Why Most Good People Don’t Run For Office – and other perplexing questions about politics

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

cooper_120613Terry Cooper, owner of Terry Cooper Political Research, addressed many of the hot-button issues dominating politics today.  Mr. Cooper does political research, principally opposition research for Republican candidates. He is a member of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia.  Mr. Cooper spoke at the Wednesday, June 13, 2012 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia. The meeting was held at the Charlottesville Senior Center. Following the presentation, questions were taken from the audience. The program was moderated by SSV Vice President Bob McGrath.

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Terry is a graduate of Episcopal High School, Princeton University and the University of Virginia School of Law, where he was Research Editor of the Virginia Law Review, a member of the National Moot Court Team and elected to the Order of the Coif, the law-school equivalent of Phi Beta Kappa. He practiced law with the Wall Street firm Sullivan & Cromwell and held executive positions with three Fortune 500 companies before founding his firm, Terry Cooper Political Research, in 1982.

Terry has taught opposition research at the Republican National Committee’s Campaign Management Colleges, at American University’s Campaign Management Institute, at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management, at the University of Florida and at training programs sponsored by the state Republican parties of Virginia, Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Washington State.

Terry’s clients have included then-Speaker of the U.S. House Newt Gingrich (R-GA); then- Congressmen Tom Davis (R-VA), Nancy Johnson (R-CT), Jim Greenwood (R-PA), Chip Pickering (R-MS) and Jim Nussle (R-IA); Congressmen Tom Latham (R-IA), Denny Rehberg (R-MT) and Doc Hastings (R-WA); then-Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell; and a number of members of the Virginia and Florida legislatures. Terry Cooper Political Research is located at 1111 Timber Trail Drive, Charlottesville, Virginia 22901. Terry can be reached via telephone at (434) 202-8065.

Program Summary

Terry Cooper does political research—principally opposition research–for Republican candidates. His presentation was entitled, “Why good people don’t run for office and other perplexing questions about politics today.” And Terry offered many, many reasons why good people are discouraged from seeking office: it would be like joining the worst fraternity on the grounds; in order to run, you may have to forego your income for all or part of the campaign; you may miss out on opportunities; you may have to take out a second mortgage or otherwise go deep into debt; campaigning can be a huge strain on your marriage and other personal relationships; you have to forego fun things like vacations and other family time; you have to eat lousy, unhealthy food and seldom have time to exercise; you have to spend time with fringe people and importuners; you work as hard as you ever have; you have to spend huge amounts of time asking strangers for large amounts of money; disappointments abound; some of your events are heartbreakingly poorly attended; friends side with your opponent; friends criticize your campaign’s tactics and positions; you’ll be pressured to abide by your party’s constituent groups’ issue agendas; opposition research will be done on you looking at ancient history, exaggerations, items taken out of context, items involving family members, and your finances. Whew!

Terry then gave a history of the Tea Party movement. It began as a reaction to policies of George W. Bush and the Republican Congress focusing on issues such as out-of-control spending, the Troubled Asset Relief Program (“TARP”), and the bank bailout. But then members of the movement became outraged by President Obama’s actions which were perceived as more out-of-control spending (e.g., the stimulus); cronyism (e.g., favorable treatment of the UAW while shafting of bondholders in the auto bailout); unconstitutional (e.g., the individual mandate in the health-care law and ordering Catholic institutions to provide contraceptives); and failing to punish the bad actors who caused the financial meltdown and indeed rewarding some of them.

The last issue addressed by Terry was the Citizens United decision and superpacs. He stated that the Citizens United decision did indeed follow Supreme Court precedent, and that the fear of heavy corporate involvement in politics is wildly overblown. Further, the proposed constitutional amendment (HJ Res 90) providing that “the rights protected by the constitution…are the rights of natural persons and do not extend to for-profit corporations, limited liability companies, or other private entities established for business purposes…” would mean that corporations should have no free speech rights, no free press rights, no freedom of association rights, no right to petition for the redress of grievances, no right to due process of law. And if corporations shouldn’t have those rights, how about other artificial amalgams of people such as the NAACP, the AFL-CIO, and the Piedmont Environmental Council?

What Happened to Civility in Politics and Can We Get It Back?

