On this Deborah Honeycutt issue

A lot of Democrats are making a big deal out of this. Any conservative who has ever done a direct mail program is reading all the reports and scratching their head wondering what the big deal is.

In fact, the only reason this is somewhat of a story is because the FEC has required a change in accounting methodology that now deepens the disclosure requirements and lays out every aspect of the direct mail program. In the past, some aspects of the direct mail programs were not fully disclosed and no flags were raised for people who don’t know what they are talking about to raise.

Here’s the deal:

Deborah Honeycutt and every other person who engages in a direct mail program absolutely knows going into it that it is going to be a short term loser. However, in the long term, direct mail pays off.

In a direct mail program, you send out a massive amount of mail, get very few responses, send a second massive wave of mail, get very few responses, send a third massive wave of mail, get very few responses, and then start sending very targeted mail that gets you a great deal of money.

It is a systematic process of building a reliable house file of donors who are worth their weight in gold.

But it is initially expensive.

In the process of the few initial mass mail pieces, you are testing messages to see what resonates with various constituencies.

Over time, you have a pool of people who can regularly be mailed who will send you back a few bucks that will (1) pay for the mail and (2) give you extra to build your cash on hand.

And the GOP has been doing it for many, many, many years to great, great success — more so than the Democrats have ever been able to do. That it is mostly Democrats writing about this is no surprise, they aren’t used to the pattern.

Generally though, it works.

Now, in this particular case, I do think Honeycutt is misspending her money.


First, she probably will not beat David Scott. The demographics are not there for her in that district, particularly with Obama at the top of the ballot.

Second, first time candidates should rarely do direct mail unless they are running as ideologically partisan candidates. Honeycutt can’t really do that because of the district demographics. She does not meet the profile of someone who can have a successful direct mail program. Herman Cain? Yes. Jesse Helms? Yes. Paul Broun? Yes. Cynthia McKinney? Yes. Deborah Honeycutt? No.

Third, It is much more difficult for candidates like Honeycutt in elections like this one to run on the “clean up government” direct mail bandwagon. Republicans are already perceived by the electorate as corrupt. Sure, she is running against a corrupt Democrat, but the GOP is not seen as the house cleaning party right now. And Honeycutt, not being a known commodity, will be more closely equated with her party than her positions by anyone reading her direct mail.

All that said, this has much more to do with Talking Points Memo (TPM) trying to create a negative narrative against BMW Direct. The company is a good mail house. It has a great track record with candidates. It is terrific at raising money. The best way to destroy its reputation is to push into the mainstream media the narrative that BMW Direct takes advantage of its clients and milks them for all they’re worth.

That’s not true of BMW Direct, nor is it true of direct mail programs. But superficially it is very easy to make it look that way when people have no clue how direct mail works.

Don’t think Honeycutt is really the target of these stories, though the local Georgia press has picked it up that way. This story is about attacking GOP direct mail vendors and Honeycutt is just the latest victim in the story.

6 comments

  1. envirodawg says:

    While I agree with you that in direct mail your goal at the beginning is to just break even so that you can resolicit those who actually respond, this goes beyond the normal expense for mail.

    Why is a person at the company her Treasurer? That seems a little fishy to have a vendor as your Treasurer.

  2. Erick,

    Yes and no. Republicans have a great direct mail history that Democrats should be envious of but also understand that due to demographics it isn’t quite as easy for us to emulate it. If you are a 65 year old retired person with a lot of money and time to read mail, odds are you are a Republican and willing to donate to conservative causes. If you are a 65 year old retired person on a fixed income you’re more likely to be a Democrat and not have that kind of spare change to throw around. If you’re 65 and super wealthy, well direct mail isn’t really how you’re reached as you are more likely to be contacted (by both sides) to attend a fundraiser in person or give more than $100 or so in the mail.

    If you’re a busy person that isn’t retired, direct mail isn’t really for you regardless of party. Now that said, there are a lot of younger donors (under 65) that have some expendable income and are willing to give it to both parties. Before internet campaigning and online donations there really wasn’t a good way to collect that money. I’d argue that in the last couple of years, if you combine direct mail and internet solicitation the parties have probably evened the gap.

    Now that said, I understand direct mail solicitation and understand why Republicans use it effectively and for the most part Democrats aren’t able to. That said, I still think BMW is fishy.

    They are clearly a group of smart and capable Republican operatives who seem to have been the first to realize a potential source of funding that they could take a slice off the top of (a big slice it seems): going after white Republican donors with a soft spot for African American GOP candidates. Honeycutt is one of their more credible candidates that they raise money for, but consider the case of Charles Morse (who I don’t know the race of).

    Morse ran a write in campaign against Barney Frank, a conservative hate icon if there ever was one. He got only 145 votes in the Republican primary and ended his campaign. Yet, BMW raised over $700,000 of money for him, much of it after he ended his campaign (and I doubt he had much debt to retire). 96% of the money went to a direct mail firm connected to BMW. Now, even if they were only making a 10% profit, that’s $67,200 (or a pretty nice salary in that field) for someone to basically con unsuspecting conservative donors around the country with a sweet story about a lovable candidate fighting a liberal dragon.

    Give me a break. BMW are exploiting your conservative donors and some of your more brave GOP candidates so that they can make a buck. By defending them, you’re giving the many people who are legitimate political consultants a bad name by comparison. Let it go.

  3. SouthFultonGuy says:

    Speaking of democrat mediocracy, any word on where the “What Has Roger Bruce Produced” Scavenger Hunt will be?

    It is sad when the state legislator from the 64th district runs robo calls with supporters talking about how he helped them with a high water bill or a MARTA bus belching fumes into someone’s yard instead of his legislative record.

    That’s Clark Howard’s job not a Georgia State Legislator, they are supposed to author and pass laws right?

    Oh that’s right not only does he have the distinction of not ever introducing a bill that got passed into law, when unincorporated South Fulton had the chance to gain $12 million plus in LOST tax revenue, Roger did not even bother to vote.

    For this offense alone, voters who voter based on facts should send Roger “I did not produce” Bruce packing….

  4. Bill Simon says:

    Chris,

    To demogogues like you, ANY “retiree” is rich unless they get $500 or less per month from their government.

    Quit playing your frigging class-warfare crap.

  5. Progressive Dem says:

    You can put lipstick on it, but it is still a pig.

    When hundreds of thousands of dollars are given to benfit a candidate and less than 10% percent of it ends up being spent on advertising, canvassing, printing, postage, databases – it is just a big con job by the “consultants”. How do the donors feel about their gifts now?

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