Stanford Campaigns
Opposition Research for a Post-Truth Era

Our Story

The story of our work is the work itself.

Philosophy

Stanford Campaigns has the top-level experience that comes from having worked hundreds of campaigns in 45 states. Our clients include state and federal Democratic Party committees, major interest groups, labor unions, Fortune 500 companies, and more than 30 Members of Congress.

Our extensive research experience—combined with our first-hand knowledge of how campaigns really work—means you have three reasons why Stanford Campaigns will excel in helping you get the most out of your opposition research book:

  1. We know what you need. We know how real life on a campaign requires actionable, accurate information that make the needle move. We won’t bury you under a pile of research and layer it with excessive nuance.  We give you research written with a constant eye on its utility for your campaign. 

  2. We’re in it to win it. Every established research firm will deliver a credible book.  Because of our extensive campaign experience, we know that in a lot of ways, a big part of our job starts when we turn our reports in.  We emphasize that once the books are done, the research is not.  We are there to provide any follow-up necessary to the campaign.  We have fact-checked literally hundreds of TV scripts in anticipation of truth-testing and the opposition’s response.  We know how to help push back on attacks that come your way at midnight.  We love developing new research along the way that can give fuel to a media fire, but as much as we enjoy the back-and-forth of a campaign, we know that perhaps our highest calling on a campaign is preventing the mistakes that can derail a winning campaign.

  3. We know you don’t have time to read. Our research reports have exceeded 1,000 pages on occasion.  We know you don’t have time to read a book at all when you’re running a campaign, much less a long one.  That’s why we format our reports much like a web page, hyperlinking the chapters and sub-chapters in the table of contents, allowing you to jump to exactly where you need to be in a few seconds. One client called it “the crack cocaine of research.”  We like to think of it as a tool to make our research reports much more useful to your campaign.  
 

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At Stanford Campaigns, we know what you need. We know how real life on a campaign requires actionable, accurate information that make the needle move.  We won’t bury you under a pile of research and layer it with excessive nuance, and we'll give you research written with a constant eye on its utility for your campaign.

Sounds good, right?

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Case Studies

 

Vermont - Governor - 2010

Gov. Peter Shumlin

“As a media consultant, the thing I like best about Stanford Campaigns is when you make an attack based on their research, you know it will stick.” — Christopher Klose, Gov. Shumlin’s media consultant

Democrats only picked up three Governor’s Mansions in 2010.  One of those was in Vermont, where Peter Shumlin, a state senator, narrowly pulled out a win in a late August Democratic Primary to face the well-liked Lt. Governor, Brian Dubie. In fact, a recount delayed the primary result, meaning that by the time the Shumlin campaign called us, there was less than two months left before Election Day.

“We hired Stanford Campaigns with less than two months before Election Day. We didn’t have enough time to do a deliberate research job on the Republican. We needed everything done right away, and 100% accurately. Jason Stanford and his team were dedicated to doing what it took to win, whether it was ensuring that what our paid media said was accurate or that we didn’t miss an opportunity to use the research in drawing contrasts. The committed professionals at Stanford Campaigns were a big reason we were able to win despite a significant Republican wave that day.” — Alex MacLean, campaign manager, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin

The polls had Shumlin behind by 6 points, meaning he had to make up ground when every other Democrat in the country was just trying to hold ground. To make matters worse, national Republicans smelled blood in the water and started flooding the airwaves with attack ads while the Shumlin campaign was just getting its general election ads on the air.

Our research found a couple of things that helped turn the tide. First was an old quote (“I’m a George Bush, pro-life Republican”) that helped peel off pro-choice votes from the Republican, and another was the story of a trade mission that Dubie had lead to China for the stated reason of opening up that country to Vermont goods. The trouble was that the business leaders, who had donated thousands of dollars to Dubie’s campaigns, had actually opened up China to Vermont jobs after they closed shop at home. In a down economy, this was just what the voters needed to know about the Republican nominee.

After two weeks of comparative television ads, Dubie had dropped 8 points as Shumlin established a slim lead that he held onto even as the bottom dropped out for Democrats across the country. On Nov. 2, 2010, Peter Shumlin won by 1%.

 

North Carolina - 7th Congressional District - 2010

Rep. Mike McIntyre

Before the Nov. 2010 elections, there were 48 Democrats in Congress who represented districts that Sen. John McCain won in 2008. After the 2010 elections, there were only 12, including our client, Rep. Mike McIntyre. He not only successfully defended a conservative-leaning district in an overwhelmingly Republican year, but he did so against the determined onslaught of the only so-called “Jack Bauer Republican” to lose that year. 

