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CandidatesForSale.com wins Pollie Award for Best Organization/PAC Website

Is it possible to walk the tightrope between providing detailed campaign finance information and producing a hard-hitting and easy-to-understand story about a series of candidates?

The winner of a 2007 Pollie Award for "Best Organization/PAC Website", this is the story of CandidatesForSale.com, a site produced by Mandate Media for the Oregon League of Conservation Voters PAC.

A little background...

In 2006, control of the Oregon legislature was in play - after 16 years of GOP control. The House Democrats were in a 33-27 minority, and needed to swing four seats to pick up control. Other than the governor's race, the legislative caucus battle was the biggest campaign in Oregon.

The Oregon League of Conservation Voters PAC wanted to highlight one simple idea: that a number of the most high-profile candidates had taken tremendous sums of money from corporate polluters - and the PACs that defend corporate polluters.

In particular, GOP gubernatorial nominee Ron Saxton had taken over $2.3 million from polluters - more than $1 of every $3 he raised. GOP Speaker of the House Karen Minnis took over $250,000 from polluters - more than $1 of every $4 she raised.

Targeted incumbent Representatives Debi Farr and Billy Dalto took over $33,000 and over $79,500 respectively - over $1 of $3 for each of them.

Project goals...

We launched CandidatesForSale.com with four goals:

  1. Deliver the message about polluter support to the media. Build on an existing campaign finance scandal (lobbyist-funded trips to Maui) and encourage them to cover the polluter donations angle as news.

  2. Provide supporting documentation for a substantial direct mail campaign, including a detailed accounting of the polluters' donations.

  3. Serve as a target site for a substantial online advertising campaign, targeted at suburban swing voters who care about polluted water.

  4. Demonstrate to OLCV-PAC supporters (and potential supporters) that donations to OLCV-PAC make a substantial and unique impact on legislative campaigns.

The outcome...

We used blog ads, banner ads, and search ads to drive traffic and deliver the message payload. The banner ads were viewed over 350,000 times and the blog ads were viewed over 530,000 times. Clickthru rates were substantially above average. (View the ads.)

Traffic to CandidatesForSale.com was better than expected. Over four weeks, the site generated over 7200 pageviews.

The media covered the story -- albeit mostly lamenting how "nasty" negative campaigns can get. Despite the criticism, we feel confident that our key message was delivered to our critical audiences.

State Representatives Billy Dalto and Debi Farr were defeated, State Senate candidate Jim Torrey lost, and GOP gubernatorial candidate lost as well. Senator Jackie Winters survived a tough challenger, and Speaker of the House Karen Minnis was forced to spend $1 million defending her seat.