At Pollies, political operatives come together to honor their own

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hollywood has the Oscars and Washington has the "Pollies."

Hundreds of political consultants from across the country - and, to a large extent, around the Beltway - gathered this weekend for the American Association of Political Consultants' awards ceremony for the best political campaigning in 2010.

Prizes included "best campaign manager" to "best door hanger" and "best use of Facebook." Naturally, they also included the "best" attack ads - just don't tell the political operatives that their commercials are negative.

"To me, I wouldn't call it negative," said Fred Davis, a Republican media consultant known for pushing boundaries. "We don't do any negative ads. I actually hate negative ads."

His work for California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina (R) included using an actor to play her primary opponent, Tom Campbell, dressed as a sheep with glowing red eyes while a voiceover attacked his record on taxes. Fiorina beat Campbell, but lost her challenge to incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) in November.

"Is Demon Sheep a negative ad? I call it unique," Davis said. "Is blowing up Barbara Boxer's head to the size of a blimp a negative ad? I call it attention getting."

One ad, which took gold for "best use of humor," was actually an ad deploring political ads. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) repeatedly hops into the shower with all his clothes on in the spot, washing off the ads run against him in the campaign. "I guess I'm not a very good politician because I can't stand negative ads," Hickenlooper says, using his tie as a washcloth. "Every time I see one, I feel like I need to take a shower."

The ceremony was notable for the sheer number of awards, more than 250 with most of those broken down into categories of gold, silver, bronze and honorable mentions. Sometimes two gold awards are given out for one prize.

"Anybody who has been here long enough has won awards," said Dane Strother, a Democratic consultant.

New this year: the Tea-Pollies.

Why so many awards?

"We're vain," said Brad Chism, president of Zata 3 Consulting, which won awards for its mail pieces, automated telephone calls and telephone town halls. Two years ago, Chism won the most awards with 33. They arrived in the mail.


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