Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Chasing Down Yard Signs

This piece was produced for the Huffington Post's Off the Bus Project.

by Mike Caulfield and Bryan Bissell

Earlier this week, an advertisement popped up on New Hampshire Craig's List pledging to pay New Hampshire residents $25 apiece to sport a Mike Gravel lawn sign on their property. But within a few days, and a few media mentions, the ad was withdrawn.
The offer originally read:

I would like Senator Mike Gravel to be the 2008 Democratic presidential
nominee. I think he ideas are fantastic and he says it like it is.

So, I will pay anyone in NH with a reasonably visible and prominent
yard $25 for the priveledge to install a Mike Gravel sign on their property!
Very simple. Just email me your address and I will have my people come to you
and drop an evelope in you mailbox. Your only obligation is to keep the sign
visible and use the cash to take a friend to a bar for a few beers and tell them
about Senator Gravel!


It has since been deleted, although the following ad may be a product of the same group. However, the offer of $25 has disappeared from the request:


We're an independent group supporting Mike Gravel for President. We
havethousands of signs and we are looking for spots to place them. We have
allsizes, but we are mainly looking for high traffic areas for our 4x8

We'll come to your location and set it up for you, and most importantly
we'llcome get it when the race is over. All we need is your O.K., and that's

When reached for comment, Greg Chase, the wealthy Gravel backer believed to be the sponsor behind both efforts, initially said he was not aware of the twenty-five dollar offer. Pressed further, he acknowledged that his cousin was in charge of Craigslist yard sign dispersal, and in all likelihood it had come from his organization.

"I don't know what he did or didn't do. I just gave him a budget."

But, he surmised, "People pay for viewing anywhere else, especially in the context of billboards."
When informed of the exact wording of the advertisement, Chase said that he and his cousin had a nearly identical conversation a week ago, and that it must have come from there. Asked why the ad was taken down, Chase has this to say:

"There is no need to pay. There have been plenty of requests for yard signs, so I can only assume he didn't want to pay anyone. We've been getting a reasonable number of requests so I don't think it will be necessary."

Some in New Hampshire were skeptical after the recent plea to NBC to put Gravel into the debate, but according to Mr. Chase, "feedback has been fantastic. In the last week we've gotten an enormous number of replies, whether they're Gravel supporters or not. This is especially true in terms of the economics of getting off of oil, which has resounded even if people haven't heard of Gravel."

Meanwhile some skepticism remains from the pay-for-play aspect of Chase's yardsign and youtube schemes. But the beat goes on; yesterday Chase further emboldened his crusade for Gravel's truth by placing advertisements in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today, Philadelphia Enquirer and the Los Angeles Times. So does he regret what might be a political faux pas in terms of the $25 yard sign ad?

"All the stuff that I'm doing is independent expenditures, protected by free speech. I don't think it's a good way for it to be, but that's the point I'm trying to make. My goal is to get Gravel to poll better, to have a shot, to have a voice and in so doing keep him in the debates longer. I sorely wish I had started earlier."

Judging from that, the answer seems to be a simple and emphatic "no".

Co-Author Mike Caulfield is a fellow Granite State blogger who is one of the driving forces behind Blue Hampshire, one of the state's pre-eminent political blogs.


netto said...

one on hand, i think it's great for democracy that chase is trying to get gravel's voice heard. if this is legal, i support him to continue doing it.

on the other hand, this is dangerous tactic. if a gravel supporter can offer $25 for you to display a sign, what will the Rudy campaign offer?

i really think that after this cycle, mr. chase should work with groups promoting publicly funded elections. that would be the root solution to the problem he is trying to solve. fighting money with money doesn't seem like a tactic that is going to better the world for non-Establishment candidates.

CB said...

Mike Caulfield got some facetime in the WSJ today about Blue Hampshire:

BTB said...

Yeah, man. Blue Hampshire is wrecking shit on the big scene. The tightest part about that site is that, of the three founders, one is a latin teacher, one works at Keene State, and the other is a Wesleyan grad.