Where’s the Plug?” Whitaker and Baxter weren’t just inventing new techniques; they were writing a rule book. Never lobby; woo voters instead. “Our conception of practical politics is that if you have a sound enough case to convince the folks back home, you don’t have to buttonhole the Senator,” Baxter explained. Make it personal…
Got the idea? Now that you do, here is a link to an item that appeared recently in the “Marin Voice,” said to be written by “a member of the Citizens for Sustainable Pension Plans, a Marin-based public pension reform group.”
In short, Whitaker and Baxter are alive and well in the 21st century. We have noted in previous postings that the recently-filed pension initiative – that sweeps in UC – seems to be part of a well-coordinated effort that goes well beyond a few mayors who are the public face of it.