The boy off the bus

The boy off the bus
: GQ has a long and timely (thanks to the Internet) profile of Joe Trippi. Jim Treacher sends it to me, wondering whether it reveals he is an ass or the perfect subject for another West Wing — “Not that the two are mutually exclusive, I guess…”

I don’t know what to make of reports that Trippi pocketed 15 percent of Dean’s ad buy. (Has that been verified? Where did the report start? What do other campaign managers do? Anybody have the facts on this?)

It’s also too soon to know whether Trippi will be seen as the genius who changed politics forever (likely) … or the fool who wasted all of The People’s money to lose Iowa and New Hampshire and frontrunnerdom (possible) … or the victim of a bad candidate (likely). I won’t be surprised to see Dean and the Deany Babies (wasn’t that a ’60s beach band?) trying to blame Trippi.

If I were Trippi, Zach Rosen, Zephyr Teachout, Matt Gross (who’s not visble on the blog, by the way), the minute the Dean Campaign sputters to a stop, I’d set up a consulting shop to tell politicians and companies how to exploit this new bottom-up world (see below). Rather than taking the Carville path of punditry, why not make a fortune? It matter whether they were right or wrong; doesn’t matter whether Trippi is an ass; they’d make a mint.

  • $40 million, 15%… hey, they could call the show The Six Million Dollar Man! Anyway, as I read it, I slowly went from thinking, “How does this jackass function in society, let alone run a presidential campaign?” to thinking, “I bet this guy would be a blast to party with.”
    P.S. What, no link? Just kidding.

  • partywrecker

    make a mint?
    come on, the dean-blog-thing was a bubble, and it burst
    a hype that’s over
    a bluff that’s been called
    the kozmo candidate
    what .com did for business in the 90’s, dean did for politics in the 00’s
    good old fashion campaigning, albeit with web-stuff sprinkled on top, still carries the day (kerry et al)

  • Mike G

    Jeff, you’ve only been in magazine publishing for 20 years, did you ever ask how they pay for printing it?
    They give a 15% commission to the ad agency placing the ad. (Negotiable, and often less, but 15% is the standard.) It comes out of the media company’s end, not the client’s. (Something of a semantic difference, admittedly.) So there is NOTHING unusual about this.
    I was amazed when a lawyer (Instapundit) goggled at this– as if no one ever goggled at the hourly fees lawyers charge– but I have to say, it’s even more amazing if YOU’VE truly never heard of a 15% media commission. Maybe you need to get on the elevator and meet your frickin’ sales department sometime!

  • Mike, of course I live with the commission structure of the media business. But I did not think that was Trippi’s relationship with the campaign. He was the manager, not the ad or media agency. So if this is true, I would be surprised by the nature of the relationship and the potential size of the remuneration.

  • The 15% is not surprising. I’ve seen the same figure brought up about Dick Morris with Clinton and Shrum with Gore.
    Paul Weyrich and a member of the RNC actually blamed the commission with holding back Republican get out the vote efforts.
    No surprise, really. Politicicans in a tough race or running for a new office don’t usually have a lot of experience advisors. So they turn to consultants and advertising agencies without spending a lot of time evaluating their conflicts of interest.

  • Ebb Tide

    Aww poor Howie Dean, and Joe we hardly knew ye…. the GQ article reads “slams on the breaks” and I don’t think it was a typo. (ok, I know, they spell checked it)…. but it broke real good.
    Broke the bank
    Broke the “internet cures everything” myth
    Broke a few neophyte hearts
    Right now I am listening to Neil Young, but it isn’t the song Cortez Kiler, so I don’t think it means anything.

  • Ebb Tide

    In 1939 when The Wizard of Oz was falling apart they brought in Victor Flemming, that is what politics needs, a fixer who can come in and save campaigns…. if the Dean campaign had had any real friends they would have told them not to believe their great early reviews…. and to ignore the bad ones too…. I bet Joe Trippi has those magazine covers of Dean framed in the barn where the donkey is now.

  • william

    this is a tad off topic but speaking of Carville sometimes i with Tucker Carlson would just reach across that Crossfire table and strangle him. seriously, I think he keeps his head so closely shaved just to make it easier for him to shove it up his bum. Oddly, I don’t feel the same about Begala.

  • william

    the above should read “wish” not “with.” I do not have some sort of typing lisp.

