Sac History Happenings

News and developments in Sacramento and California history

October 5, 2012
California firm invented political consulting in the 1930s

Sinclair cartoon.jpgWith millions of dollars spent on campaign advertising this election season, it's interesting to read about the origin of political consulting and note that it all started in California. The New Yorker recently published a fascinating profile of two San Francisco entrepreneurs who invented the techniques of modern political persuasion.

The team of Clem Whitaker and Leone Baxter founded Campaigns, Inc. in 1933. Author Jill Lepore explains that although their first job was to help defeat a referendum sponsored by Pacific Gas and Electric, the firm would make its mark working for big business interests. In 1934 it managed some of the negative publicity used to defeat Upton Sinclair, the Socialist writer and Democratic nominee running for governor on a platform known as End Poverty in California (EPIC).

Later Whitaker and Baxter would apply their public opinion techniques to twice defeat Gov. Earl Warren's payroll tax funded health insurance proposal. Based on those successes, Campaigns, Inc. would be hired by the A.M.A. in 1949 to stop Pres. Harry Truman's national health insurance initiative, which they effectively labelled "socialized medicine."

Whitaker and Baxter worked behind the scenes on many state and national issues and so their role in 20th century politics is less known, but important nonetheless, because the methods they invented to manage political opinion have been perfected over the years and are still used today by organizations of all types.

IMAGE CREDIT: Gubernatorial candidate Upton Sinclair is depicted as The Pied Piper, who would lure thousands of unemployed people from other states by "his fairy promises of employment and a life of ease." Oct. 10, 1934 Sacramento Bee political cartoon by Arthur V. Buel. (Click image to see a full-size version.)

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About Sac History Happenings

California and Sacramento have a long, rich, vibrant history. And our region is blessed with an abundance of historical resources maintained by museums, libraries, archives and societies. This blog aims to alert readers to the latest developments in local/state historical education and research.

Send tips concerning upcoming exhibits, tours, lectures and meetings, as well as new books, magazine articles and online collections to the blog's contributors.

The Contributors:

Michael Dolgushkin

Michael Dolgushkin is Manuscript Librarian at the California State Library History Section. He is co-author of San Francisco's California Street Cable Cars and is a frequent contributor to the California State Library Foundation Bulletin. Contact him at

Amanda Graham

Amanda Graham is a Certified Archivist working in the Sacramento Room of the Sacramento Public Library. She earned a BS in History from Southern Oregon University and a MS in Information Studies with an emphasis in archives from The University of Texas at Austin. Contact her at

Pete basofin

Pete Basofin is Director of Editorial Research at The Sacramento Bee. He previously worked at The St. Petersburg Times and Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune. Contact him at

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