With all the television ads, glossy fliers in your mailbox and digital ads on the web that call on you to “stop the oil and gas shutdown,” you’ve probably noticed that No on Measure G is a well-funded campaign.
In the last month alone, the campaign shelled out $4 million to win over the hearts and minds of San Luis Obispo County residents, and there’s still $2.17 million in the bank, according to campaign finance reports covering Sept. 23 through Oct. 20.
In total this year, four oil companies — Chevron, Aera Energy, California Resources Corp. and Sentinel Peak Resources — collectively contributed $7.85 million (including about $52,000 in nonmonetary contributions) to defeat the citizen-brought initiative that would ban new oil wells and fracking in unincorporated parts of the county.
By comparison, the Yes on Measure G campaign has so far raised just more than $248,000 ($108,000 of which is nonmonetary contributions) and has an ending cash balance of about $42,000. Funds have mostly come from individual citizen contributions or from the Center for Biological Diversity.
To put that in perspective, considering only monetary contributions, for every dollar the Yes on Measure G campaign has to work with, the oil industry has $55.
So where does all that dough go?
It’s mostly been divvied up between the direct cost of the advertising and paying the strategists who come up with what those advertisements should say: political consultants and campaign managers with years of experience who rely on costly polls to learn what you’re thinking.
About $107,000 for literature went to Amplified Strategies, a Seattle company that specializes in direct mail for ballot measure campaigns that “pairs detailed analysis of the issue and sophisticated targeting with designs that fit the circumstances and demographics of the situation.”
Another $150,000 went to a production consultant the New York Times says has “a national reputation for winning.” Hollywood-based Chris Mottola Consulting says it consistently wins in blue states and grafts “human emotion to strategic data.”
This month, the Postal Service got $103,200, and more than $1.8 million went to television stations or ad placement services.
The campaign also spent around $60,000 on slate mailers, pay-for-play publications that endorse whatever candidate or issue forks over a fee (usually around $2,000) to make it look like state-level organizations representing senior advocates, cops, progressives or Latinos all endorse the cause.
Public Opinion Strategies in Virginia received $41,000 for phone banking. The company describes its services as obtaining answers to clients questions by testing the effectiveness of messages.
Consultants and managers that receive regular payments include Meridian Pacific, Supervisor John Peschong’s strategic political consulting firm, and two communication specialists that used to work with the company, as well as Santa Monica-based Winner and Mandabach Campaigns, a “national political consulting firm specializing in ballot measure campaigns” that touts a 90 percent win rate.
Services include “in-depth opinion research; designing and analyzing in-depth opinion research; producing, testing and placing television, radio, print, and digital advertising; overseeing the design and distribution of direct mail; designing and implementing advanced data modeling techniques; and managing all other campaign elements such as earned media, social media, and field and outreach activities.”
We’ll find out if their strategy worked in less than two weeks.