I’ve been raising funds for candidates, causes and institutions for more than 40 years. I had the privilege of being Ronald Reagan’s fund raiser when he first ran for President in 1976. I’ve raised money for half a dozen presidential campaigns, but my experience with the Herman Cain campaign, although it was cut short, was the most interesting and amazing program I have even participated in.
Richard Norman worked for me for a number of years, doing a great job, first as a copywriter and account executive and later as Vice President of our creative team. He is a smart and talented leader and when the folks at the Herman Cain campaign picked Richard to be their Finance Director, they made a very smart move.
I had talked with Herman Cain at CPAC in early February of 2011. I told him that there were lots of candidates running, but he was the only one I wanted to raise money for. He must have believed me because we signed a test mailing agreement with his campaign and on March 1. Initially things moved fast. I wrote a fund raising letter within a couple of weeks and submitted it to the campaign before the end of March. After some delays, it went into the mail on June 6 and when the money began to pour in I knew that Herman Cain was a serious candidate indeed. The final numbers were very similar to the results that we generated from our first mailing on behalf of Ronald Reagan. To put it quite simply, the net revenue from just 50,000 prospects was more than $2.50 per name mailed! It was a very exciting start to the fund raising program.
Unfortunately however, for various and sundry reasons, with the exception of some house appeals (with similarly phenomenal results) the fund raising effort moved forward very slowly. In fact, I was about to throw in the towel until I received a call from Richard Norman in late October. Richard, Mark Block (Cain’s campaign manager) and the candidate were about to land in Las Vegas for a Presidential Debate. It was then that Richard informed me that he was now on the Cain campaign team as its Finance Director. Being the gentleman that he always is, he invited me to participate in a meeting at a hotel in DC the following Friday (November 4) with the other members of the fund raising organization he was putting together. What Richard accomplished in just one week was incredible.
Tammy Cali, President of Campaign Funding Direct, Bill Griffiths, CFO of the Eberle Communications Group, Mike Hiban, President of Omega List Company, and I planned to attend. Unfortunately, Tammy became ill and was unable to participate. The team that Richard assembled in such a short time was amazing for both its breadth fund raising mediums and its depth of experience. In seven short days Richard had brought on board three telemarketing firms, one major gift organization, an expert on radio advertising, and a seasoned professional at raising funds via TV infomercials. In addition, of course, Eberle Associates as well as the Richard Norman Companyand ActiveEngagement a company run by his son, J.D. Norman, were represented. Richard had put together a comprehensive team of fund raising professionals who were ready and willing to get up and running fast. In fact, with marching orders from Richard, they did just that. A short appearance at the meeting by Herman Cain simply increased the enthusiasm and determination of the entire fund raising aparatus.
Shortly thereafter serious money began rolling in to the campaign. Rebecca Hagelin(Rebecca Hagelin Communications and Marketing) began running fund raising appeals on the Rush Limbaugh show, the Sean Hannity show, the Mark Levin Show and the Glenn Beck show that generated literally tens of thousands of donors to the Cain campaign overnight. The live operator telemarketing efforts produced by Paul Wilson (Strategic Fundraising), and the artificial intelligence calls created by Gabe Joseph(ccAdvertising) provided similarly astounding results. Stephen Clouse (Stephen Clouse and Associates), a pioneer in video based efforts targeting major donors was preparing a campaign and the DRTV (Direct Response TV) spots being created by Ron Guberman (Media Reactions) were in the production stage. In one extended weekend the online effort produced by JD Norman brought in more than $1.2 million dollars. And, as you might expect, the major donor results soared as did the direct mail efforts of the Richard Norman Company and of Eberle Associates. By the first of December, in spite of unrelenting attacks and efforts to sidetrack the Cain Campaign, more than $13 million had been raised and the campaign was on track to bring in more than $30 million by the end of the year!
Unless something unexpected happened, Friends of Herman Cain was going to be in a position to match the other candidates dollar for dollar in spending on advertising, polling, getting people to caucuses, travel, etc. And, contrary to the news media reports, the ground game in Iowa was better than the Romney campaign and the Perry campaign combined. At that point, Newt had virtually nothing on the ground. Cain was also moving up in New Hampshire and was 30 points ahead of Romney in South Carolina.
The fact is the Cain train was picking up steam and rolling down the tracks toward victory in Iowa, South Carolina and Florida. The nomination was seemingly within Herman Cain’s grasp. But I don’t have to tell you what happened. You already know.
My stomach still churns when I think of the opportunity lost by Herman Cain and all his loyal supporters. But the past is past. Even though the Herman Cain fund raising effort was aborted before it could reach its zenith, it was an effort I’ll always remember. My hat’s off to Richard Norman and the entire team he assembled. My respect for Herman Cain is undiminished. He treated his team and his vendors with respect and treated them honorably. Commitments were met and bills were paid. It is a good reflection on him as a man of great personal character and integrity.