Content. Strategy. Knowledge Management.

Superior content is the foundation of effective advocacy and strategic communications.  Forward Observer identifies and develops the high-impact content clients need to solve complex public affairs challenges.

"Forward Observer provided the ammunition we needed in the No on  Prop  23 campaign against special interests that wanted to repeal California's clean energy and clean air law. Forward Observer's research was a major contributor to our rapid response effort and fueled our earned media effort."

Steve Maviglio, Spokesman, Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs, No on Prop. 23

Below are some examples of our work.

Content for Government Affairs

Clients and their government affairs teams turn to Forward Observer to provide content for lobbying efforts on complex issues before Congress, state legislatures, regulatory bodies and government agencies nationwide.  

In these engagements, we provide content that strengthens the factual basis for our client’s position and addresses points raised by other participants in the advocacy process. 


On November 2, 2011, the Sacramento Bee reported California’s historic high-speed rail project was “on the brink of collapse.”  One California legislator said the project was a “boondoggle that needs to be derailed.” U.S. Representative John Mica (R-FL), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said the project was a “disaster” that seemed to be “imploding.”  A December 2011 Field Poll showed that 64% of California voters wanted another chance to vote on the 2008 ballot initiative authorizing state bonds for the project.  

But key players in Sacramento’s transportation and political circles made a last-ditch effort to save the project and support Governor Jerry Brown’s new team at the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA).  

The California Alliance for Jobs, an organization of construction trade unions, assembled a high-powered team of media and advocacy professionals, including Forward Observer.  This team was tasked with battling back against critics and securing the final legislative votes to authorize funding for the first phase of the system.  This task was the toughest and most complex infrastructure fight in the United States in 2012.

Forward Observer supported the effort in the Legislature by developing a new foundation of arguments and evidence to support the revised HSR business plan. 

Our contributions included:

  1. Making job impacts more regionally relevant: To support mayors and other business leaders in the Central Valley, Forward Observer showed construction employment in key counties along the proposed HSR corridor had fallen by 38,000 jobs – a 28% drop from late 2008 to the end of 2011.  Economists who had looked at the regional impact found that HSR would create 100,000 construction-related jobs in the Central Valley, or roughly three jobs for every lost construction job in the region.
  2. Defending cost estimates:  As part of the revised business plan, CHSRA estimated the cost of the blended system to be $66 billion. To help defend this revised figure,  Forward Observer created side-by-side comparisons that showed previous projects such as BART, LA Metro and the Golden Gate Bridge cost just as much, or in some cases more, than high-speed rail when adjusted for distance and inflation.
  3. Demonstrating historical context:  Most infrastructure projects have their early critics.   Forward Observer researched and inventoried naysayer quotes from early opponents to other major projects.  For instance, in 1966, Mayor Wallace Johnson of Berkeley called BART a “billion dollar potential fiasco.”    

On July 6, 2012, the Legislature narrowly voted to authorize $4.7 billion in funding to improve rail service statewide, of which $2.6 billion was allocated to construct the initial high-speed operating segment in the Central Valley.  


"Forward Observer’s timely research and in-depth analysis provided the CURES coalition with strategic direction and positioned us to protect California patients and their advocates from harmful legislation."

Stephen Chang, Chairman of CURES Coalition, presently CSO of Stemgent Inc.

When California legislators introduced a bill encouraging the importation of prescription drugs from Canada, a coalition of biotech and pharmaceutical companies retained Forward Observer to refute proponent claims that the bill would reduce prices for all consumers.

In order to reframe the debate, Forward Observer analyzed the issue from a Canadian perspective and uncovered significant concerns regarding importation among medical associations, government agencies, and pharmaceutical schools throughout Canada.  Our materials served as an insider briefing and became the basis of a persuasive print advertising campaign. Forward Observer also sourced an economist who independently concluded that widespread importation of prescription drugs would threaten the state’s important biotech industry.  Ultimately, the bills passed and were vetoed by the Governor; the Legislature did not attempt a veto override.

Content for Ballot Initiative Campaigns 

Forward Observer is the nation’s leading research firm for state and local ballot initiatives.  We bring initiative teams over three decades of experience with both “yes” and “no” campaigns, as well as our formidable network of subject-matter experts nationwide.


One California county and three cities joined together to seek annexation of a private utility into a neighboring municipal utility. If successful, this $400 million proposal would have become the fourth-largest power system annexation in US history. An opposition committee retained Forward Observer to provide research and knowledge management services and tapped Joe Rodota to serve as a senior campaign strategist. 

Our team was responsible for all aspects of the campaign’s research needs, from initial issues and stakeholder analysis to rapid-response support. Because the topic was complex and highly technical, Forward Observer worked with industry experts to document and describe impacts in terms average voters could understand – such as the debt that would be incurred per household and the potential risk to monthly residential utility bills. This information became the central message of the campaign and was incorporated into television and radio ads.  Working with a respected creative team, Forward Observer developed a thorough and informative briefing book that was mailed to every registered voter in the region. The annexation was defeated.


"Forward Observer was instrumental in our victory. Not only did their focus result in a top-notch research product, but Joe was an invaluable member of the team."

Josh Ginsburg, Partner, Ginsburg McLear Group and campaign manager, Yes on Prop. 14

Forward Observer was the research firm for the committee supporting Proposition 14, a California statewide ballot initiative to establish a “top-two” primary system, replacing partisan primaries.  Proposition 14 passed 54% to 46% in June 2010.