  • Ebb Tide

    I have a hankerin’ for some cherry skoal right now, and I don’t know why.

  • michelle

    advice to Dean on 1/20
    3. Your campaign ads absolutely suck. Nothing that the grassroots can do about that, but you need to acknowledge it.
    Dean acknowledged it.
    Trippi comes across as manic

  • it’s not 15% of $40 million, it’s 15% of the portion of that spent on ads, right?
    also, while kerry’s campaign is more traditional than dean’s to be sure, i think you will see that it involves more than just a little web-stuff sprinkled on top.

  • Having run campaigns and been a consultant on campaigns, I can tell you that the 15% commission on a TV ad buy is in a way, normal.
    The person or company that makes the TV or media ad buys, takes between 10-15% as standard. The rate can be negotiated. Most of the time the buyer is a consultant or the hired media company that helps to do everything from shooting and editing the advertisement to buying TV time. In statewide or national races TV buys can account for anywhere from 80-95% of all expenditures.
    I have seen campaign managers make financial profits for media buys, telephone polls, and from the campaign mail pieces. I have found that in each case, the campaign strategy tends to slant towards making the campaign manager more money as opposed to the best possible use of those funds

  • I know it’s not unusual for a media consultant to get a commission on the ad buys. I just find it a major conflict of interest when that person is the actual campaign manager. As Robert says, it can’t help but distort efforts at marketing the candidate. If it is indeed “standard practice” in political campaigns, that doesn’t make it “smart.” It’s still a clear conflict of interest.
    From everything I’ve been able to find, it looks like the Dean campaign spent about $9.2 million on TV ads from June through New Hampshire. The commission on that alone will make you a millionaire, never mind any other kind of media buys (radio, newspaper, etc.).
    I don’t think people would be making as much noise about it if it wasn’t for the fact Dean staffers are now going without pay, and there’s now no media airing in any state, due to a lack of money.

  • Joe Trippi is an undercover Halliburton VP and did it all, ALL, for the oil…

  • joy

    I agree with Reid. I honestly believe that if the Dean campaign wasn’t in such a money crunch right now, the commission wouldn’t be such a big deal.
    However, just to add a little something to the Trippi fact checking, I found these two links to Trippi’s consulting businesses…
    His marketing group called Catapult Strategies, and his ad agency Trippi, McMahon & Squier.

  • Mike G

    “Mike, of course I live with the commission structure of the media business. But I did not think that was Trippi’s relationship with the campaign. He was the manager, not the ad or media agency.”
    Trippi is gone. But his firm– Trippi McMahon & Squier– is still employed by the Dean campaign. And is their ad agency, and collects the 15% commission. This is extremely typical. If you’re surprised that Trippi the campaign manager was working this way, you’d be surprised how many others do too.
    Remember, the whole thing about the 15% commission is that media outlets will only accept that 15% discount on what they get paid when it’s coming from someone who they recognize as a legitimate ad agency. So Howard Dean had two ways to pay Joe Trippi. He could buy media directly and pay $100,000 for $100,000 worth, and then pay Trippi something else for his time, say $5000, grand total $105,000. Or he could have Trippi buy 100,000 in media for 85,000 and keep the other 15,000, grand total $100,000. It is to both Trippi’s and Dean’s advantage, and if it strikes you as a conflict of interest, well, believe me there are lots of conflicts of interest in ad agencies in terms of them pushing their clients to buy what they make the most profit on– for instance, those absurdly expensive Super Bowl ads. But there’s nothing unusual about it.

  • cj

    I agree with Mike G. Jan 31 2004 11:58 pm post.
    It seems to me this is a “bookkeeping” issue. Dean is going to pay Trippi, and does it really matter if he pays him out-right in salary or as a commission? Not to me, although I daresay, not knowing the ins-and-outs of campaign financing, there may have been a “beneficial” reason for Dean to pay him this way. Or perhaps “beneficial” to Trippi, with income taxes and such.
    Win-Win for Dean and Trippi, and now Dean is “reconfiguring his campaign management” (didn’t Kerry recently do the same?) — i.e., there has been a designated scapegoat. Voters can rest assured that the “problem” wasn’t with the candidate, it was with (whomever) was managing the campaign.
    Nothing new under the sun. Move along.