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These are some frequently asked questions regarding campaign consultants:

What is a consultant?

A hired professional or firm that provides inherently political services, including creative or strategic advice.

Why do candidates hire consultants?

Political consultants are hired for their expertise and experience in specialized areas needed to run a campaign, such as fundraising or advertising.

What are some of the main consulting specialties?

  • Media consultants create advertisements, and buy airtime from stations and networks.
  • Direct mail firms design and produce mailings to promote the candidate and solicit money.
  • Polling firms survey voters on their attitudes toward issues and candidates, and run focus groups.
  • Political technology firms offer services such as Web site design, online advertising, online fundraising and voter targeting services.

Why is there concern over the rising costs of running campaigns and hiring consultants?

These expenses have consequences on the political system, forcing candidates to raise money, a time consuming process that potentially makes them beholden to their donors. Since incumbents generally have an advantage raising money, potential challengers can be shut out of the system, leaving constituents limited choices.

Are political consultants hired by anyone other than candidates and their own campaign committees?

Yes. Political party committees and “527” groups also hire consultants to create campaigns opposing or supporting candidates or issues.

Who keeps track of the amount spent by the candidates, party committees and 527 groups?

Under the law, candidates and political party committees must disclose campaign expenditures to the Federal Election Commission. Groups organized under section “527” of the IRS code disclose the information to the Internal Revenue Service.

Is that information public?

Yes. The information on campaign spending is available on the Web sites of the FEC and the IRS.

How are disclosure filings of Senate candidate expenditures different from those of other candidates?

Under U.S. Senate rules, candidates are not required to file electronically. Instead, paper records are delivered to the FEC. While those records are made available to the public on the FEC Web site, they are posted in an unsearchable PDF format.

On which political consulting specialty has the most money been spent?

Media, because the cost of television is greater than any single cost. Also, the consultants typically buy the airtime, so their payments include their commissions, and the funds they in turn pay to the broadcast television, cable, or radio outlets.

How much of the money spent on media consulting is revenue for the firm?

Up to 15 percent, but subject to negotiation with the candidate or committee. That revenue is not publicly disclosed, as the FEC and IRS do not require it.

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