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The modern-day kingmakers.

An Elite Few Wield Immense Influence Over Arkansas' Growing Political Campaign Industry

The right issues. The witty quips. The catchy jingles. The successful politician can confidently draw these weapons from a quiver of campaign tricks. And in the competitive, high-tech world of today's politics, candidates are spending more and more money to keep their arrows sharp.

Much of the money is going to political consultants, once a campaign luxury reserved to presidential and major congressional candidates. Now, political consultants are hired by candidates for the city board and state Legislature.

Consider the case of Bill Gwatney.

The Jacksonville automobile dealer and political newcomer won a heated state Senate race against veteran Rep. Art Givens of Sherwood this year by utilizing the research and advertising ideas of Little Rock consultant Mary Dillard of Dillard & Associates.

Dillard's researchers carefully examined Givens' legislative record and found that the representative had spent very little time in his committee meetings. Then, she said as much in a series of radio ads.

Givens cried foul, mocked Gwatney for hiring a high-dollar consultant, then consulted one himself.

Bill Paschall, another rising star in this specialized field, whipped up a radio ad lampooning the infamous, loud-mouthed Gwatney Chevrolet ads. The implication was that you can't trust a car salesman in government.

It was audacious and downright funny, but it was too late.

Dillard's planning and research won the day and the race.

"The science is advancing," says Sherry Walker, the Little Rock consultant fighting the 25-cents-per-pack cigarette tax on the November ballot. She shares a suite with Dillard, and the two have collaborated on a few political causes.

Political consulting has become so advanced -- with computers, immense demographic data bases, scientific polls and the like -- that the candidate who ventures into the fray alone is sometimes left for dead.

"If a candidate tries to be their own consultant, then when are they going to run?" asks Sheila Galbraith Bronfman, another political specialist and the creator and organizer of the Bill Clinton presidential campaign's Arkansas Travelers brigade.

From her serene home in the Heights, Bronfman directs a staggering level of political activity for Clinton, prosecuting attorney Mark Stodola, Reps. Jim Argue and Phil Wyrick, and Little Rock City Director Jim Dailey, her former employer.

"I take a little different approach," Bronfman says. "I'm extremely hands-on. I involve myself in all the aspects of a campaign."

Bronfman has a test to screen out the squeamish candidates.

"Before I take a candidate, I sit them down on a Friday, and I tell them every horrible thing that is going to happen to them," she says. "I depress the hell out of them. Then I tell them to call me back on Monday if they want to run."

One can imagine how hectic her life must have become the year she took on eight Democratic candidates.

"That was ungodly," she says. "It's like raising children. You have to be there for them. You want to give them everything you possibly can, but you can't do it for them."

This kind of devotion is not exactly cheap.

Paschall charges $80 an hour for consulting work not covered by contract, and he gets 10 - 20 percent of all fund-raising proceeds.

"The thing I can do for them is keep them from spending money stupidly," Paschall says.

John VanWinkle of Fort Smith, the Democratic candidate for the 3rd Congressional District seat, paid more than $11,000 to Paschall & Associates in the second quarter alone for his full-service consulting.

Money Going to Clinton

Jerry Russell, king of the jingle, is the dean of the Little Rock political consultants with 25 years' experience. He typically charges $5,000-$10,000 to run a race for the state Legislature and $25,000-$50,000 for a statewide race. And that is for advice, not work.

"I don't do windows," Russell intimates.

But there are many companies in Arkansas and across the country that are willing to do the gritty stuff: copying, printing, ad production, polling and research.

A look at the Tim Hutchinson-VanWinkle campaign is illustrative.

Television advertising for the Hutchinson campaign is produced by Ozark Video in Springdale and placed by Albright Ideas of Little Rock. About $8,500 was paid to Albright by the campaign in the second quarter.

Polling is conducted by the Terrence Group, a Washington, D.C., firm, and Hutchinson has hired a political action committee fund-raising organization from Minnesota called Quantum Advantage.

Of course, local radio stations and newspapers reap profits from the campaign advertising. The local print shops also benefit.

Brother Asa Hutchinson volunteers as campaign chairman and strategist. As for paid staff, Sam Sellers serves as press secretary and Dorothy English commutes weekly from Little Rock to northwest Arkansas.