“There’s a big difference between assembling a great research book and being a great political consultant — it’s premised on the idea that the information provided is actionable. That’s the difference Stanford Campaigns makes for our clients. Jason and his team not only do great research, they offer insightful ideas in terms of what we put on TV and radio, then fact-check every script and make sure we never say anything that could leave our clients vulnerable. They are committed to winning and an invaluable part of a successful team.”-David Heller, McIntyre’s media consultant

Ilario Pantano was tagged a “Jack Bauer Republican” because, as a Marine Corps 2nd Lieutenant serving in Iraq, he shot two suspected—yet unarmed—insurgents with his M-16, emptying an entire magazine, reloading, and emptying a second before leaving a hand-written placard on their bodies bearing the unofficial Marine motto, “No better friend, no worse enemy.” Subsequent charges of premeditated murder were dropped due to insufficient evidence, whereupon Pantano left the Marine Corps and moved to North Carolina where he briefly, and unsuccessfully, became a Deputy Sheriff.

In 2010, this was a viable candidate, especially in a congressional district that included Ft. Bragg. The pro-military voters did not care that Pantano had murdered two unarmed Iraqis. In fact, they thought it spoke well of him, presenting a unique challenge to seven-term Rep. Mike McIntyre, a Blue Dog Democrat who had survived previously Republican tides thanks to his independent voting record. In 2008, he had won re-election with 68% of the district, but public polls released after Labor Day in 2010 showed McIntyre polling behind Pantano by as much as 7%, a nearly insurmountable lead given the pro-Republican environment.  National support flooded in for the Republican, with Rudolph Giuliani, Sarah Palin and Tea Party groups offering their support.

Luckily for us, Pantano was filmed making ill-advised comments defending free trade, an anathema in that district, and our research documented other instances in which he espoused similar positions, making it impossible for him to back out of it. This became the focus of McIntyre’s comparative television ads as we furiously helped refute a barrage of Republican charges. Not many Democrats in swing districts were left standing after 2010, but Mike McIntyre was one of them, coming back from a significant deficit to pull out a narrow win. North Carolina’s 7th congressional district was the second-most Republican-leaning district in the entire country to re-elect the Democrat.

 

 

Illinois - Lt. Governor - 2010

Lieutenant Governor Meltdown

In 2010 in Illinois an unknown candidate named Scott Lee Cohen won the Democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor. Cohen turned out to be a disaster: He was a pawnbroker with a history of domestic violence and other legal problems. The entire Democratic Party was caught by surprise and struggled to deal with the nomination.

Everyone, that is, except for Will Caskey’s client. A concerned Democratic organization hired Will the morning after the primary with a simple goal: find out as much about Cohen as fast as possible. They weren’t disappointed: Will’s research provided crucial insight into the unfolding crisis and gave several Democratic leaders the information they needed to get ahead of the news cycle and communicate, both internally and in the press. Cohen dropped out a week after winning the primary, and Democrats managed to hold onto key races that November, including governor and the Supreme Court.

Research doesn’t always mean dismantling your opponent (although that certainly helps). It also means knowing things in advance and acting instead of reacting. We get that job done, and Democrats are better for it.

 

Colorado - 7th Congressional District - 2006

Rep. Ed Perlmutter

During the 2006 elections, Colorado’s 7th congressional district ranked among the most competitive House seats in the country. Ed Perlmutter hired Stanford Campaigns to look into Peggy Lamm, his Democratic primary opponent who was running on the famous name of her ex-brother-in-law, former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm.

“For months, the congressional campaigns of Democrats Peggy Lamm and Ed Perlmutter… came up with their opponent’s most damning votes then shipped their best ‘opposition research’ off to Washington, D.C., consultants, who whipped up high-impact attack ads. Perlmutter’s ads stuck. Lamm’s may have backfired.”— Rocky Mountain News, August 2, 2006

After polls showed Perlmutter lagging behind, the campaign went on the attack. We discovered during our research that Peggy Lamm had two very bad committee votes on gun control, which became the primary focus of the attacks. Thanks in part to our rapid response efforts, Peggy Lamm’s attacks found little traction, but the Perlmutter volleys resonated with voters so much that the father of one of the Columbine victims became one of Ed Perlmutter’s most visible supporters.  The gun issue became the focal point of the campaign.

As the Rocky Mountain News noted, Perlmutter’s ads stuck, and he went on to win by a 15-point margin.  The momentum from the primary carried over to the general election, and Ed Perlmutter easily defeated his Republican challenger.