What Are Political Consultants Good For?

Given the sorry state of campaign ethics as we end the 2012 election season, we could write this question off as just more political spin, this time on behalf of the political spinners. 

But in the City & Local Ethics podcast series, our ongoing contribution to discussions about the state of political ethics in our corner of the world--one frustration expressed by a local official--is that he always feels written off as just another unethical politician. That is, like the politics taught by politicians at the national level. Politics at the local level, however, is not that bad and local politicians are not that disreputable, we learned. 

This idea is clearly what Shannon Garrett, principal partner of SMG Strategies, and co-founder of the Michigan Women's Power Assembly, raised and made a strong argument for, in her discussion about the common ethics issues of her profession. 

Garrett, the former midwest director of The White House Project, believes that in today's world professional political strategists have a critical role in bringing new people into the political process and a special interest in appealing to, and even an obligation, to attract voters who are disengaged and feel powerless. 

Toward these ends, she thinks civically-oriented political strategists should use their professionalism and knowledge about effective political communication for the good. This is especially so for local races, where unlike national contests, ethical lapses are infrequent and uncommon. 

We can't say that we are in much agreement about the local remaining isolated and thus less ethically lapsible in today's win-first world, given that many of the common forms of political communication we regard as ethically sketchy have been more frequent and common in our state issue and candidate contests

Nevertheless, talking with Shannon makes us want to run for...something. And to work--at the very least--to improve the ethical and social conduct of campaigns--by getting involved. And in wanting to share the art and science of her professional knowledge, we think Shannon helps to open up the political process for everyone to be professionals...in democratic participation.