VanWinkle's spending is fairly similar.

He has three paid staff members and two full-time volunteers. In addition to Paschall's cut, Mark McKinnon of Austin, Texas, was paid more than $12,000 in the second quarter as a media consultant, and the Washington firm of Bennett Pelts & Associates was paid $13,600 for polling services.

The campaign industry may be in a long-term expansion, but Russell says things are different this year.

"It's been a bad year for the political industry in Arkansas," Russell says. "Between Clinton and |Sen. Dale~ Bumpers, they sucked over $4.5 million out of the pool. That's a lot of money for a poor state."

The lack of money apparently has discouraged many potential candidates. Far fewer are running in the state this year than in previous election cycles.

In the 1990 state and district races there were 325 Democratic candidates, 73 Republicans and nine independents. Two years later, 256 Democrats are running, 51 Republicans and 16 independents.

Some Are Traditionalists

Not all candidates are gambling on the experts.

Consultants say state Senate candidates Jim Keet and John Pagan, both of Little Rock, will spend $175,000-$200,000 combined on the race. But neither plans to hire a general campaign consultant.

The Little Rock-based Clinton campaign has helped out a few traditional campaign businesses in the state.

Ad Craft of Arkansas in Little Rock has been busy making yard signs, bumper stickers, T-shirts and banners for the campaign. The company has experienced a 20-percent increase in business over previous presidential campaign years, says Sherman McCoy, vice president of operations.

Horton Brothers Printing Co. has handled much of Clinton's printing work. That includes brochures, posters (100,000 of them), lapel stickers, letterhead paper and envelopes. The attention has increased business by 20 percent, says owner Winston Horton.

Paschall works 16 hours a day, seven days a week during the peak of the political season. He thinks his brand of general consulting makes him a dinosaur.

"In 1988, there were around 100 consultants in the country," he says. "Now, it's grown quite a bit, with a lot of areas of specialization."

One of the most prevalent is the list business.

From a home office called CAMCO Inc. in Sherwood, Linda Napper can cook up the list of your dreams.

Do you need the telephone numbers of all Democratic women between 21-65 who vote at least 50 percent of the time and live in the Lakewood subdivision of North Little Rock?

She can do probably do it.

But there is one provision.

"My lists don't leave this office," Napper says. "If I sell you a list, I'm out of business."

To say the least, the political season has kept Napper hopping. This month alone she will mail at least 200,000 pieces. Similar work is going on at the Watkins Co., a Little Rock concern owned by Rick Watkins.

"This is all gathered from the voter registration lists," Napper says. Of course, those lists are later painstakingly supplemented with telephone numbers and polling information.

Typically, there are 15,000 residents in a state House of Representatives District. Limiting the field to frequent voters leaves a pool of 4,000-5,000 people.

Sending mailouts to a list this size would cost $1,800-$2,000, depending on whether Napper does the printing herself.

List Of The Day

At the moment, she is working for 20 different campaigns. The number could climb to 30 in the next few weeks.

"It's an interesting business," Napper says. "But the six weeks before each election are hellatious."

Bronfman keeps her own personal computer database of about 16,000 voters. As a reporter looks on, she calls up a name, notes four or five organizations the voter belongs to and adds "this note shows that she was invited to my wedding."

Politicians need consultants, she says, because many of them are ignorant of basic political rules -- for instance, "Don't offend anyone."

She recalls that one candidate had trouble throwing candy to children as his car moved through a Halloween parade in Jacksonville.

Both sides of the street were lined with kids, but the candidate kept throwing to the right side.

Finally, Bronfman started barking orders from the back of the car: "Left! Right! Left! ..."

Without consultants, how would politicians learn the enchanting trick of reading name tags without appearing to look?

Bronfman says the secret is to affix the name tag under the right shoulder. That way, the politician is looking straight at the name tag when an admirer extends his right arm for a handshake.

That is, unless the candidate is addressing a convention of left-handers.

Walker reminds us that there is more to politics than candidates. She has made a living in recent years by supporting -- or, in her current work, opposing -- grass-roots political causes that become initiated acts.

She has worked for several politicians, but notes that her human clients are sometimes more apt to compromise themselves than the ideas for which she crusades.

