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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Appeals for campaign cash fill the inbox this summer

Every political columnist chained to his computer terminal dreads these dog days of summer.

We spend time talking to local and state candidates, working our way down to the ones from obscure parties no one but the candidate himself has ever heard of. Or watching initiative sponsors lug cartons of signed petitions into the state elections office while their earnest supporters cheer. Or cleaning out the email clogging the inbox to the point the program sends warnings that we’ve used up our megabytes and IT sends nastygrams that we could bring down the whole system.

Which wouldn’t be so bad, considering the email I’m getting. One might expect the volume to die down with the presidential race down from 17 Republicans and five Democrats to one of each. 

Not so. Every candidate and political movement seem to have signed on with consultants who believe campaign money can be pulled from the masses by a revolving series of email pitches. For candidate Joe Blow, they set up an account called “SUPPORT JOE BLOW”, with a mailing list of people who have anything remotely to do with politics. This includes political writers who are unlucky enough to have their email address attached to their stories, which The Spokesman-Review and most newspapers require. 

So whether Joe Blow is running for president, or the U.S. Senate in Wyoming or state assemblyman in Ohio, my email address finds its way onto his list, compiled by a consultant who apparently gets paid based on the number of people who receive his missives, and uses the same template for all his candidates.

In the morning, I might get an email warning me JOE BLOW TRAILING IN POLLS! (Campaign staffs love with capital letters.) Joe has fallen behind opponent Hearn Sneed in the latest poll, but if I would just contribute by clicking a button, conveniently arranged in different amounts, Joe has a chance to catch up.

Around noon, I’ll get an email announcing JOE BLOW IN DEAD HEAT! Mysteriously but thankfully, Joe has gained ground on Sneed in a new poll, but needs my help to keep up the momentum by clicking a handy contribution button.

Around mid afternoon, a new email will arrive with JOE BLOW SWAMPING SNEED! Miraculously, Joe has gained multiple percentage points and is on his way to vanquish Sneed. To rejoice with Joe in his good showing, I should click the handy button for the appropriate amount.

The next day's Inbox has an email proclaiming JOE BLOW LAGS IN POLL. And so it goes.

This is a fund-raiser’s way of hedging the bets, because some people give to underdogs, some people give to tight races and some people give to winners. In fund-raising, as in politics, a candidate must be all things to all people.

If Joe is a Republican, he’s either promising to put Hillary Clinton in prison or help Donald Trump shake up government. Or both. Please click to contribute.

If Joe is a Democrat, he’s either promising to stop the tyranny of Donald Trump or help Hillary Clinton reform government. Or both. Please click to contribute.

Political organizations practice a version of this. Rather than all things to all people, it might be described the “worst possible outcome for our people”. 

So tea party organizations send warnings that President Obama is plotting to take away everyone’s guns and ammunition, or has secretly changed the constitution to be steal a third term so he can enact Sharia Law, or will send all patriots to concentration camps. Give like your country depends on it – because it does.

Abortion-rights groups and abortion opposition groups predict catastrophic prospects for the U.S. Supreme Court if the wrong candidate wins the presidential election. For the last several presidential elections, they just have disagreed who would bring on the catastrophe.

Environmental groups warn of unbreathable air and undrinkable water if control of Congress doesn’t change. Business groups warn of massive layoffs from environmental regulations that have them trying to swim the Straits of Juan de Fuca with an anvil chained to each ankle if control does change. Conservative organizations raise money by calling liberals communists and liberal organizations by calling conservatives fascists.

And this is what gets past the spam filter, which snags the requests from real crazies.

It’s tempting to think everyone is just practicing P.T. Barnum’s dictum about the birth rate of suckers. But it’s more complicated than that.

An experienced politician once explained it like this: No one ever raised a dime by sending out a note saying things are pretty good right now, but if you give us some money when you have a minute, we can make it a little bit better.

They always say things are going to hell any minute, but if you donate right now, we can save the world. Be generous and click the button.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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