Sunday, February 26, 2006

Going After Bruce Tytler With a Fine-Toothed Comb

Just because there is, in general, lousy newspaper coverage of the Democratic primary race in the 24th District doesn't mean that people are not paying attention. Some people are paying a great deal of attention.

Earlier this month, someone outside the Tytler for Congress campaign let us know that Bruce Tytler filled in the incorrect congressional district on one of the documents sent to the Federal Election Commission as a part of his initial filing (though on other documents, Tytler was correct in identifying this district as the 24th). Now, a mysterious anonymous writer has alerted us to the fact that Bruce Tytler also failed to fill in line 9 on Form 2 for the FEC in that initial filing (Gripping stuff, isn't it?)

Form 2 is the Statement of Candidacy. Line 9 is the declaration of intent to expend personal funds in excess of the threshold amount (I know, I know, hold back your excitement). The FEC has sent a letter to Bruce Tytler letting him know that he has until March 13 to send a completed version of Form 2, including line 9, which can include simply the number 0.00, which is probably what Tytler intended to communicate by leaving the line blank in the first place.

Now, I understand that we need to have competent candidates for Congress. However, I hardly think that leaving a line in a piece of paperwork blank instead of writing in a zero should be a disqualification for office. Having a top-notch i-dotter and t-crosser to run for Congress is not by any sane person's measure the most important issue in this Democratic primary. Competence will be much better judged by each candidate's ability to articulate an appropriate policy agenda and organize supporters to facilitate the communication of that agenda across the district.

Those who believe that these little matters are what really count might also want to start trailing the three serious Democratic candidates to check if their shoes are tied. The rest of us will be paying attention to substance.

To that end, I'll be meeting with Tytler's campaign this week to get a better idea of the kind of campaign they intend to run. I'll also do my darndest to attend a talk being given by Les Roberts this coming Thursday before the Lansing Democrats, at 7:00 PM in the Lansing Community Center.


Anonymous said...

Jon, there was a simple point to bringing up the need to file the amended Form 2. That is the anonymous poster from inside the Tytler campaign was saying they could not file a Form 2 to amend the incorrect district on his original Form 2 candidate filing until the next quarter.

There are candidate filings and there are committee filings.

Candidate filings are done initially and annually and if there is a change in the designation of authorized committees. The Form 2 amendment is a candidate filing and can be done, should be done, immediately.

Committee filings are done annually, quarterly and at other designated times.

I don't expect you to understand all this Jon because you aren't an attorney, but the fact that Tytler's campaign doesn't understand it is a clear indication that they can't read and follow the laws very well. It strikes at the heart of the campaign that their competency is poor and that makes them susceptible to both improper acts and being attacked by their opponents for incompetency.

A congressional campaign is fought out at many levels and the filing level is one of them. I can just picture the attack ads that show the 29th district filing and claim Tytler can't fill out a simple form correctly. He hasn't gone out and sought out the best and the brightest in the whole of the 24th district to staff his campaign. He's surrounded by political cronies of limited skills and it shows.

24 Independent said...

Let's not get all wonky here.

I can picture those attack ads too, and I can picture them creating a great backlash at whichever candidate is foolish enough to launch them.

Attacking a candidate because there was a 4 where a 9 was supposed to be? Attacking a candidate because line 9 of Form 2 was left blank instead of containing three zeros? I'd rather watch a used-car commercial.

This is not the stuff out of which successful advertisements are made. Whatever candidate wants to associate himself with such an advertisement will be burdened with the image of a nit-picking bean counter. Bruce Tytler, on the other hand, would be given free press as the target of an attack by such a nit wit.

Think as the public will think about it - not how YOU think about it. They'll wonder why someone is wasting their time with a bunch of forms. They'll remember all the stupid forms that have confused them in the past, and all the little mistakes that they have made on annoying paperwork inflicted upon them by taskmasters of one sort or another. They'll sympathize with Bruce Tytler more than with whomever attacks him.

