Rolly: Outsiders and campaign disasters
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The problems in congressional candidate Mia Love's campaign that prompted the State Republican Party to step in and take control, as I reported last week, are being blamed on outside consultants.

If true, it's the latest in a long list of examples of outside consultants who know nothing about Utah stepping into campaigns and screwing them up.

Perhaps the most famous example was the U.S. Senate campaign of Republican congressman Lawrence Burton in 1970.

Burton was a popular Utah congressman who challenged incumbent Democrat Ted Moss. When the campaign got under way, the National Republican Committee insisted the Burton campaign use an advertising agency out of St. Louis. The agency put Burton on a horse wearing a large cowboy hat and took shots of him in front of the Wasatch Range with the slogan: "A man to match our mountains."

The agency also ran an ad that tried to tie Moss to the radical rioters protesting the Vietnam War. The ad included footage of a violent protest that, as it turned out, was actually a political uprising in Rome.

Then the agency ran a man-in-the-street ad in which the commentator stopped people on the sidewalk who answered his questions with gushing praise of Burton. The background was downtown Salt Lake City. Burton represented the First Congressional District, which did not include Salt Lake.

Burton, in the end, wrote a letter to the NRC about what a disaster the company they insisted he use was to the campaign.

Then there was Democrat Wayne Owens, a congressman in 1992 who ran for an open U.S. Senate seat against Republican Bob Bennett. Bennett had worked in the Nixon Administration and had to continually deny rumors that he was the anonymous source dubbed Deep Throat in the Watergate scandal.

Washington, D.C., consultants decided to exploit those implications by staging a sweep for electronic bugs in Owens' campaign office, with the media invited to watch.

The aim, of course, was to link Bennett with the Watergate burglars' bugging of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in 1972. The result was that it made Owens look silly, and Bennett won.

There was the "bad hair" ad run by the campaign of Democrat Lily Eskelsen against incumbent Merrill Cook in the 1998 congressional race that showed Cook in unflattering ways and actually generated sympathy for him.

The "Pinocchio ad" that Republican Enid Greene ran against Democrat Karen Shepherd in 1992 also came from outside consultants and depicted Shepherd's nose growing as she talked. That offended many voters and Shepherd won.

Two years later, outside consultants for Shepherd decided to attack Greene — who by then was Enid Greene Waldholtz — with a stream of negative ads. That also backfired and the Republican claimed the rematch.

Consultants blew it again in 1990 when their candidate, Republican Karl Snow, ran a newspaper ad showing a picture of Snow's large family and another picture depicting Democrat Bill Orton's "family," just Orton himself because he was not married. That offended the voters and Orton won a landslide upset in the most Republican district in the country.

My favorite was when an East Coast consultant tried to get the marketing contract for the campaign of Dave Jones, who was running for Salt Lake City mayor in 1999.

While making her pitch, the consultant told Frank Pignanelli, who was working on Jones' campaign, that she found out the LDS Church holds a function every October that attracts thousands of Mormons to downtown Salt Lake City. She said the campaign could set up booths and hand out fliers and balloons.

Pignanelli said, "Thanks, but no thanks."

prolly@sltrib.com