This should prove to be interesting. The campaign which has already pledged to raise enough money to start their own country has apparently learned the lessons of austerity from Hillary Clinton’s time picking through dumpsters for leftover pizza after leaving the White House dead broke. The team won’t just be flushing money down golden commodes this time, and Hillary has brought in a specialist who is cracking the whip to make sure that the entire staff knows what the rules of the road are.
The debt avoidance strategy is already reflected in the early roll-out, where campaign manager Robby Mook is intent on creating a new culture around money, spending and flashy displays by staffers.
There are no business cards — a move that’s emblematic of Mook’s frugal and Quaker-like philosophy. In his view, working on a high-profile race isn’t supposed to be a star-making vehicle for staffers (at least not until after they win).
There are also no telephones at Clinton HQ in Brooklyn. Instead, Mook has instructed the staff to use a free voice-over Internet service, with headsets plugged into laptops. For their personal cell phones, they receive a modest reimbursement every month that many say doesn’t actually cover the phone bill.
Not having landlines in the campaign office is sensible enough in 2015. But do you really want your campaign’s future relying on your staffers plugging a Wonder-Jack into their USB ports for free calls? And at a minimum, you’d want the staff using official cell phones you hand out to them which are 100% restricted to only campaign business. Was there nobody paying attention to the boss’s previous adventures with phones and official records?
There are other cost saving initiatives posted on the walls. Or at least there would be if the staff was allowed to use any paper to make signs.
Meanwhile, the 80,000 square-feet of office space at the headquarters remain almost as bare as the day the campaign signed the lease. There is no conference room table— staffers pull together folding chairs for meetings. The cardboard boxes in which computers and printers were delivered do double duty as stands for televisions and printers, which are all default set to print double-sided to save paper.
Oh, and if you’re planning on taking a job with the Clinton campaign, be ready to get really proficient at using Air B&B.
This time, Mook has told everyone to stay with supporters while traveling, and avoid hotels when possible. When visiting New Hampshire the week before Clinton’s announcement, for instance, Mook and top aide Marlon Marshall stayed at the home of a Democratic activist in Concord.
The final layer of icing on this cake is the reported statement from the campaign to those hoping for a job on the team: don’t even bother to negotiate on the low salaries you will be offered because it won’t happen — and it will leave a bad taste in Mook’s mouth. All of this adds up to trouble if you ask me. Speaking as somebody who has actually been a campaign staffer on a district level team operating on a shoestring budget, staffers who are working their way up in this business have spent plenty of time having to camp out on the couches of supporters. (I’ve literally done that myself.) They also know what it’s like to foot the bill for their own Egg McMuffin as they dash out to the day’s first press stop. It can be a hard knock life trying to make your bones in this business.
But by the time you make it all the way up the ladder to the point where you can land a job with a presidential campaign – particularly one which is essentially a sure fire primary winner that’s bragging about raising money by the billions – you’re expecting a bit more out of your employer. Being a politico at that level is a profession, not an after school, volunteer gig for high school kids. And you expect that being in a position of such responsibility is going to come with at least the bare essentials of normal living. Decent, if not extravagant pay is the bare minimum. When on the road, you expect that your candidate can at least provide you with a hotel room. Not a luxury suite with a sauna, but at least a room with, you know… a bed. And a shower. For a presidential campaign, a cell phone where the bill goes to somebody else is not too much to ask either.
Unhappy campaign staffers can be a bigger problem than opposition researchers from the other party. If you treat them like slaves for too long they tend to get loose lips or create situations where key campaign materials mysteriously disappear right before events. I can understand how Hillary Clinton doesn’t want to give off an air of opulance and waste, but this level of austerity could come back to bite her.