With 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.)