"One of the things I always tell my candidates is that no matter how much you believe in something, when you sign your name as a candidate, you sort of lose rational judgment," she says. "You start hedging your bets."

Russell can name several times when his services certified the election of a client. One is Tommy Robinson's first race for Pulaski County Sheriff in 1980.

Armed with information about alarmingly low arrest rates in Pulaski County rape cases, Russell picked up his pen. The radio ad began with the sound of chirping crickets, followed by the sound of a female, then male footsteps.

The Rape Ad

A scream pierced the silence. The narrator let listeners know that Robinson would do a better job of investigating rape cases than incumbent Ken Best.
Typically, campaigns have a laundry list of regular expenses.
As an example, here are the second-quarter expenses for the
John VanWinkle for Congress Campaign Committee. In-kind
contributions are omitted.
Harrison Radio Station $217 Advertising
KEZA Radio $300
KXIX Radio $300
KEZU Radio $496
KTCS Radio $401
Tom McKinney $500 Worker
Martline (Missouri) $4,208.29 Materials
Contel Cellular $1,299.72 Phones
McKinnon Media (Austin) $12,320.59 Advertising
Media Strategies (D.C.) $25,010
Mailco $3,990 Materials
Jeri Winfrey $519,16 Expenses
Jeri Winfrey $994.20 Salary
Southwest Times Record $2,063.10 Advertising
KLS Radio $200
Dina Wood $2,089.29 Expenses
Merchants National Bank $826.10 Federal Tax Deposit
Citibank Visa $856.79 Travel,
Horton Printing $598.19 Materials
Russellville newspaper $252 Advertisement
Ron Calhoun $500 Materials
Kinko's $253.3
Paschall & Associates $11,094.84 Campaign Materials
Tom McKinney $500 Worker
Cliff Jeffords $1,248.06 Salary
Southwestern Bell $2,257.30 Telephones
U.S. Postmaster $657.70 Postage
Dina W. Wood $1,168.24 Salary
Non-itemized expenses $1,153.63 General
Total: $76,506.10
Out-of-State: $41,538.88
Source: Arkansas Secretary of State
Note: The campaign of John VanWinkle was chosen arbitrarily. In
other words, he lost the coin flip.

Robinson won. He later vaulted to Congress, but he had parted ways with Russell.

"By the time he got ready to run for Congress, he felt he knew more about my job than I did, so I quit," Russell says.

Russell is best known for his jingles.

Remember "Pin a rose on me -- I'm for Bob Rosamond?" This catchy tune helped with a North Little Rock mayoral race in 1972.

And, more recently, the ubiquitous "Judge Robin Mays" jingle from the Pulaski County Chancery Judge race of 1988. When Russell mentions the tune, a reporter feels compelled to sing it with him.

Such is the power of the political consultant. Not only do they influence your vote, they haunt your mind for years to come.

BILL PASCHALL: Age 32. He is currently consulting for congressional candidates John VanWinkle of Fort Smith and Blanche Lambert of West Helena. He also has represented U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers, State Attorney General Winston Bryant and Little Rock Municipal Judge Marion Humphrey.

SHERRY WALKER: Age 45. She is coordinator of the forces opposing the initiated act to increase the state tobacco tax by 25 cents on each pack of cigarettes. Walker has worked with more issues than candidates. She was a leader in the lobbyist disclosure measure, for example.

SHEILA GALBRAITH BRONFMAN: Age 43. Bronfman recently has been involved intensely with the Bill Clinton presidential campaign as coordinator of the Arkansas Travelers.

MARY DILLARD: Age 46. Dillard was a consultant for the wet forces in the last great Conway County wet-dry election. The wets won, but they didn't use Dillard's favorite ad, which featured two preacher-types in the back seat of a car proclaiming, "Move over and let us run your life."

JERRY RUSSELL: Age 59. Russell is the most experienced of the five major political consultants in the state. He will work for Republicans or Democrats, as long as he likes the candidate. His jingles are famous and have influenced many elections.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Arkansas' political consultants
Author:Haman, John
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Oct 12, 1992
Previous Article:Who's calling: Yell County Telephone Co. introduces new service to Arkansas.
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