Greenwire: Meet the GOP guru who crafts winning messages for greens

Greenwire / E&E Publishing -- December 22, 2014
By Anne C. Mulkern

Greenwire profiled Forward Observer CEO Joe Rodota, calling him "a secret weapon wielded by both Republicans and Democrats" while noting his strong performance on ballot initiatives and environmental issues.  

Read the full profile here.

Fill 'Er Up: What Full-Page Ads in Politico Reveal About the K Street Playbook

November 20, 2014 -- Mark Leibovich, chief national correspondent for The New York Times and author of This Town, has said the online and print publication Politico was “emblematic of the new media revolution and the information revolution which ... has transformed Washington.”


Purchasing a full-page print ad in Politico, which is published up to five times per week while Congress is in session, has become part of the formula any well-funded advocacy campaign uses to win over the hearts and minds of members of Congress, executive branch regulators, and other power players in Washington, D.C.  Politico tells advertisers: “Top companies advertise with us to reach thought leaders, with the goal of influencing their view and agendas.”


Forward Observer reviewed PDFs of every print edition of Politico from June through September 2014 and identified 202 full-page issue ads by interest groups and companies, from the United States Chamber of Commerce to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

When Washington’s biggest organizations and America’s largest companies use this method to communicate to Washington, what do they say -- and how effectively do they say it? 

Read our brief to find out.

The Lessons of Six Californias

Fox & Hounds September 23, 2014
By Joe Rodota

Tim Draper’s misguided proposal to declare California a failure and break it into six pieces has failed to qualify for the November 2016 ballot, despite his investment of nearly $5 million in an army of signature gatherers, media consultants and lawyers.

Had Draper’s “Six Californias” initiative not imploded last week, it would have certainly failed at the ballot box in 2016.  So Draper avoids spending untold millions of additional dollars and California’s brand avoids a 24-month thrashing in state and national media.

There are a few lessons to be learned from this episode.

Read Joe's column here.

$89.2 Million Spent in ‘Same-Party’ Races Following Passage of Prop. 14 in California

September 16, 2014 -- In 2010 California voters approved Proposition 14, a constitutional amendment changing all non-Presidential elections to a nonpartisan “top two” blanket primary. Under this system, all candidates run in a single primary open to all registered voters, with the top two winners facing each other in a run-off during the general election.

Since Proposition 14 was passed, there have been a total of 52 “same-party” races in California for the California State Senate, Assembly, and U.S. House of Representatives. In 36 races, a Democrat faced a Democrat in the November election; in 16 races, a Republican faced a Republican.

According to data obtained from the Federal Election Commission, the California Secretary of State, and the California Fair Political Practices Commissioner, Democrats raised or spent a total of $69 million in these 36 races, compared to $20.2 million for the 16 races among Republicans.  For every dollar spent or raised by Republicans in these intra-party contests, $3.42 was raised or spent by Democrats.

Read our full report here.

“Six Californias” Initiative Could Cost UC Students $2.5 Billion Per Year

A ballot initiative proposal to split California into six states has received considerable attention after being approved for petition circulation in late February. Proponents argue that "California is ungovernable in its current state" and dividing California into smaller pieces will "bring us closer to our government."

However, key problems exist in this plan. For instance, how would the plan affect University of California students who pay in-state tuition to attend any one of nine campuses in the state?

With new state lines fracturing the system, the Six Californias plan would reclassify two out of every three currently in-state UC students as out-of-state residents for their campus.  If the UC were to charge out-of-state tuition to these students, the total additional cost would be more than $2.5 billion per year.

Read our full report here.

Immigration Reformers Must Tell A Better Story

Fox & Hounds August 19, 2013
By Joe Rodota

In a recent column, Washington Post Wonkblog writers Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas ask: "why hasn't this been immigration August?"  Five years ago, they write, individual members of Congress were "engulfed by tea-partiers" protesting the Affordable Care Act at town hall meetings. But this summer, nothing approaching that level of intensity surrounds immigration - from either side. 

Read The Full Story

Business uses digital media, but not in its California campaigns

Sacramento Bee Capital Alert August 5, 2013
By Dan Walters

Big money ballot measure campaigns in California spend the vast preponderance of their money on fairly traditional forms of voter outreach, such as television and radio ads and direct mail, but that will have to change as voters' habits evolve, a new study suggests.

