Students Turn Passion For Politics Into Business

This story was written by Sean Batura, The University Star
Along with student campaigners relatively new to the political scene, a class of young strategists has turned their ambition for influencing government into a business and way of life.

Sam McCabe, philosophy junior, volunteers for the Obama campaign and runs a political consulting company called Opinion Strategies with Eric Heggie, alumnus and former head of College Democrats. Opinion Strategies has done pro-bono work for Celestino Mendez. A current Opinion Strategies client is Cid Galindo, who is running for Austin City Council.

McCabe said they only support Democratic candidates. He said the high voter turnout in the Democratic primary is making for an interesting election year.

"The voter turnout is so high, it makes targeting hard, because how do you target a universe based on past history when we're seeing a large voting group who have never voted in their lives before?" McCabe said. "From a consulting standpoint, this really is an exciting time to be in Democratic politics."

Brian Webb, political science senior, heads the consulting division of MAP and Associates. MAP is a political consulting and real estate company created in 2006 by students Sam McCabe, Jude Prather and Jordan Anderson. Anderson and McCabe no longer work for MAP; Anderson has since graduated.

MAP offers strategic advice, provides campaign materials, organizes block walking and gives candidates database information. MAP's clients have included Republicans and Democrats. Among its past clients are Councilman Chris Jones, Commissioner Will Conley and Mayor Susan Narvaiz. MAP is currently doing pro-bono work for Rodney van Oudekerke, a Republican candidate for Justice of the Peace Precinct 1.

"We truly are bipartisan," Webb said. "We talk to (candidates) about what they believe in, about what they would like to do with that office and how that would affect us. If somebody says they want to run for office because they need a job, that's probably not going to be somebody we go out and support."

Webb said he volunteered for Carole Strayhorn's gubernatorial campaign and worked in a county judge's race in his hometown while he was in high school.

"I'm the oddball," Webb said. "When I was growing up I went from wanting to be a garbage man, to wanting to be an HEB checkout man, and then from there when I was still a kid I wanted to be president and it just kind of stuck."

Webb said he would rather teach political science than run for office.

"I want to be able to get (students) in a classroom setting and show them that this does matter, especially at the local level," Webb said. "Your county judge has more of an effect on your life than the president of United States does, and I'd like to bring that to peoples' attention so they can see why it is important that they get involved."

Joe DeLaCerda, alumnus and former chairman of College Republicans, recently joined forces with current chairman Ryan Galloway to form a political action committee called Hill Country Strategies. Their committee has provided volunteers for state representative Nathan Macias and for Sen. John McCain. DeLaCerda, former College Republicans chairman, said though their organization is conservative, they would help out a right-leaning Democratic candidate.

"Our values are very simple," DeLaCerda said. "We want to fight for the lowest property tax rate as possible. We want to see business infrastructure become economically more independent to where they can create more jobs for students and residents."

DeLaCerda said political action committees have tax advantages for campaign businesses.

"Some of my good buddies have MAP and Associates. To me, that's just dangerous because you can run into problems with the IRS-- taxes, this and that," DeLaCerda said. "With nonprofit, there's none of that involved. Money comes in, money goes out."

Webb said MAP might work with Hill Country Strategies in the future.

"Joe and Ryan, they're good friends of mine," Webb said. "It won't be a situation where it would be a rivalry at all. If anything, we're just going to help out the same people and that would be great for those people, because if we're supporting them and they support them they obviously must be good people."

DeLaCerda said he worked on campaigns with McCabe and Prather and ran candidates against theirs.

"It's like all the young politicos of this county. We'll work against each other, we'll work with each other, work for each other, and then we'll all go out and get a beer afterwards," DeLaCerda said. "It's really cool to see how well-adapted a lot of these young politicos are in this game. It is a game. It's a fun game, but the outcome affects everybody; I think that's why we're all doing it."
© 2008 The University Star via U-WIRE