For those of you who have been waiting with breathless anticipation for several weeks, I now proudly offer you the second chapter in our story. On the other hand, if you have not read Part I yet, I encourage you to do so first. Well, on we go!
I began my employment with Cooper & Secrest in January of 2003. Prior to this time, since graduating from William & Mary, I had been working at a law office in Harrisonburg. Although I learned a good deal from my time in that surrounding, as stated earlier, I kept yearning to immerse myself in the political waters. Knowing my love of politics (as well as the fact that he was searching for a roommate), a friend of mine who was already working at Cooper suggested that I apply. As you could imagine, I pounced upon the chance to be a political pollster. With a nice crisp resume in hand listing my work experiences, my fancy college knowledge, and my volunteer experience with various Republican Parties, I did my best to wow the supervisor. And so they hired me.
The job was quite simple. Every new shift, the supervisor would hand each of the pollsters a list of numbers, a script, and a form to record the results. I didn’t get to make the surveys nor could I see the final results. But it was an important step in the right direction (or so I thought at first). After a few months of commuting across Afton Mountain, I ended up moving to the People’s Republic of Charlottesville. Even though I was working in politics (sort of), I still continued my volunteer time by offering my free time to my state senate candidate back home. Time used on behalf of a good cause was time well spent.
At first, the job went well. I was quite good at my task, the money was pretty good, and life in C’ville was an exciting new experience. Even though Charlottesville is a very liberal city, and the traffic can be a horrible mess, it has a wealth of culture and entertainment options. Somewhat like Williamsburg, although to a lesser extent, the region is alive with history. But best of all was that I really liked some of my coworkers and enjoyed discussing the political and religious issues of the day. Although we often disagreed, debates were always cordial. But there were drawbacks to the work. On the downside, the hours felt long and weren’t really fixed in stone as we called the east, the west, even the Hawaii-Aleutian time zone, and points in-between. Sometimes we would work many days and nights in a row. Other times, we would have pauses as the company searched for new clients. As we continued to move from one survey to the next, I noticed that we were working for a lot of Democratic candidates. I can recall thinking, “when are we going to do a survey for a Republican candidate?” But we never did. For some reason, I got it into my head that pollsters were basically politically neutral. They just sought and compiled data for interested parties rather than trying to sway the outcome of elections. Boy was I wrong.
The worst began when we starting engaging in push polling. For those unfamiliar with the term, I refer you to the 2000 Republican Presidential Primary. During the South Carolina primary, some disreputable group asked voters if they would be less likely to vote for John McCain if they knew he fathered an illegitimate black child. Now, to the best of our knowledge, Senator McCain has not done such an act, but just soliciting that question raises concerns in the minds of voters that McCain is both immoral and untrustworthy. So too was the case with Cooper and Secrest. Now I won’t say that push polling happened a lot, but it did occur. It wasn’t too difficult to do that kind of polling when I didn’t know the candidates involved, but when we targeted races where I knew about (and often liked) the Republican candidate, it was troubling. It was more or less tantamount to spreading vicious lies. On more than one occasion, I felt physically ill after spreading these unsubstantiated rumors.
I then fully realized what kind of mess I had gotten myself into. I franticly searched for other political employment, but came up empty. I didn’t want to mention my present employers for fear of how it would tarnish my prospects, but it always came up sooner or later. While I was looking, I invested my time with Sean Connaughton, the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors of Prince William County, a man who was running for the Republican nomination for Lt. Governor. I could easily write a blog post or two about this campaign, but for now I’ll only stick to the parts relevant to this story. After volunteering with that campaign for a good while, I sought employment with that operation. It took a good bit of effort, but I worked out a deal with his campaign manager. According to our bargain, if I completed a handful of pre-assigned tasks on behalf of the campaign, I would be able to work for them. It took me many weeks, and a few tanks of gas as I drove around the 5th and 6th districts of Virginia for Sean, but I willingly and cheerfully completed the missions assigned. Having finished everything that I was supposed to do, I eagerly called the campaign manager expecting my next assignment. With this new paid position I could leave Cooper & Secrest and work alongside my conservative brothers and sisters. I would be free of this albatross dangling from my neck. Strangely, my call went unanswered. I called again and then again, but no response. I sent email after email expecting a reply at any moment, but no reply came. Days passed. Distressed, I called other members of the campaign and only then did I learn the horrid truth. The campaign manager had quit unexpectedly. When the next manager took over, I asked him to honor the same deal offered to me by his predecessor, but he had no interest. Deeply resentful, I continued my polling work, desperately hoping for a better future. Unfortunately, things got far, far worse.
I hope you will join me next time for Part III, the exciting conclusion of “Working for The Enemy”. Until next time!