Read The Complete Story

Where Does the Money Go? A Look at Five 2012 Ballot Initiatives

As part of our ongoing analysis of ballot initiatives in California, Forward Observer recently estimated maximum budgets for both "yes" and "no" campaigns, based on what successful campaigns had spent in 2012 and 2010.

But no matter the budget, how should campaigns allocate their budgets across key functions?

View the report here.

Hey Big Spender: Financial Dominance in California Ballot Initiatives and Implications for 2014 Budgets

What does it cost to be a big spender in California’s ballot initiative wars? Do the higher budgets translate to better results? And how can past initiative spending patterns be used to set budgets for the next cycle?

The price of maintaining financial advantage in a ballot initiative race – spending more than your opponents – rose 83% from 2010 to 2012, according to an analysis of state campaign expenditure reports by Forward Observer.

The “big spender” among the 11 major ballot initiatives in the 2010 cycle spent, on average, $20.3 million. Just two years later, this cost jumped to an average of $37.1 million for the eight major initiatives in the 2012 election cycle.

Read The Report Here

How California's Delegation Voted on Simpson-Mazzoli in 1986

As the comprehensive immigration reform effort moves forward in Congress, how did California’s congressional delegation vote on the last major reform legislation – the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986?

Forward Observer reviewed the Congressional Record and media reports from the summer and fall of 1986. The final bill, known as Simpson-Mazzoli, passed the Senate by a vote of 63 to 24 and passed the House by a vote of 238 to 173. It was signed into law by President Reagan on November 6, 1986.

View The Report Here

California Delegation Stakes Out Positions On "Comprehensive" Immigration Reform

On the eve of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the comprehensive immigration reform bill released by the bipartisan "Gang of 8," where do California's two U.S. Senators and 53 U.S. Representatives stand on the main issues that are in the proposal?

The analyst team at Forward Observer compiled this report of statements by each member of the California delegation on "comprehensive" reform and its key elements. Our report shows exactly how individual Democrats and Republicans have recently gone on the record, and provides insight into what it might take to get votes as the legislation works its way through Congress.

View The Report Here.

The Year in Resignations 2012

Huffington Post December 19, 2012
By: Joe Rodota 

“I showed extremely poor judgment.”

By far the most consequential resignation of 2012 was that of CIA Director David H. Petraeus. His formal
resignation letter to the President was not made public, but Petraeus did write to his CIA colleagues: “Teddy Roosevelt once observed that life’s greatest gift is the opportunity to work hard at work worth doing. I will always treasure my opportunity to have done that with you and I will always regret the circumstances that brought that work with you to an end.”

Read more ...

California Initiatives Glide Past Economic Woes

Fox & Hounds September 28, 2012
By: Joe Rodota and Phil Romero 

According to the most recent Field Poll, nearly nine out of ten California voters say the state’s economy is a disaster, and two thirds of California voters expect the economy to remain stagnant or decline further in the year ahead.

Read more ...

Economic Assertions in the November 2012 CA Ballot Initiative Voter Guide

September 28, 2012
By Jennifer Davis, Forward Observer Research Analyst

This November, California voters will have the opportunity to vote on 11 different ballot initiatives. Arguments for and against each initiative, with rebuttals, will be published in the California Voter Information Guide. Notably missing from many of the initiative arguments submitted by the “yes” and “no” campaigns are economic assertions to support their respective arguments.

The following table provides the verbatim economic arguments, if any, that are cited in either the “yes” or “no” campaigns for each of the 11 ballot initiatives.

Read more ...

What’s Next for the California Reform Industry?

Advancing Free Society/Hoover Institution and Huffington Post July 23, 2012
By: Joe Rodota

In the current recession, the ranks of the unemployed in California have swelled by nearly 1.2 million. Still, one industry seems to be thriving in America’s nation-state: the California “reform industry.” The key organizations in the Golden State’s world of reform are California Forward and Think Long, each with high-profile board members (including Hoover’s George Shultz and Condoleezza Rice, former California Gov. Gray Davis and ex-Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg, as well as leaders from business and labor organizations), a cadre of political and policy consultants, and enthusiastic funders.

Read more ...