[banner] Gerald Klaas for Senate '98

On the campaign trail...

October/November 1997

10-29-97: Received a note from Gene Frazier, chair of the Libertarian Party of Sacramento, asking if I was interested in running for the state senate (district 6) seat.

10-30-97: Family meeting at the Klaas house to decide if I should give it a shot. We decide that win or lose, this will be an opportunity for me to help shape the senate race and maybe force the other candidates to focus on some real issues rather than just sound bytes and BS. My family knows that this means they will be sharing my time and energy with the people of Sacramento, and I am grateful that their faith in our political system allows them to make the sacrifice.

10-31-97: I notify Gene of my decision. He explains that I will need to collect signatures from other Libertarians to place my name on the ballot. Those signatures will have to be collected between Dec 26, 1997 and Feb 4, 1998 and filed with the Registrar of Voters. He also tells me that I will have to deal with campaign finance filing requirements of the Fair Political Practices Commission. I wonder what I've just gotten myself into.

11-04-97: I visited the Secretary of State website trying to find more information on how to play this politics game. I didn't find the rules about third party candidates that I was looking for, although I did find a very interesting report on campaign expeditures in 1996 that shows a direct correlation between money spent on a campaign and the winner of that race. Who would've guessed? The average Assembly incumbent spends close to $300,000 to rewin the seat. I speculate that Senators spend more since senate districts are bigger than assembly districts. I don't remember where, but somewhere I saw an estimate of $700,000 to win a senate seat. I wonder how anyone can collect that much money without a conflict of interest. I found an e-mail address for the Secretary of State office, and fired off a request for information dealing with campaign finance laws.

11-05-97: I visit the Fair Political Practices Commission website trying to find out what I'll need to do to stay legal while campaigning. I'm not a lawyer, but the way I read it, if I plan to spend any money at all campaigning for myself, I have to file a Form 501 (Candidate Intention) and tell the FPPC about it. I wonder to myself how standing on a streetcorner handing out flyers, printed at my own expense, could be viewed as anything other than an exercise of my First Amendment rights, and even though I'm very offended at the idea that I have to tell the government that I plan to exercise my First Amendment rights, I download the Form 501 and print it. I hate government forms. I have a degree in math and I don't even do my own taxes, that's how much I hate government forms. So here I am with a FPPC Form 501, wondering if I'll get raked over the coals later on because I didn't hire a lawyer to fill this dumb thing out for me.

11-06-97: Reviewing the Form 501 instructions, I see that unless I agree to spend less than $1,000 of my own money on my campaign and not accept contributions from others, I'll have to fill out a bunch of other government forms. Did I tell you that I hate government forms? Again I wonder how this Form 501 can be viewed as anything other than an attempt to control political speech. I start to wonder how a candidate gets through this stuff without a lawyer on staff. I decide that my political philosophy requires me to avoid as much reporting to the government as possible, so I've decided to not spend more than $1,000 on my campaign and I won't accept contributions. Knowing that the big party candidates have lawyers on staff to deal with this stuff, and will probably be spending more than $300,000 on this campaign (see the Secretary of State report mentioned above), I'm starting to feel a bit out-gunned. But what the heck, maybe I can pick up some free press, maybe there is such a thing as grass roots politics, maybe I can run an effective campaign for less than $1,000, and maybe I'll win the lottery. I think I see why incumbency is such an advantage in a political campaign.

11-08-97: Have been getting some very positive feedback from friends about my intention to run for Senate. Several people have asked to contribute to my campaign. I have to tell them that I don't know all the rules yet, but that I think I've decided not to accept contributions and that I can't spend more than $1,000 on my campaign. Everybody laughs. They tell me I don't stand a chance, but they'll vote for me anyway. At this point I figure I can count on about 25 votes. Hey, it's a start.

