“The danger level has risen,” said Tad Devine, a veteran of Democratic presidential campaigns and an informal adviser to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is considering a 2016 bid. “There’s more awareness of the fact that if you’re going to hire somebody on a payroll of a campaign, that person needs to be subjected to some kind of scrutiny.”
Devine noted that in the late 1970s and 1980s, when a fax machine qualified as cutting-edge technology, opposition research meant hiring a private detective — an expensive expenditure. There were fewer media outlets to pitch the material to at the time, and fewer still that were interested in reporting on campaign aides. Now, Devine says, anyone can dig up dirt online quickly and inexpensively, and can easily find a home for it in some corner of the Internet.
Terry Giles, a top adviser to prospective presidential candidate Ben Carson, said it’s close to impossible to avoid stepping on staff-related land mines given the pressures facing campaigns.
“It is each [campaign’s] job to hire the best people you can and [vet] them properly,” said Giles, in an email to POLITICO. “But unless you have been involved in organizing a national presidential campaign, you cannot imagine how hard it is to make as many decisions as you need to, as fast as you need to, while everyone else are competing for the same people, and not make some mistakes regarding personnel.”
Giles knows it better than most: The Carson campaign itself is currently dealing with revelations that one of its operatives made crude remarks about President Barack Obama and called Ferguson protesters “thugs.” Giles called the statements “disappointing.”
Like Giles, Devine pointed to the challenging logistics involved in vetting midlevel staffers, noting that campaigns just don’t have the time or resources to use a team of lawyers to comb through records. “I do not think staffers are going to be vetted the way candidates for vice president are vetted,” he said.Rich Galen writes:
- How does this stuff come out? The professional opposition research firms that have sprung up over the past few years put the NSA to shame when it comes to following digital breadcrumbs.
- And, while a candidate's allies will go to great lengths to protect the principal (see, also Sec. Clinton's emails), no donor or major player will lift a finger to help a staffer caught with their fingers on the SEND key.
- One of the issues with Twitter, etc. is to write something that will get other people to make it a "Favorite" and/or to "ReTweet" it to their followers. The game is to get as many "Followers" of your own as you can.
- There's an old saying at the Galen School of Political Press: "Anyone can make news if they say something stupid enough."
- Here are some guiding principals for young people who want to be professional political operatives:
- Don't Tweet stupid stuff.
- If you've been drinking, don't Tweet at all. It will be stupid stuff
- If you pause for even a nano-second before hitting the "Tweet" key, erase it. Your internal governor is trying to tell you something.
- You can't generate context in 140 characters
- Irony doesn't render properly on Twitter. And, it has never worked in Iowa