* Lots of people have wondered aloud why opposition researchers never found Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s racist yearbook photos. Chicago-based Democratic opposition researcher Will Caskey offers some insights in Campaigns & Elections. His conclusion…
The price most (Democratic) statewide campaigns will pay for an opposition research report comes to about $10,000-$12,000 (less for down-ballot statewides). At that rate, an opposition researcher can spend about five weeks per report. The more time we spend on one report, the less time we have for new clients and more money. Firms who hire staff don’t have it much better, and in some cases, they have it worse: they have to pay for staff regardless of whether their clients are paying their bills.
The reality is that it takes a lot more time than five weeks to look at more obscure records like yearbooks, student newspapers, multiple courthouses, and microfilm.
In case you think my clients would be shocked to see this: no, they love it. Most of my clients actually ask me to look at fewer things in exchange for a lower fee. And they may be right: just because I look at more things doesn’t mean I’ll find better attacks. Either way, as media budgets rise, research budgets fall, and as research budgets fall, total information gathered falls as well.
So if you’re a candidate looking to avoid becoming the next Ralph Northam, don’t ask what your opposition researcher has found. Ask yourself if you’ve paid your researcher enough to find everything you need.