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Virginia has a long history of civil political discourse, which can be repaired and restored. Part of that responsibility lies with the media and part with citizens who are consumers of media.


Bob Gibson came to the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia as executive director in March 2008. He is a 1972 graduate of the University of Virginia with a B.A. in government and foreign affairs. After serving as news director of WCHV radio, he joined The Daily Progress in August 1976 and has held a number of positions with the newspaper. He began his career covering police and local courts and has covered state and local politics and government. He was named city editor in 1982 and later special projects editor in 1992 when he wrote a series about racial disparities and justice in local courts.

In addition to his newspaper work, Bob hosted a weekly political call-in show on WINA radio in Charlottesville for seven years. He has also hosted a public radio talk show since 2001 on WVTF-FM in Roanoke and Charlottesville. He has been a regular contributor and guest on public radio station WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Show in Washington and often serves as host of Evening Edition on public radio WVTF.

Bob is the winner of several Virginia Press Association awards, the 1993 Virginia Bar Association Award in the Field of Law and Justice and the 1993 Southern Journalism Award for investigative reporting about racial disparities in sentencing.

Bob grew up in Arlington, VA, and has a long personal interest in Virginia’s politics and government. He is married to Sarah McConnell, who hosts the public radio program, “With Good Reason,” from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. They have three daughters: Helen, Logan and Stella.

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Mr. Gibson spoke at the November 10, 2010 meeting of the Senior Statesmen of Virginia.  The meeting was held at The Charlottesville Senior Center. Following the presentation, questions were taken from the audience. The program was moderated by SSV member Bob McGrath.

Program Summary

At the November 10 SSV meeting, Bob Gibson addressed the topic, “What Happened to Civility in Politics, and Can We Get It Back?” In referring to the mid-term elections, he noted a disconnect between those who vote in presidential elections and those who vote in other elections. Younger voters tend to not immerse themselves in issues to the extent that voters who have been around a longer time. Civility is not dead-just gone into hiding during the time of base elections where each side is playing to its base; trying to turn out its own base; and trying to suppress the other side’s base.

The parties engage in advertising that is simplistic, twisted, nasty, and mean. Politicians are expected to play to their base or they are not rewarded. Hurt won over Perriello 51 to 47 percent. The electorate usually votes based on record and constituent service, but this election became totally nationalized–Tom Perriello’s name became “Tom Pelosi.” Who was the number one offender in the fifth district election, Hurt or Perriello? Neither-independent expenditures with undisclosed contributions in the millions were made to define Perriello and Hurt.

Several factors are constantly at work against civility: the 24-hour news cycle with the national cable media’s obsession to find and amplify the loudest and most strident voices and is driven into partisan political camps; four years ago there were four Virginia newspapers with bureaus in Washington-now all gone; we now rely on other avenues-what he calls “designer media” with the public watching the views that comport with own. Political news is celebrity driven, personality driven, and entertainment driven. One factor against stability is the permanent campaign-votes are set up to catch a legislator in a vote that will be politically unpalatable in the next election. Look two years ahead instead of looking five or six years to solve important issues. Politicians are rewarded or punished on a two-year cycle. They no longer socialize across party boundaries. Hurt was a moderate who worked across the isle-you’d never know it now. Bob knows Hurt and Perriello and says they both are much, much better and finer individuals than any of the ads would ever let on.

In terms of regaining some civility, there is a likelihood that the president and new Congress will reach across the isle for cooperation on some of the major issues. But this newfound attempt at civility and bipartisanship will not last-there is a window during the next six to eight months to work together, but then they will retreat back to their base camps.

So how can we improve our civility in politics? Bob called on members of the audience to share their perspectives. One comment was that politicians should stand up and tell the rest of their base that they won’t accept incivility-adults have become children. Another said that a basis for civility would be to have a common ground of practical, factual truth. Bob noted that nonprofits are offering themselves as partners with the major media outlets to cover news events, and will present reporting that is as fact-based, reliable and nonpartisan as we can find. For example, the SSV programs are covered by the Charlottesville Podcasting Network. There is a need to petition the Congress to enact real, meaningful disclosure. Virginia has the cleanest form of disclosure system-full disclosure of any contribution over $100-and Congress needs to enact legislation before the situation gets out-of-hand nationally.