In a campaign, what matters is how voters will perceive the issue. This is not going to be a winning issue with the voters. I would beg any campaign thinking of using these paperwork mistakes to reconsider - not for the sake of Bruce Tytler, but for their own sake.

If Bruce Tytler really is incompetent, then it will show during the campaign, and in much more compelling ways. Incompetence shows in overall campaign disorganization. Incompetence shows in the inability to communicate a message. Voters will see incompetence where it lies. Trust in that.

I'm not a lawyer, you're right. Neither are most of the people in this district. If you think that a campaign can win on the lawyer vote, keep up these kind of legalistic attacks. If you want to win the primary with the rest of the voters, find a message that has some heart and stick to it.

incorrectposter said...

I am that poster that confused the filings. Please understand that I am in no way affiliated with the Tytler campaign. I am a student at Cornell University who just wants to see a good man elected to congress, and jumped the gun. I am sorry for not checking my facts, and thank you to anonymous poster for keeping us abreast of these things

Anonymous said...


The whole point of a Congressional campaign these days is to raise a huge amount of money and plaster the mass media with messages that the voters use to move off their default party identification or stay on it. It's petty and thoughtless, but it's reality and candidates for Congress need to understand that and make the best of it.

The average voter has a very peripheral interest in policy and understanding of the candidate's views. Those battles are fought out, along with organizational quality and depth of outside support, at the primary level where activists have a sincere and deep interest. In an ideal world, two decent standbearers emerge and the voters aren't totally shafted by the mass process.

When it gets to the general election and flooding the airwaves for 6 or 8 weeks, even what seems to be a ridiculous argument can be used quite effectively to convince a gullible public. Do I have to do more than point you at the Bush administration for validity on this?

But the real point is this - I'm afraid Bruce Tytler has surrounded himself with hometown acquaintences and their cronies and he doesn't have the quality or depth of campaign assistance he needs. Ask him how many of his people have run anything other than a local campaign before when you talk to him this week. Given that they are all reading this, I'll be looking forward to your response.

24 Independent said...

You're right - that is petty.

I work in the field of the psychological elements of marketing, and as I see it, the political consulting world is far, far behind what's being done in business to build effective brands.

Of course, the timing of an election changes everything, but there's a stark lack of long-term thinking in political campaigns that makes even the decisions made by corporate managers seem far sighted.

The result of the hamfisted approach to campaigning that is currently the norm is that voters are turned off. Just consider the different ways that people interact with the products they buy and the politicians they vote for, and you'll see what I mean.

What we've learned from the politics of George W. Bush is how little dirt will stick to somebody who aligns himself with average folks - even if he's a Yale educated slacker who was born rich. We chuckle when Bush says "nuculer" instead of "nuclear", but the voters get the message. Go and attack Bruce Tytler for failing to get line 9 of Form 2 precisely right, and you'll create the same dynamic.

I am sick of seeing these petty local turf battles between the campaigns in which campaign workers spend more time puffing up their chests about how good they are at their work than in communicating an uplifting, inspiring message about their candidate, and about politics in general.

The first task of any of the Democratic campaigns must be to get local Democratic voters to believe that they can make a real difference. Starting a snarky little attack on a missing "0.00" on a rival's form won't do that. It'll just turn people off.

Give us something to believe in, will you? Help us to believe that politics is something more than the petty little chicken pecking contest that you've made it out to be. Try believing in the process yourself first, and maybe the rest of us will believe.

If you don't believe in the higher ideals of our democratic system, I guarantee you no one else will - except for the petty little local political bosses that the campaigns seem to be spending so much of their time flattering.

Campaigns have the power to remake the local political reality - if they have the sufficient imagination and energy. Please don't get bogged down in this garbage. You can do better.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Tytler should use this little episode to point out the inefficiency and bureaucracy of the Federal Government.

His campaign filed an amended form on the 12th, received by he FEC on the 21st:

They still haven't changed the district number his campaign is listed in:

Opening the mail does not necessarily mean reading the mail.

Take a fubar and turn it into an opportunity!

Anonymous said...

Hey Jon,

How did your meeting with the Tytler people go?