11-10-97: Brainstorming day and night on how to run a campaign with $1,000. It doesn't look very promising. I could buy about 2,500 bumper stickers, but that wouldn't leave anything left for buttons, yard signs and radio spots. Better forget TV. I've started telling those people who want to contribute to my campaign that they have a First Amendment right to political speech, and I'm counting on them to use it. Maybe I can't afford to hand out bumper stickers and yard signs, but as long as I'm not controlling it, anybody else can. I tell them I don't want to know what they plan to do to support my campaign, just go do it as an exercise in political free speech. Several people have offered to set up a campaign committee for me. I've refused. Although I don't know the details, I know that setting up a campaign committee means filing more forms with the FPPC, opening a bank account, filing even more forms with the FPPC, hiring an accountant, etc., etc... not my idea of fun.

11-11-97: Veteran's Day. It's a wonderful country, thanks for defending it.

11-12-97: Maybe I'm blinded by the fact that I teach classes about the internet, but I think I might be able to reach people with a website. Not just your basic "Vote for me" website, but one with file downloads for bumper stickers and flyers and yard signs. Stuff that people can download and print on their own computers and I don't have to pay for out of my $1,000 limit. I'm feeling a bit more confident now. I can do web stuff for free. After all, my wife owns the sacto.com domain, and I already do most of that HTML programming. It'll be more work, but I won't have to start up a committee, and it won't cost anything. Now, how do I get the word out about the website?

11-16-97: It's my dad's birthday. I meet up with a few of my siblings at my parents' house to celebrate. Everybody likes my website idea. Plenty of suggestions on how to approach this campaign. Somebody suggests making a stencil for a yard sign and helping people paint their own signs rather than me giving them away. I like that idea. Those foam core sign boards can get expensive, but a 2 dollar can of spray paint goes a long way. I realize that people will have to buy their own sign materials, but my siblings seem to think that's OK as long as I can find a way to help them put it together and paint it. Good idea, I think I'll follow it.

11-17-97: Still thinking about the yard sign idea. I figure I'll have to do something like that for bumper stickers and buttons as well, or I won't be able to afford to give enough of them away to make a difference. I decide that free marketing of a design is the way to go. I'll create a bumper sticker design and a button design and post them on my website. I'll grant permission to anybody to download them, print them for personal use, or to sell at a profit. The whole thing will be out of my hands.

11-18-97: Package arrives from the Secretary of State's office. Inside is the information I requested about campaign finance law. Talk about government forms! First is a 122 page 1995-1996 Campaign Disclosure Information Manual A plus an 8 page 1996 addendum. The whole thing reads like an income tax instructions booklet. Best as I can tell, I'm going to have to file Form 470 (Officeholder and Candidate Campaign Statement) in addition to the Form 501 that I already have to file. The definitions of what constitutes a contribution tells me that I can't just use my personal website as a campaign soapbox, because that would be considered a contribution that isn't available to other candidates under normal circumstances. I figure my personal phone falls in the same category. So now, I'll have to buy website access and probably lease my home phone to my campaign at fair market value, even though I already have these things available to me personally. At present rates, I figure a 10 month contract at $20/month for the ISP service plus $10/month for the phone. I guess my $1,000 just turned into $700, huh? Even though I think this is a violation of my First Amendment rights, this is the way I'll report it. How much TV time do you think I can buy with $700? I guess playing politics like a politician would have it's advantages, but I still believe in grassroots.

11-19-97: Still reviewing the forms package from the Secretary of State. I am now thoroughly convinced that I don't want to start a campaign committee. If I did that, I'd immediately have to open a bank account and file Form 502 (Bank Account Statement). Then I'd have to file Form 410 (Statement of Organization). As soon as I started accepting contributions or spend more than $1,000, I'd be filing Form 490 (Officeholder, Candidate, and Controlled Committeee Campaign Statement). The part of this that scares me is Form 490 Schedule A (Reporting Monetary Contributions Received) which would require me to report to the government the full name, address and occupation of anyone donating more than $100 to my campaign. I'm afraid I find that to be an invasion of privacy for my contributors.

11-20-97: Things seem to be in motion. Now I wait for the registered Libertarians list, and the beginning of signature collecting.

Continue with December/January
Klaas for Senate top page

Please feel free to contact me if you have comments or suggestions.

© 1997 Gerald Klaas